The UK is currently flooded with adverts for 3 and Vodafone mobile broadband (USB dongles). I think the network operators are seeing this as a quick and easy way to make better use of their 3G networks.
As it happens, 3 have sent me their latest USB modem to try for a few months with an expectation for me to "blog about your experiences with the modem – good or bad". So here are my initial impressions.
First of all, unlike the photos shown on 3 site, the latest Huawei E169G modem has a USB connector on the dongle itself so can be connected without an interconnecting lead. A lead is supplied should the dongle prove too thick to prevent access to other PC connectors.
The modem comes without any installation software on CD. Instead, Windows installs it as a mass storage device. The client and device drivers auto-install from the mass storage device and then the modem automatically converts itself to a modem… in theory.
Immediately after installing the drivers and at the same time as installing the client software, Windows asked me to reboot. Confusing. I declined the offer to reboot and installed the client software then rebooted. Windows insisted the drivers were not installed and searched but didn’t find them.
I called into 3 mobile broadband technical support (their national rate 0870 number costs a bit more than some people might like) who answered the call immediately and were very helpful. They ran me through the install process again and also checked my PC for known conflicting software. In the event, they couldn’t get it working and we tried another laptop of mine that worked first time. We concluded there must be some conflicting software on my first laptop.
So how fast is it? Firstly, I must say that 3 coverage at my home is poor at only one bar out of 5. I used some broadband speed test sites that measured my connection as 213ms ping, maximum 378kbps upload and 58kbps upload. I have been told by 3 that connection speeds run at 2.8 Mbps in turbo coverage regions and 384 Kbps in video coverage areas. I am in a video coverage area. Even with my poor signal, I was surprised the speed was as advertised.
On pricing, 3 is offering the following options…
There’s a special half price offer if you sign an 18 month contract and are a new or existing customer on either Mix and Match or Unlimited Texter phone contracts.