Dear Dominic, I’ve got a Vodafone Sure Signal at home to boost my signal as I don’t have very good mobile phone coverage. It works really well, but I want to know if I’m using my own mobile internet allowance when I go online with it at home. Can you help?
Alex, via email
Our expert says...
Many people get poor mobile phone coverage at home. Whether this is simply because you live in a rural area, far from a mobile phone mast, or have very thick walls that are blocking the signal, this can become very frustrating.
Mobile phone signal boosters like the Sure Signal from Vodafone (www.Vodafone.co.uk) have been designed to help people living in mobile phone blackspots get better coverage at home so that they can make and receive mobile phone calls and send texts.
They work by using your home broadband connection to create a 3G hotspot in your home. Compatible mobile phones, that have your permission to use the network, will then automatically connect to this hotspot in order to get better coverage.
Because the Sure Signal box creates a 3G hotspot, you can also use it to go online with your mobile phone. However, although the box is using your home broadband connection to create the hotspot, Vodafone said that any browsing, downloading or streaming of videos that you do will still come out of your phone's mobile broadband allowance. If you don't have an inclusive data allowance as part of your contract, then you will be charged the standard rate for any mobile internet use.
A Vodafone spokesman advised that any customers concerned about this should use their home wireless broadband connection instead. Most 3G phones also allow you to connect to a wi-fi network - simply check your settings to turn the wireless on, and then connect to your home network.
Some smartphones, like the Apple iPhone, allow you to track how much data you have uploaded or downloaded from the internet - helping you to keep track of your 3G mobile internet use, and make sure that you don't exceed your limit.
Orange signal booster
According to Orange (www.Orange.co.uk), one in five mobile phone users has a problem with their signal at home. Rather than offering a separate piece of kit, like the Vodafone Sure Signal, Orange has built-in what it calls UMA technology into some of its latest phones.
Simply buy a UMA phone from Orange and connect it to your home broadband wi-fi network. You'll only need to do this once, and then your phone will automatically connect whenever you are at home, using your broadband connection to give you better mobile phone coverage.
However, like the Sure Signal, any mobile internet browsing you do will be taken from your monthly allowance or charged at the standard rate.
Getting a signal booster
If you think that a mobile phone signal booster would help you get better coverage at home, then get in touch with your mobile phone provider to see what's on offer.
Vodafone customers can currently buy the Sure Signal for £50 (usually £75), or for a payment of £5 a month. Orange doesn't charge any extra for its UMA service, but you will need a UMA enabled phone.
You can also buy mobile phone signal boosters online or on the high street, but double check that they will work with your mobile network before investing.
You will need to make sure that your home broadband connection is fast and secure enough to support a signal booster though. Vodafone recommends that customers have at least 1Mb download speed to use its Sure Signal.
NB Best buy tables are always current.
Examples in the text of the article are correct at time of publication.