WiFi Dongles: What are they and who has the best pocket WiFi plan?

If you’re on the move a fair bit, or just want something easy and convenient to access the internet with, have you considered an internet dongle or pocket WiFi? Canstar Blue compares some of the top brands, including what’s available with Telstra, Vodafone and Optus.

WiFi dongles – or USB modems – and pocket WiFi are becoming increasingly popular due to the drop in price of mobile broadband. Usually, you need a mobile broadband plan to make use of either a dongle or pocket WiFi hub; and fortunately, telcos such as Telstra, Vodafone and Optus are all service providers that bundle in their mobile broadband plans with a device, making it an easy one-stop shop. WiFi dongles and pocket WiFi can spell a good replacement for an NBN plan as well, if you don’t mind the slower speeds and limited data allowances.

Read on as we explain all you need to know about WiFi dongles, and take a look at the plans on offer.

How does a WiFi dongle work?

White 3g usb modem

A WiFi dongle is a USB-sized gadget that plugs into the USB port on your laptop or computer for when you need easy mobile broadband access. Basically, a dongle is a tiny, unpowered modem that uses your computer’s power to access the internet. Dongles generally come prepackaged with mobile broadband plans from Telstra, Vodafone and Optus.

Just like with mobile phone plans, mobile broadband with these three providers is available as SIM-only, or as a bundled product. If you’re after a dongle from one of these three telcos, and want maximum convenience, you may prefer to opt for the bundled product.

WiFi dongles and internet dongles are the same thing, so don’t be confused if you hear someone say one of these names if you’re used to another!

How does pocket WiFi work?

The main difference between pocket WiFi and a WiFi dongle is the portable version is self-powered, meaning that you can get away with not plugging it into a device’s USB port to power it up, unlike a WiFi dongle. A pocket WiFi hotspot gets its name because it’s usually small enough to fit into a pocket, can be easily transported, but has the battery power to last for a few hours for wireless connectivity.

A pocket WiFi device is also somewhat of a hybrid between a wireless router and an internet dongle. It uses 4G internet from a mobile broadband SIM card, yet you can put it in the home – or just as easily take it with you.

Compare Home Wireless Broadband Plans

Mobile Broadband Plans with WiFi Dongles or Pocket WiFi

If you like the sound of a dongle or pocket Wi-Fi device for easy on-the-move connectivity, there are several Australian providers offering devices and plans. Generally speaking, you’ll be locked in for at least 12 months, while many plans include the device at no extra cost if you opt for a 24-month contract.

Below are several mobile broadband options that can be paired with a dongle or pocket Wi-Fi device. These are featured products from referral partners.

Telstra Mobile Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published Telstra mobile broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Telstra Logo

Extra Small

  • SIM only plan – pay upfront via AutoPay
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • No 5G access
  • Share your data with up to 10 plans across your account

min. cost $15 over one month

5GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go to Site
Telstra Logo

Small

  • SIM only plan – pay upfront via AutoPay
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • No 5G access
  • Share your data with up to 10 plans across your account

min. cost $25 over one month

30GBMax Data**/billing period $25Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go to Site
Telstra Logo

Medium

  • SIM only plan – pay upfront via AutoPay
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • 5G access included
  • Share your data with up to 10 plans across your account

min. cost $55 over one month

75GBMax Data**/billing period $55Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go to Site
Telstra Logo

Large

  • SIM only plan – pay upfront via AutoPay
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • 5G access included
  • Share your data with up to 10 plans across your account

min. cost $85 over one month

400GBMax Data**/billing period $85Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go to Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Vodafone Mobile Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published Vodafone mobile broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Vodafone Logo

10GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $20 over first month

10GBMax Data**/billing period $20Advertised Cost^^/billing period

Link to provider unavailable

Vodafone Logo

40GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $40 over first month

40GBMax Data**/billing period $40Advertised Cost^^/billing period

Link to provider unavailable

Vodafone Logo

100GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $60 over first month

100GBMax Data**/billing period $60Advertised Cost^^/billing period

Link to provider unavailable

View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Amaysim Mobile Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of  published Amaysim mobile broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Amaysim Logo

