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Which network should you choose for your iPad?

If you’ve got an iPad and it isn’t fitted with a 3G mobile broadband SIM you’re missing out on a lot. All well and good using it with a Wi-Fi connection but when you’re not at home you’re relying on public networks; a 3G SIM lets you stay connected all the time.

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to networks as well, each of the UK’s five mobile operators – O2, Vodafone, Orange, Three and T-Mobile – offers packages for the iPad. But which one is right for you?

Before you even start to look at pricing and contracts and all the other stuff there’s a very important first step: network coverage

Network coverage

If you can’t get a 3G signal the whole endeavour is wasted so it’s vital that you check the coverage in your area (or areas) before buying. You can do this through the homepage of each network, tap in a postcode or town on their network coverage tools and it’ll show signal strength.

Some providers offer a useful map with detailed information about indoor and outdoor signal, but others may only say whether it’s ‘Good’ or ‘Not recommended’. If it’s a bit vague or you want to be sure, an alternative to the network’s own tools is to simply check on a mobile phone. If there’s a few bars and a ‘3G’ or ‘H’ connection you’re good to go.

Available packages

Once you selected a network we can start to look at the available packages. If you already own an iPad there are numerous iPad SIM offers available. PAYG options will generally cost £10-20 up front for setup costs but you’ve then got the freedom of controlling how much you spend, only topping it up when necessary.

However PAYG usually provides less data allowance for the same money as a contract deal so heavy users may wish to sign up for 12, 18 or 24 months instead. There are also rolling monthly deals which provide a reasonable allowance for a set price which you can cancel any time.

How much data you require will depend on your usage. Web browsing doesn’t require much at all but if you throw audio and video streaming into the mix your requirements will shoot up.  Downloading apps will also have a big effect – we’d recommend saving those large games for your home Wi-Fi.

If you’re looking to purchase an iPad and SIM together then you need to carefully consider the overall cost. These will involve paying some money up front for the iPad and then committing to a long contract. While it can be handy to get the iPad on a ‘hire purchase’ type deal, compare the cost of the entire thing to the price of just buying an iPad outright as it can sometimes work out a lot more expensive over the life of the contract.

About the author: Matt Powell contributes this article on behalf of Broadband Genie. Check out the link for more information on the best iPad 3 contract.

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