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Where are the Standalone Mobile Broadband SIMs

Posted: 07th Jan, 2009 By: MarkJ
These days if you want a Mobile Broadband (HSPA, 3G) service then there are generally only three ways to get it: 1. Pre-embedded within a laptop or netbook, 2. Pre-embedded within a USB Modem (Dongle) and C. Associate it with an existing voice calls SIM and contract.

Typically more than a few of us would like the option of buying a Mobile Broadband SIM by itself, after which we could plug it into our own devices (i.e. 3G routers, HSPA enabled smartphones, laptops etc.). Sadly the ability to do this seems to have been overlooked.

However The Inquirer does have a nice little article up that asks all of the UK's mobile operators about SIM only Mobile Broadband provision. We have summarised their responses below:

  • Orange - Customers can take the SIM out of their USB Modem and use it in other devices, though Mobile Broadband SIMs are not sold separately.


  • Three (3) - Investigating separate SIMs but currently only offers embedded options, though SIMs removed from their USB Modems by customers should still work.


  • Virgin Mobile - Told customers not to remove the SIM, claiming they wouldn't get the benefit of its associated software.


  • T-Mobile - Didn't seem to know why customers would want to take the SIM out of their USB Modem in the first place.


  • Vodafone - Offered no direct answer.


  • O2 - Gave no real response except to say that it does not offer Mobile Broadband SIMs by themselves.
So there you have it, if you were hoping to get a Mobile Broadband SIM by itself then the only way to do that right now is to pry it from a USB Modem (Dongle) first. Naturally this is a risky endeavour and some modems can be quite toughly built, which could result in you damaging the device as well as the SIM. Hopefully operators will one day start offering standalone SIMs, much as some already do with pay-as-you-go voice deals.

UPDATE 9:35am:

One reader has suggested that another solution can be to buy a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) SIM for voice calls and then ask to have the tariff swapped to a Mobile Broadband option. This may work with T-Mobile and possibly Three (3), though we can't be sure about other operators.
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