SIM Only 7GB

  • SIM Only

min. cost $15 over 28 day billing period

7GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period

Link to provider unavailable

Amaysim Logo

SIM Only 50GB

  • SIM Only

min. cost $40 over 28 day billing period

50GBMax Data**/billing period $40Advertised Cost^^/billing period

Link to provider unavailable

Amaysim Logo

SIM Only 90GB

  • SIM Only

min. cost $60 over 28 day billing period

90GBMax Data**/billing period $60Advertised Cost^^/billing period

Link to provider unavailable

View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Southern Phone Mobile Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published Southern Phone mobile broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Southern Phones Logo

Extra Small

  • SIM Only

min. cost $180 over 12 month plan period

7GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go to Site
Southern Phones Logo

Small

  • SIM Only

min. cost $300 over 12 month plan period

15GBMax Data**/billing period $25Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go to Site
Southern Phones Logo

Medium

  • SIM Only

min. cost $480 over 12 month plan period

50GBMax Data**/billing period $40Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go to Site
Southern Phones Logo

Large

  • SIM Only

min. cost $780 over 12 month plan period

100GBMax Data**/billing period $65Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go to Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Telstra Mobile Broadband Dongles & Pocket Wi-Fi

Perhaps the most notable pocket Wi-Fi device is the Netgear Nighthawk M2, which can be used on Telstra’s mobile broadband plans. If you’re serious about mobile broadband, you could bundle it with Telstra from $16 per month over a 24 month plan.

Telstra’s mobile broadband plans start at just $15 per month for 5GB of data, up to $85 monthly for 400GB. Plans are offered on a month-to-month contract only, and on an upfront basis meaning you pay at the start of each month via AutoPay.

You can also choose to bundle your service with other Telstra devices, including the 4GX Hotspot, and the Telstra 4GX USB for easy ‘plug-and-play’ use. Alternatively, Telstra also offers the Telstra 5G WiFi Pro, for 5G mobile broadband plans – 5G access is available free on Telstra’s Medium and Large mobile broadband plans.

Telstra Mobile Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published Telstra mobile broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Telstra Logo

Extra Small

  • SIM only plan – pay upfront via AutoPay
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • No 5G access
  • Share your data with up to 10 plans across your account

min. cost $15 over one month

5GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go to Site
Telstra Logo

Small

  • SIM only plan – pay upfront via AutoPay
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • No 5G access
  • Share your data with up to 10 plans across your account

min. cost $25 over one month

30GBMax Data**/billing period $25Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go to Site
Telstra Logo

Medium

  • SIM only plan – pay upfront via AutoPay
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • 5G access included
  • Share your data with up to 10 plans across your account

min. cost $55 over one month

75GBMax Data**/billing period $55Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go to Site
Telstra Logo

Large

  • SIM only plan – pay upfront via AutoPay
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • 5G access included
  • Share your data with up to 10 plans across your account

min. cost $85 over one month

400GBMax Data**/billing period $85Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go to Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Vodafone Mobile Internet Dongles & Pocket WiFi

Vodafone seems to have a fewer options than others and in the Pocket WiFi range, there are prepaid options available. Plans start at $23.75 per month for 30GB of data, and are available both as SIM only and on a plan with an included modem. Vodafone offers the Pocket WiFi 3 4G on a plan in conjunction with your data plan, and if you leave this payment plan, you’ll need to pay out the remaining modem cost in full.

If you’re an ongoing user, you may find better value in going for the contracted, bundled options. However, if you’re just looking for something short term, or want flexibility, a SIM-only option may be the way to go.

Vodafone Mobile Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published Vodafone mobile broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Vodafone Logo

10GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $20 over first month

10GBMax Data**/billing period $20Advertised Cost^^/billing period

Link to provider unavailable

Vodafone Logo

40GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $40 over first month

40GBMax Data**/billing period $40Advertised Cost^^/billing period

Link to provider unavailable

Vodafone Logo

100GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $60 over first month

100GBMax Data**/billing period $60Advertised Cost^^/billing period

Link to provider unavailable

View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Exetel Mobile Internet Dongles & Pocket WiFi

Exetel is known as a low-cost internet and mobile phone plan provider, and also produces a range of mobile broadband plans. With no lock-in monthly plans available, Exetel hops on the Optus 4G network to deliver its services, and plans are available with a 4G USB modem for an extra $69 upfront.

