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What is a Wi-Fi dongle?

What is a Wi-Fi dongle?

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Chances are, you’ve come across the term “Wi-Fi dongle” before. However, you might instead know them as “broadband dongles” or “mobile internet dongles”. Regardless of the name you’re familiar with, dongles are USB devices designed to provide internet access while you’re on the go.

You simply plug it into your laptop and, by accessing the same mobile network as your smartphone, you can connect to the internet without needing to access a Wi-Fi network.

Looking for a temporary solution for a device without built-in Wi-Fi? Need to extend the range and signal strength of your current connection? Or, maybe you’re aiming to create a reliable connection while on the move? If your answer is “yes” to any of those questions, a Wi-Fi dongle is a valuable investment for you.

Below, we examine the intricacies of Wi-Fi dongles and examine how they can be used to transform your online experience.

How does a Wi-Fi dongle work?

So, what is a dongle and how does it work? Essentially, a Wi-Fi dongle, also known as a wireless dongle, functions similarly to a modem. Instead of being tethered to a fixed cable, a Wi-Fi dongle connects to a mobile network, such as 3G, 4G, or 5G, just like a smartphone does. When you access the internet via a mobile network, you will need to pay for a monthly, yearly, or pay-as-you-go data plan to connect.

For your dongle to work, you must first connect it to your laptop via its USB port. From there, it can connect you to the internet by accessing your mobile data provider’s network. The convenience of this setup, and the ability to get online almost immediately, is why so many people use them. These people include:

Travellers: Dongles eliminate the reliance on uncertain Wi-Fi networks in hotels, airports, and public spaces. Travellers can stay productive, access travel information, and communicate easily.

Remote Workers: These devices ensure a stable internet connection from various locations such as co-working spaces, coffee shops, or home offices. Meet deadlines, attend virtual meetings, and collaborate seamlessly.

Students: Enjoy the convenience of accessing the internet for research, online classes, and studying from any location. Stay connected in libraries, cafes, or while attending lectures.

Gamers: Connect gaming consoles or PCs without built-in Wi-Fi capabilities to access online gaming platforms, updates, multiplayer matches, and group chat features.

Digital Nomads: Maintain a reliable internet connection while travelling, enabling work and staying connected with clients, colleagues, and friends worldwide.

What is a Wi-Fi dongle used for?

The portability of a Wi-Fi dongle means frequent travellers will find them most useful. This also extends to those who work remotely (and don’t want to rely on connecting to an unrestricted Wi-Fi network). They are the ideal solution for anyone who:

Needs internet access on the go: Whether you’re in a coffee shop, hotel room, or on a train, a Wi-Fi dongle lets you stay online without relying on public Wi-Fi networks.

Requires a secure connection: Public Wi-Fi networks can be susceptible to security breaches. By using a Wi-Fi dongle, you can ensure your internet connection is encrypted, providing a more secure experience.

Has devices without built-in Wi-Fi: If you have a desktop, gaming console, or laptop that lacks Wi-Fi capabilities, a dongle is a solution to getting connected.

Wants to extend Wi-Fi range: In areas with weak Wi-Fi signals, a Wi-Fi dongle can help boost the signal and provide a more stable connection.

Prefers flexibility and cost control: With a pay-as-you-go or monthly subscription plan, you have the freedom to choose the data package that suits your needs. You’ll have complete control over your internet expenses.

Advantages and disadvantages of a Wi-Fi dongle


– On-the-go internet access
– Offers flexibility and portability
– Ensures a more secure and encrypted internet connection
– Enables connectivity for devices without built-in Wi-Fi
– Helps extend Wi-Fi range in areas with weak signal
– Suitable for travellers, remote workers, and students


– Relies on mobile network coverage
– Requires a separate data plan or subscription
– Data speeds may vary depending on network coverage
– Has a limited range compared to traditional Wi-Fi routers
– Purchasing the dongle is an additional cost to getting online if you already have access to the internet at home
– Most dongles require a USB port in the device you want to connect to the internet

How does a Wi-Fi dongle connect to the internet?

As we have briefly explained above, a Wi-Fi dongle, also known as a mobile internet dongle, generally needs to be plugged into a laptop or device via a USB port. What does a Wi-Fi dongle do? It connects to the internet through its built-in network adapter, granting direct access to a cellular network. Once connected, you’ll be able to access the internet without the need to use traditional broadband or standard Wi-Fi networks.

Compared to fibre optic broadband, a Wi-Fi dongle will generally come up short in terms of connection speed and stability. However, since it is not trying to compete with normal broadband, instead primarily offering internet access while on the move, this might not be a concern.

With that said, the introduction of 5G mobile broadband means that Wi-Fi dongles are becoming serious contenders. The only factor that could cause an issue is that the 5G rollout has yet to reach every part of the country. It is currently available mostly in urban areas like major cities and certain towns.

Much like broadband speed, ​the speed of a Wi-Fi dongle connection can vary depending on several factors. These include the specific cellular network (3G, 4G, or 5G) to which the dongle connects and the coverage strength in the given area. Factors such as network congestion and signal strength also contribute to the overall speed you’ll experience.

To find the answers to any other questions you might have regarding Wi-Fi, dongles, broadband, and more, we’ve put together a broadband resource to provide all the tips and advice you could ever possibly need.

Please note, Hyperoptic don’t currently provide Wi-Fi dongles as standard. If you have any concerns about your broadband connection, please get in touch.

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