Experiencing 3 mobile broadband


Being able to get online with your computer when you’re mobile is something that you tend to take for granted, with wifi hotspots almost everywhere.

In my experience, though, it’s sometimes trickier to connect than you might expect, even when there is wifi all around you.

The alternative is a cellular connection, ie, the same network through which you make calls on your mobile phone.

I’ve resisted that route, primarily because of my perception that it’s darned expensive. Indeed, I had a costly experience with Vodafone (my mobile service provider) a few months ago when using my phone for data connecting.

Maybe it’s all to do with what price plan you have. And there’s another issue – who can figure out the various price plans offered by mobile operators? If the operator’s employees have trouble doing so, what chance have you got?

Still, none of that stops lots of people from subscribing to data connection services from any of the mobile operators in the UK.

And I have been looking at some of the offers, especially those where you get a card or USB stick broadband modem dedicated to using with your PC for connecting to the net such as offered by Vodafone, O2, T-Mobile and 3.

I’m going to try out one of these services during the next few months courtesy of 3 and the folks at 3mobilebuzz (the same people who got me involved with the campaign for 3’s Skypephone last autumn).

I’ll be using the 3 mobile broadband USB modem that’s pictured above, which 3mobilebuzz have sent me.

The modem is a Huawei E169G made by Huawei in Shenzen, China. I couldn’t find reference to it anywhere on 3’s website so I guess it’s a new model they’re offering.

The deal is straightforward – use the modem for free during the next three months; in return, they want me to blog about my experiences in using it. That’s fair enough.

They’d also like me to comment on what I think about 3’s mobile broadband pricing. Fair enough, too – that’s an important part of any reviews anyone might write.

3’s mobile broadband offering does look interesting from a price point of view. When I’ve asked around for opinion about good deals, I hear more about 3’s offering than any other mobile operator’s.

So I will be getting online while out and about with a 3 mobile broadband USB modem. I installed it earlier today on my Sony Vaio laptop. Now ready to get on the road, get online and talk about it!

I’ll be posting my commentaries over on my Next tech blog. The first one will be to answer the question: How easy is it to install the gizmo? I did a video of that; will post it in the next day or so.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Ben Matthews

    I’ve just purchased an Asus Eee PC and have found it amazingly useful on the commute.

    The wifi works great on my home wireless network, and friends have praised their ‘dongles’ from Vodaphone, so it’ll be interesting to see how the two compare.

    Especially with the pricing in mind!

    The 3MobileBuzz blog is just getting going, so hopefully will see more there soon.

  2. Matt O'Neill

    Good luck with it Neville.

    I’ve been using one of 3’s data modem thingy’s for a while now. Works nicely. Great on the train too!

    Agree with you about Vodafone. My colleague had a nasty surprise bill wise with them!



  3. Armin

    I’ve just started using Vodafone’s mobile broadband while waiting for normal broadband to be transferred to my new home (I’m much closer to you now having just moved…).

    So far so good, although I have discovered a few minor problems:

    While good for download speed any jpg images (possibly also gifs) are further compressed and look very pixellated. If you want to look at good pictures it won’t be of any use.

    The parental content control (or whatever that is called) also applies to the service, something I wasn’t told when I bought it. I now have to call them with my credit card or drop in at the store with some other proof of age. Among the websites blocked are Flickr (I guess because there could potentially be some NSFW pictures) and any alcohol related pages (I can’t get to any distillery website, fairly important for me considering one of the topics of my blog). Not a huge issue, but a bit annoying to have to go through the hassle.

    Speed in general is quite good though so far, the setup also worked quite well (required a bit of manual tweaking though).

  4. Richard Gatarski

    I’ve been using 3’s mobile broadband mainly in Sweden for over a year and is extremely happy with it. Also in London last december, when visiting the BBS offices, which do not allow external computers in their network – ha! Actually I do not bother myself with cumbersome WiFi logins any more. Early this year I started to use the Dell XPS M1330 as my work horse laptop – with a built in 3G mobile card, aka WWAN mini-PCI. Hence I do not need the dongle – which is great. Have also tried two other 3G broadband operators in Sweden (Telenor and Tele 2). Both delivers fairly well, but 3 shines in comparison.
    In Sweden we are lucky to have intense competition between the operators. Currently the flat rate for mobile 3G broadband is 199SEK/19Euro/16GBP (typically 1 year contract and dongle included).
    BTW, my phones (HTC Polaris/3600 and Nokia 95 8Gb) have mobile 3G too.
    Can’t live without it (well, I could – but…)

  5. neville

    Interesting experience with Vodafone, Armin. Glad I haven’t signed up even thought they’re the ones I have my phone contract with :)

    That’s something I plan to pay attention to, Richard – connection speeds. I assume the prices you mention are monthly; they look similar to what you’d expect to pay in the UK at the moment.

    Alex, it’s a global business!

    Shel, I’d thought about a card option when I first started looking at mobile broadband. In fact, my Sony Vaio laptop came with a T-Mobile PCI Express card for mobile broadband. But I didn’t take up their offer as, frankly, the pricing was simply far too high even with 30 days free.

    That was last August; how things have changed in this regard in the UK in less than a year.

  6. Karin Hoegh

    I am a fan, too. I have used 3´s mobile broadband here in Denmark for over six months. Doing presentations, workshops and consultancy in all kinds of places with firewalls of all kinds this has saved me and my listeners so many times. So much that I am considering purchasing a bunch of dungles for my attendants to use when everyhting else fails – and believe me – Murphys Law works here in Denmarks too.
    I asked 3 recently what they would charge me, and unfortunately they cannot give me a better price on subscriptions.
    They also mentioned that they have Mobile routers for three or more people to share with no instalation of software (like with the USB modems – http://business.3.dk/Business/MobiltBredband/Noglen-til-fart/Router/ – however – unfortunately the upload capacity is not good enough for upoading mp3-files, etc. – so I have put this on hold so far.

  7. neville

    It’s interesting to hear from you in Denmark, Karin, as well as Richard in Sweden, on your experiences with the 3 mobile broadband service.

    I haven’t yet looked at the modem with a focus on data connection and transfer speeds. I posted some thoughts on my tech blog yesterday on pricing and transparency (http://tinyurl.com/5nm64k); my next focus is speed. Still waiting for a tech spec from 3.

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