Getting a “dongle” in Spain – the options

Most laptops come with WiFi as standard, however it’s often the case that you’ll be needing an occasional mobile internet connection for when you travel within Spain or even for those frustrating times when your home high-speed broadband is down.
Even though you could connect your smartphone and use it as a modem, how efficient this results will depend on a couple of things: firstly what type of contract you have and secondly remember that your laptop will require a considerably higher number of MB than your mobile (eg antivirus, automatic updates, etc.).

As each person’s requirements are different, it’s a good idea to write down first when you think you’d really need the service: Every month? Only when you’re on holiday? Also how do you use the internet: Just for emails? To download large files such as music videos? Paying for 5GB per month “just in case” is expensive or paying for 500MB to save money only to find that downloads above that limit go extremely slow isn’t saving either. Paying a high price for a USB modem if you’re only going to need the service whilst you’re on holiday in the summer doesn’t work out very cost effective. You also need to take into account where you’ll be using the service, as the maximum speed offered by many companies isn’t available everywhere within Spain.

Apart from the “big 3” (Movistar, Orange and Vodafone) the companies listed below also offer mobile internet and, in many cases, with more favourable tariffs. (Prices current August 2012, taxes not included in most cases)

Yoigo tariffs available here. Various USB modems available with some available for 0€ as long as you sign up for an 18-month contract. Current monthly rates are 8€ for 500 MB, 15€ for 1 GB, 25€ for 3 GB and 35€ for 10 GB.

Simyo offers 5GB per month with a monthly tariff of 24.99€ (tarifa plana 5 GB), the modem costs 39€. Once you reach your monthly limit, the speed drops to 128 kbps. The advantage with Simyo is that there is no minimum contract period, so you’re not tied into a long-term contract. However, if you intend to use it for a very short period you’ll have to factor in the cost of the modem to the monthly rate.

Ono Offers 500MB (8.90€ monthly rate, offer of 5€ for first 3 months), 1GB (14.90€/month) and 5GB (29.9€/month). A daily plan is also available, current rate 1.90€ per day connected (even if it’s just a minute) and, if you don’t connect you’ll be charged 1.90€ for each month. A USB modem costs 39€, but there’s a promotion on at the time of writing of 0€ if you sign up for 6 months (limited to 5000 units per month & payment of 9.90€ for delivery).

Jazztel Info here, Costs: 500MB (7.95€/month), 1GB (14.95€/month) and 5GB (29.95€/month). USB modem available at 0€ with a 12-month contract or promotion price 29€ with no minimum contract length (normal price 59€). Jazztel also offers a daily rate of 1€ per day connected with a limit of 100 MB per day (around 20 web pages).

Pepephone tariffs available here. USB modem costs 35€, 1.2 GB costs 11.90€/month (only for tablets) and 1.5 GB is 17€/month (for tablets and PCs).

Other possibilities are some of the supermarkets in Spain such as Carrefour or Eroski that also offer these services. If you decide to use The Phone House remember to sign up online for their newsletter first as you’ll get a voucher for 10€. However, The Phone House doesn’t work with all companies.

As in most countries, tariffs and contract details can be confusing and sometimes you just have to make a decision and see, over time, how things work out – not just how much you use the service, but how good the coverage and download speed works where you actually use it.

MSS Tips:

1. Check also local free WiFi areas – you might not need to pay at all.

2. Never use your mobile internet connection when travelling outside Spain as the roaming rates will be very high. There have also been cases cited in the Spanish press of people who’ve connected when near the Portuguese border and being charged roaming rates through a Portuguese mobile provider even though they never entered Portugal.