3G Mobile broadband - it's here and it's good

Some months back I bought a HP 6910p laptop which included a HSDPA card, and it even came with a Vodafone SIM. I did look at the data plan from Vodafone; £15 per month for 3Gb of data, with no minimum contract.

I liked the idea of a larger data allowance than the 40Mb I currently have with my T-Mobile contract.  I’ve never upgraded this original Web’n’Walk contract; I get 200 minutes, free answer phone collection and 40Mb of data for £16.50 per month. If I upgraded to get 1Gb of data (with laptop use) it would be closer to £40 per month. 

I also was interested in having a backup method for Internet access. The BT Broadband in my office has suffered intermittent outages over the past month or so.  A cheap, emergency backup connection which could handle substantial data transfers was tempting.

Then an e-mail arrived in my inbox which included a special offer for a 3G broadband deal from 3.  When bought via Quidco (a cashback, co-operative web site) you could get a free Huawei E160G USB HSDPA dongle on an 18 month contract at half price monthly fees.  That meant  a 3Gb monthly contract was only £5.  However, my sweet spot was a 5Gb monthly contract for £7.50.  If you included the £12.50 cashback, even after a £5 annual membership fee for Quidco, the overall cost was £7.08 per month for that 5Gb of data.

Well, the dongle arrived last week.  The first thing I did was to ignore the dongle and try the SIM card in the 3G built in to my HP laptop. With the HP Wireless Assistant I enabled the WWAN (3G) card and up popped the HP Connection manager application you use to connect to a WWAN.  It came with configurations for all the major global network operators.  I selected ‘Three UK’ as my network and clicked on connect.  Then it was straight onto http://www.speedtest.net. It concluded I had a download speed of 1.3Mb/s and upload of around 350kb/s.

It turns out that my 3G wireless broadband was three times faster than my first ever broadband (cable broadband at 512kb/s, 128 kb/s). Even more astonishing it has an upload speed equal to my wired ADSL2 Sky Broadband Max connection.

Of course, that’s the first floor in my home in West London. In my first floor office near Kew Gardens station, which is a mobile signal dead spot, the speeds dropped; 750kb/s download and 300kb/s upload.

In the office, the HP laptop and dongle varied in performance much more than at my home. The HP laptop built in card suffered compared to the dongle. I found this surprising because I would have assumed the laptop, with 3G aerials built into the chassis, would come out on top, but it seemed the dongle obtains a better signal and therefore better performance.  I suspect the laptop lid, being in a docking station beneath a monitor stand is shielded more than the dongle sticking out the side of the laptop.

In conclusion I’m very impressed by 3G mobile broadband.  The dongle included drivers embedded as a USB mass storage device, and they worked first time (with a reboot) under Windows Vista 64-bit.  Even better it works with the built in 3G card.

Never can I now claim not to be able to receive e-mails because I’m out of WiFi coverage. 3 even allow Skype usage – they encourage it, with a €1.02 coupon in the starter pack.

Even more interesting the inclusive 5Gb data plan is usable on any of the 3 networks globally. That includes Austria, Australia, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, Ireland and Sweden. Now, if isn’t that an excuse to arrange that holiday ...

Print | posted on Tuesday, October 7, 2008 10:04 PM

Comments on this post

# re: 3G Mobile broadband - it's here and it's good

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I too have been happy with my 3 Mobile Broadband. In addition to the contract offers mentioned above you can also get Pay as you Go Mobile Broadband. If anyone is interested in more information on this service, I have a post on my Blog about it:


Left by MobileDataUK on Oct 08, 2008 4:53 PM

# re: 3G Mobile broadband - it's here and it's good

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Personally it's a bag of crap.
I get 1kb/s. What a waste of time and money.
Left by Paul on Nov 27, 2008 11:19 PM

# re: 3G Mobile broadband - it's here and it's good

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I can only report my experience, good rates at both my home in Isleworth and in the office near Kew Gardens.

However, these locations are only for backup use, I've mainly been using my 3G for when I'm off site. Yesterday it was very reliable on a train journey from Isleworth to Clapham Junction and back out to Croydon, supporting general e-mail and browsing, including posting blogs. It stopped working between Barnes and Putney, but then normal mobile phones get no signal in that area.

I have to admit that living and working in London makes me a special case as the mobile operators saturate the area with coverage. However, I have used the service along the First Great Western line to Bristol and found it just as reliable.

At least Three have a good 14 day returns policy so if you don't get a signal you can always hand it back and get a full refund.

Left by Liam Westley on Nov 28, 2008 8:42 AM

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