Mobile broadband review: 3
Published: 25 March 2008
By Fergal Barry-Murphy 10 Comments
Updated: 25 March 2009
We continue our series of mobile broadband reviews this week with a look at 3’s mobile broadband services and provide an updated review as at March 09.
There are now a number of mobile broadband providers in Britain, moving more to compete with those offering standard broadband services.
Already prices have come down dramatically. We recently reported that Vodafone is offering mobile broadband services for as little as £15 per month.
Well, the good news that 3 has even gone one better and are offering a £10 per month mobile broadband product. So, let’s have a closer look at 3’s costs and services.
As you would expect, when you sign up for 3 mobile broadband you receive a USB modem, a dongle, that you plug into your USB port and you can be up and running within minutes.
If you are a Mac user don’t worry, 3 provides the necessary drivers and instructions to get going.
In many ways, 3’s mobile broadband is almost identical to Vodafone’s service, or indeed the other mobile broadband providers.
3 Mobile Broadband plans
Mobile Broadband from 3 is available on a Pay Monthly or Pay As You Go basis so you can choose the best solution for you.
Your monthly costs are determined by your download limits, and the length of the contract you sign.
3 offers a Broadband Lite service at £10 per month. This is excellent value, but the 1GB monthly limit may be too little for many users. If, however, you only want mobile broadband for occasional trips, or primarily emails, it may be enough.
3 have a range of £15 per month deals, including
- 15GB data download limit per month, 24 month contract
- 5GB data download limit per month, 18 month contract
- 3GB data download limit per month, 12 month contract
3 scores well when it comes to flexibility. Its Pay As You Go mobile broadband options mean you can enjoy mobile broadband with no contracts and little fuss.
You simply buy a top-up when you need it for broadband access on the move.
However, the 3 Pay As You Go option is more expensive at the outset as you have to pay around £30 for your 3 USB Stick modem, but after that you have complete freedom as to how you use it.
Pay As You Go prices per month and download limits start at £10 for the 1GB Broadband Lite, rising up to £25 for the 7GB.
3 also offer a Mobile Broadband Starter Kit. This basically give you everything you need to get started with mobile broadband. There’s the USB modem, or dongle, and a SIM card that is preloaded with the amount of data you require.
You decide how much data you want to buy and how long it is valid for. For example a 3GB broadband starter kit, costs around £60 and the data is valid for 3 months.
If you want 12GB then this will cost just under £100 and that data is valid for 12 months.
For just under £250 you can buy 24GB of data which is valid for 24 months.
Once you’ve used the initial data purchased then you can convert to a 3 Pay as Go plan and but a data top-up.
3 Mobile Broadband Coverage
3’s ‘Turbo Network’ already covers over 90% of the British population and this is set to improve further in 2009. As you would imagine, coverage is best in and around cities and large towns. This high speed signal can either be accessed through a modem or certain handsets.
In a 3G area, the internet speeds are fast, although you cannot easily find out the actual connection bandwidth and download speeds.
Speeds can reach 3.6 mbps, which isn’t as fast as the potential speeds of 7.2mbps offered by Vodafone. With any mobile broadband plan, a lot will depend on where you intend to use it so try to test out speeds before committing to any long-term contract.
A good place to start is to check the estimated broadband speed in your area.
There is also a useful broadband usage calculator that helps you select the correct subscription plan for your needs.
There is little to choose from between Vodafone and 3’s mobile broadband services, but Vodafone does seem to have the edge in some regards, data speeds of up to 7.2Mbps for example.
That said, 3’s £10 per month could provide better value if you are an occasional userand are looking for a pay monthly contract
3 do have some excellent information on the website so if you want to learn more about 3’s mobile broadband service it’s probably a good place to check out.