3G allows you to surf the net and send & receive emails without being tied to a landline. A 3g dongle is a small modem that contains a SIM card just like a mobile phone does and connects to your pc or laptop via its USB socket.
Costs and Contracts
The dongles themselves usually cost around 30€ but there are many different contracts available and some companies provide the modem for free or for a nominal charge so it's best to take your time choosing which one is most suitable for you. Some offer unlimited use while others restrict you to a monthly download allowance, there are also pay as you go contracts where just like with a mobile phone you can top up when you've run out of credit.
Some USB modems have a small slot in the side which allows you to attach a booster aerial if the signal coverage is weak in the area where you live.
As a rough guide 1GB of data will let you send around a 1000 emails and surf the web for 10 hours.
Part Time Broadband
3G is also very useful if you have a holiday home in France and only need broadband part time. If you already have UK mobile broadband and just want to check your emails occasionally while in France then some of the UK providers such as Vodaphone allow you to use your dongle abroad but check the charges first as it can be expensive.
France has fairly good 3G coverage with around 75% of areas able to receive 3G and around 99% able to receive EDGE a slower technology. Before taking out a contract or purchasing a modem always ask the company to check that the area you live in is covered by 3G.
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If you live in an area of France that doesn't receive ADSL you may be still be able to get mobile broadband by using a 3G modem, dongle or clé. 3G allows you to surf...