In order to use your PAYG mobile broadband you need some way of connecting to the data network. This is tends to be via a device called a mobile broadband dongle. A mobile broadband dongle is a small device which often like a bulky memory stick which slots into the USB slot on your laptop.
PCMCIA cards are also available which slot into the side of laptops but they forms a much smaller proportion of the connections nowadays, so we will not describe those any further.
Several network providers now provide mobile broadband wireless access points, which enable several wifi enabled devices to access the mobile broadband connection, without each one requiring its own dongle.
Dongles usually consist of five (or sometimes six) components:
The USB connector which normally would come with a USB extension lead. Due to its size it can often be inconvenient to have the dongle plugged directly into the side of a laptop, so the USB extension lead can lead to a more practical working environment and also reduce the risk of placing too much pressure on the USB connector itself and damaging it.
A memory stick, which contains the installation software and device drivers which are required to make the dongle successfully work with your laptop. This memory space is normally reserved for the dongle software and cannot be re-used for your own files.
The wireless data radio transmitter/receiver, which does the work of communicating with the mobile data network.
A SIM card, which uniquely identifies your mobile broadband dongle and enables the network provider to control access to the network and billing activities.
(Optional) A microSD [CHECK] slot. Many dongles now come with the capacity to add a microSD memory card so that the dongle can act as a general purpose memory stick.
Although not generally available, occasionally the dongle will include a wifi device, which enables the dongle to access nearby wireless access points. Nowadays most mobile devices like laptops already incorporate wifi equipment so it is normally not necessary to have it within the dongle as well.