What's the best way to get the internet on your tablet?

According to Ofcom's 2014 report*, 44% of homes now own a tablet computer, 20% more than in 2013.

One in three children in the UK now has their own tablet computer, which has nearly doubled over the past year.

With Christmas just weeks away tablet ownership is set to grow further with the handy devices filling many a Christmas stocking.

But whether you're buying a tablet for someone else, or will be receiving one as a gift, you'll be wondering the best way to get it online and how much it will cost.

Wi-Fi vs mobile network

There are two ways to access the internet from a tablet: Wi-Fi or "cellular" which means the mobile network. All tablets offer wi-fi access but not all offer cellular access.

Normally, like for like tablets that offer cellular access cost more than tablets which just have wi-fi - so one way to save money on your purchase could be to opt for a tablet which connects to the internet on wi-fi alone.

Of the tablets which offer internet access via the mobile network it will either be 3G - the most widely available form of mobile
broadband in the UK - or faster, but less available, 4G.


The most cost-effective way to connect your tablet to the internet is via wi-fi. If you have wireless internet at home or your workplace you can use this to access the internet at no extra cost.

However it's a good idea to check your data limit before you start downloading music, films and other big files.

Roughly speaking, 1GB will let you browse 10,000 web pages or download 200 songs or two hours of video. A typical web page is about 100KB of data, a song about 5MB and a 30-minute video about 250MB.

If you're going to take your tablet somewhere without wi-fi you can get prepared before you leave the house by downloading books, films, games and music to keep you entertained.

In most locations you should be able to find plenty of free wi-fi hotspots to connect to. Coffee shops, pubs, fast food restaurant chains, trains and stations often have free wi-fi. Hotels often advertise "free wi-fi" but you may find it's only in public areas and you may have to pay to get connected in your room.

Cellular sim cards

If you have a tablet that connects to the internet via the mobile network, either 3G or 4G, you'll need to buy a sim card to insert into a slot on the tablet.

Mobile networks all offer tablet sim-only deals. How much they cost depends on how much data they give you (there will be a monthly limit), the speed available, and the length of the contract. Some contracts are just one-month long while others require a longer commitment of 12 months or more.

A general rule is that longer deals give better value for money - but think about whether you want to be tied to one provider for a long period of time.

Make sure you check the coverage in any area you'll regularly be using mobile broadband. It's easy to check availability as mobile networks all have a postcode checker tool on their websites. Doing a quick postcode check with the main providers is the best place to start, as it'll narrow down your options to those offering strong 3G or 4G signal in your area.

You also need to make sure the sim card fits your tablet as different makes and models can require different size sim cards.

Bundled deals

If you are yet to buy a tablet and are put off by the upfront outlay, a bundled contract deal can help spread the cost. A bundled deal works like a mobile phone contract - for a monthly price over a set period you get a tablet and data plan.

The advantages are low upfront costs. However you may be tied into a contract which can prove more expensive overall.

So before opting for a bundled deal make sure you do the sums and work out the total cost of the deal over the contract period. For example, if you opt for a plan that costs £100 upfront and then £40 a month for 24 months, you'll pay a total of £1,060 over two years. It may be cheaper to buy the tablet outright then buy a separate sim card for mobile access.

If you opt for a bundled deal you'll need to undergo a credit check and commit to paying by direct debit, so be sure your finances are in order before applying.

Beware bill shock abroad

Surfing the internet on your tablet while abroad is very expensive, so it's a good idea to remove any sim card if you are taking your tablet on holiday or make sure "data roaming" is switched off on your device.

If you need to check emails or the internet while you're away use free wi-fi instead - or just switch off completely and enjoy your holiday.

Make sure you have your tablet covered

If you are considering buying a tablet or any high net worth item this Christmas, please make sure you have the correct level of insurance in place.

With our Special Events insurance cover, provided by Legal & General, we'll automatically increase your contents cover by 10% the month before and after Christmas. (Limitations and exclusions apply).

If you would like guidance and advice when choosing your home insurance, you can visit one of our branches, or call our contact centre on 0345 606 4488 for a fully advised service, or visit our website http://www.newcastle.co.uk/insurance/

Further details can be found in the policy booklet which is available on request.

Buildings and contents insurance is arranged by Newcastle Building Society and provided and underwritten by Legal & General Insurance Limited. Newcastle Building Society Principal Office: Portland House, New Bridge Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8AL. Newcastle Building Society is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Newcastle Building Society is entered in the Financial Services Register under number 156058. You can check this on the Financial

Services Register or by contacting the Financial Conduct Authority on 0800 111 6768. Call 0345 734 4345 or visit us online www.newcastle.co.uk. POS033 (November 2014)

*Ofcom - The Communications Market 2014 (August)