Exetel offers plans from 1.5GB data for $9.99 per month up to a massive 90GB for $79.99 monthly, and all excess data is priced at $10 per gigabyte.

Exetel Mobile Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of Exetel mobile broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Exetel Logo

1.5GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • Optional USB modem: $69

min. cost $9.99 over first month

1.5GBMax Data**/billing period $9.99Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Exetel Logo

8GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • Optional USB modem: $69

min. cost $19.99 over first month

8GBMax Data**/billing period $19.99Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Exetel Logo

15GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • Optional USB modem: $69

min. cost $29.99 over first month

15GBMax Data**/billing period $29.99Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Exetel Logo

60GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • Optional USB modem: $69

min. cost $59.99 over first month

60GBMax Data**/billing period $59.99Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Exetel Logo

90GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • Optional USB modem: $69

min. cost $79.99 over first month

90GBMax Data**/billing period $79.99Advertised Cost^^/billing period
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Optus Mobile Internet Dongles & Pocket WiFi

Optus offers month-to-month mobile broadband plans, which can be bundled with a pocket WiFi modem as part of your service, which costs $79. Plans are listed below and start from $15 per month for 5GB of data, up to $50 per month for 75GB, with Optus Sport streaming and data sharing across plans included at no extra charge.

Optus Mobile Broadband Data SIM plans

The following table shows a selection of Optus mobile broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest.

Brand Features Max Data/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
optus Logo

Small Data SIM Plan

  • SIM Only
  • Month-to-month plan (SIM plan price, inclusions & add-ons may change as notified)
  • Includes Optus Sport + OS Fitness
  • No excess data charges in Australia. Speed will be capped at max 1.5Mbps

min. cost $15 month to month

5GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period

Link to provider unavailable

Optus Logo

Medium Data SIM Plan

  • SIM Only
  • Month-to-month plan (SIM plan price, inclusions & add-ons may change as notified)
  • Includes Optus Sport + OS Fitness
  • No excess data charges in Australia. Speed will be capped at max 1.5Mbps

min. cost $25 month to month

25GBMax Data**/billing period $25Advertised Cost^^/billing period

Link to provider unavailable

Optus Logo

Large Data SIM Plan

  • SIM Only
  • Month-to-month plan (SIM plan price, inclusions & add-ons may change as notified)
  • Includes Optus Sport + OS Fitness
  • No excess data charges in Australia. Speed will be capped at max 1.5Mbps

min. cost $50 month to month

75GBMax Data**/billing period $50Advertised Cost^^/billing period

Link to provider unavailable

Should I get a dongle or pocket WiFi modem?

Home wireless and mobile broadband are popular internet alternatives to signing up for an NBN plan. Although for some, having portable internet with a dongle or similar device, may simply be a supplementary internet option for those who travel a lot. WiFi dongles and pocket WiFi modems are convenient ways to get mobile broadband, especially if your device does not support a SIM card by itself. They make it easy to connect to the internet, in some cases getting full-flight 4Gx gigabit speed capacities.

Then there remains the big question – should I get a WiFi dongle or pocket WiFi modem? A dongle is not powered on its own, but pocket WiFi usually is. If you’re connected to multiple devices, pocket WiFi might be the better option. However, if you’re doing work, say, on the train, or on a bus, then a dongle may work best for ultimate portability.

In any case, if you can find an unlocked dongle or pocket WiFi modem, and a compatible mobile broadband plan, then you’re onto a winner: but for convenience, going with a locked option on a telco plan is also viable. Finally, be aware that mobile broadband is more expensive than most other kinds of internet, and isn’t a good substitute for fixed or wireless home broadband plans.

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