A guide to internet dongles and pocket Wi-Fi

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

Dongles – or USB modems – and pocket Wi-Fi 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 Wi-Fi 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. Read on as we explain all you need to know about internet dongles, and take a look at the plans on offer.

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What is an internet dongle?

White 3g usb modem

An internet dongle is usually 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 these three telcos, and want maximum convenience, you may prefer to opt for the bundled product.

What is pocket Wi-Fi?

The main difference between pocket Wi-Fi and an internet dongle is the pocket version is self-powered, meaning that you can get away with not plugging it into a device’s USB port to power it up. A pocket Wi-Fi hotspot gets it 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 Wi-Fi 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 Dongles or Pocket Wi-Fi

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.

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

Extra Small

  • SIM only plan
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • Includes data-free sports and music streaming

min. cost $15 over one month

5GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Vodafone Logo

3GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • Vodafone Pocket Wi-Fi 4G Modem included on 24 month plans

min. cost $180 over 12 month billing period

3GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Exetel Logo

8GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • Optional USB modem: $5 extra per month

min. cost $239.88 over 12 month billing period

8GBMax Data**/billing period $19.99Advertised Cost^^/billing period
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 M1, and currently the only way to get it is through Telstra. If you’re serious about mobile broadband, you could bundle it with Telstra from $6 per month over a 24 month plan.

Telstra’s mobile broadband plans start at $15 per month for 5GB of data, up to $75 monthly for 200GB. Plans are offered on a month-to-month contract only, and you can also choose to bundle your service with other Telstra devices, including the 4GX Wi-Fi-Pro, and the Telstra 4GX USB for easy ‘plug-and-play’ use.

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.

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 their 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
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • Includes data-free sports and music streaming
  • No 5G access

min. cost $15 over one month

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

Small

  • SIM only plan
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • Includes data-free sports and music streaming
  • No 5G access

min. cost $25 over one month

20GBMax Data**/billing period $25Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

Medium

  • SIM only plan
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • Includes data-free sports and music streaming
  • 5G network access included

min. cost $50 over one month

60GBMax Data**/billing period $50Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

Large

  • SIM only plan
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • Includes data-free sports and music streaming
  • 5G network access included

min. cost $75 over one month

200GBMax Data**/billing period $75Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Vodafone Mobile Internet Dongles & Pocket Wi-Fi

Vodafone seems to have a few more options than others, and in the dongle range there are both prepaid and postpaid options available. Plans start at $15 per month for 3GB of data , and are available both as SIM only and on a plan with an included modem.

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

5GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $180 over 12 months

5GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Vodafone Logo

25GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $360 over 12 months

25GBMax Data**/billing period $30Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Vodafone Logo

60GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $540 over 12 months

60GBMax Data**/billing period $45Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Vodafone Logo

100GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $720 over 12 months

100GBMax Data**/billing period $60Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Exetel Mobile Internet Dongles & Pocket Wi-Fi

Exetel is known as a low-cost internet and mobile phone plan provider, and also produces a range of mobile broadband plans. With both monthly and 12-month plans available, Exetel hops on the Optus 4G network to deliver its services, and plans are available with Huawei USB modems for an extra $5 monthly (or $69 upfront on month-to-month plans).

If you’re a consistent user, you may find better value in the 12 month options, but if you just need a stop-gap solution, the no lock-in plans may work out better. Exetel offers plans from 5GB up to a massive 90GB, and all excess data is priced at $10 per gigabyte.

Exetel Mobile Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published 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 $44.99Advertised 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 Wi-Fi

Optus offers a choice of portable Wi-Fi modems on its month-to-month mobile broadband plans, which can be bundled in as part of your service. Plans are listed below and start from $15 per month for 5GB of data, with Optus Sport streaming included at no extra charge.

Optus Mobile Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published 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
  • Extra data $10/GB

min. cost $15 month to month

5GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period
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
  • Extra data $10/GB

min. cost $25 month to month

25GBMax Data**/billing period $25Advertised Cost^^/billing period
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
  • Extra data $10/GB

min. cost $50 month to month

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

Should I get a dongle or pocket Wi-Fi modem?

Dongle or pocket Wi-Fi 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 dongle or pocket Wi-Fi modem? A dongle is not powered on its own, but pocket Wi-Fi usually is. If you’re connected to multiple devices, pocket Wi-Fi 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 Wi-Fi 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.

Selected mobile broadband plans featured in this guide

Telco  Plan Data Monthly Cost Contract Term
Telstra Medium 60GB $50 No contract
Telstra Large 200GB $75 No contract
Vodafone 30GB Mobile Broadband Plan 60GB $45 12 months
Vodafone 90GB Mobile Broadband Plan 100GB $60 12 months
Exetel 60GB Mobile Broadband Plan 60GB $59.99 12 months
Exetel 90GB Mobile Broadband Plan 90GB $79.99 12 months
Optus $25 Data Only Plan 25GB $25 No contract
Optus $50 Data Only Plan 75GB $50 No contract
Southern Phone Green 15 15GB $22 12 months
Southern Phone Green 25 25GB $50 12 months

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