Mobile broadband connections are the most used ways to use internet. Connections work similar way as in any European country. Technology used in Spain is 3G (HSPA, UMTS) and 2G (GPRS).
There are two kinds of payment types: Contract and pre-paid connections.
Contract-based connection has a fixed price (around 15-45 euros per month) and this will be charged monthly from the bank account. In general, a contract is made for 12-18 months: if one wants to terminate the contract before, the operator will charge for the remaining months or there might be a fixed penalty payment one must pay. This varies depending of the operator.
Pre-paid connections are easier for users who spend their holiday in Spain and don’t want to engage themselves into any contract. Pre-paid connection will work for certain days (e.g. 30 days) or as long as the data included has been used.
Price examples pre-paid connection (Vodafone / October 2012)
Weekend 10,62 € 500 MB 3 days Weekly 17,70 € 1 GB 7 days Monthly 100 MB 9,44 € 100 MB 30 days Monthly 500 MB 17,70 € 500 MB 30 days Monthly 1 GB 22,42 € 1 GB 30 days Monthly 2 GB 37,76 € 2 GB 30 days
It is possible to purchase an USB- dongle or you can use an existing one (be sure that it’s not locked and compatible with a SIM of any provider). SIM-cards can be also purchased separately to be used in tablets or in smartphones.
Flat rate does not exist
Basically all operators market their products working as “use as much as you like”-connections but unfortunately that is not the case. There is a maximum amount of data that one can use per month.
When this amount is exceeded usually the connection speed decreases. This means it is possible to continue using the connection but it could be painfully slow. For example, calling with Skype can be difficult with these low speeds.
Contracts up to 18 months
In general, mobile broadband providers offer contracts for 12-18 months. In case you want to terminate the contract before this time expires, this can be very difficult and likely one must pay a penalty payment for not fulfilling the “terms of the contract”. This penalty can be a fixed sum or depending of the months left unused.
In some cases it is recommended to change the type of the contract to another, more economic one and not to terminate the contract during this 12-18 month period.
Mobile providers offer also dongles, so if you already don’t have your own you can buy one quite cheaply. Remember that dongles bought from Spanish providers only can be used with SIM-card of the same operator. Dongles are usually locked to be used with SIMs bought from the same operator as the dongle.
However, there are ways to unlock dongles that can be then used with a SIM of any provider.
Models are similar as in any other European country. For example, Huawei is quite common brand but there are also others.
Faster than ADSL?
Mobile broadband providers promise fast connections with dongles that can accomplish speed rates as fast as 21,6Mbps. Well, if you would happen to be the only person using the operators’ network and the base station would be located a few hundred meters from you, in theory over 20Mbps connection speed could be possible.
Reality is different, though. The usual mobile broadband connection speed is around 3-4Mbps, sometimes even less. There is also a lot of variation depending of the time of day when you’re surfing: during evenings and during morning times it could be slower.
So, do not believe whatever the sales person tells you about how fast the dongle and the connection are.
Use of Skype and other VoIP-services
Although, this does not necessarily mean that Skype, or a similar VoIP-software, would not work.
Is mobile broadband for me?
If you want to see latest football games online, enjoy videos on Youtube.com, play online games or prefer listening your favorite radio broadcast online then it is not for you. Consider ADSL or similar alternative.
On the other hand, if you prefer to do something else during the day than sit in front of your computer and you only need to check your email once a day, read the latest gossips and pay bills on your bank account, mobile broadband is a good alternative.
Pre-paid solution is perfect if you stay in Spain for shorter period of times (few weeks or few months) during the year. You only pay when you need the connection.
Remember always to purchase at least 1GB or more, because 100MB of data for 10 euros is a joke (Vodafone / October 2012). If you open a BBC website you’ve already consumed 2-3 MB.
Contract subscriptions are mainly tied to the amount of traffic interfaces. So, for about 45 euros to surf the Internet, send and receive e-mail 3 GB of which is certainly sufficient for a month already online using fewer needs.
3G and 4G coverage may be seen in advance on each provider’s website, but these results should not be trusted in fully.
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