A survey by comparison site Broadband Expert suggests that UK mobile broadband providers are delivering services “far lower than advertised”.
Almost three and a half thousand broadband connections were tested over a five month period.
The firm found that users recorded an average download speed of 1.1Mbs, substantially lower than advertised.
The advertised speeds are sometimes in my opinion a bit over the top, for example Vodafone advertise 7.2Mbps which is really fast, however though I believe I have had that speed probably once, in London, I generally get a much lower speed.
However I agree with the expert critcism of the report, this is mobile broadband we’re talking about, though I would like to get a consistent 7.2Mbps I know that the technology doesn’t work that way. If I am moving, if other people are using their 3G devices, buildings, the weather and other stuff.
I have been pleased with my Vodafone 3G and T-Mobile 3G speeds, what are your 3G experience like? Do some people have high expectations for a technology which personally I am surprised works at all.
So you want to be connected to the internet on the move? Or you need connectivity at a conference without wifi?
Yes you could get a 3G USB dongle or stick, but that only allows a single computer to connect.
What happens if you also want to connect your mobile device, a second laptop, what happens if there is more than one person and only one dongle?
In the past the solution I used was Joikuspot which was an application which ran on my Nokia N95 phone. It acted as a wireless access point, it connected to the internet via 3G and then shared that connection over the phone’s wifi connection with other devices. It was a very clever technology which made life easier for me. There were a few downsides, the main was battery life, it drained battery from the N95 really fast, so was only useful for an hour or two or when the phone was plugged into the mains. Of course this meant that I couldn’t use the N95 as a phone, as the battery would be drained. Another problem I had was with devices such as the Nokia N810 and Sony PSP which would not connect to the Joikuspot wireless network. The reason was a limitation in the Symbian software which meant that the phone acted in ad-hoc mode for wireless rather than infrastructure. The N810 and PSP had issues with connecting to an ad-hoc network. It did however work fine with the iPod touch which was how I mainly used it.
I was very interested to hear from Andy Ihnatko on MacBreak Weekly about the MiFi. A battery powered 3G wireless router. Using a 3G SIM it would connect to the internet and then allow up to five wireless clients to connect and share that 3G connection. With a four hour battery life, could be charged via USB and about the size of a credit card, it seemed ideal. Of course I didn’t expect to see it in the UK, probably only available in the US on Verizon or Sprint…
I did an internet search (as you do) and found it on sale at Expansys (without a contract). Ordered and delivered.
Using a SIM from a Vodafone 3G USB dongle it was very simple to set up and configure and I would recommend that you use the details from Ross Barkman’s excellent website on connection settings for GPRS/3G to save having to work out where the information is on your providers’ website.
You can configure it wirelessly, and the first things I did was rename the wireless network and add WPA2 security.
Once configured it is simply a matter of turning it on, waiting for it to connect and then connect your laptop (or other device) to the wireless network.
It works very well and felt faster than using the USB dongle!
One problem I have had is the MacBook Pro losing the wireless connection and being unable to re-connect with the result the only solution was to reboot the MiFi. I am now trying just WPA as I think it is a MacBook Pro wireless issue rather than a MiFi issue. Or it could be an issue with the fact I was on a train!
I do like the MiFi and it does what it says on the tin.
You can now get the MiFi from 3 on a contract or as PAYG. This is much “cheaper” than buying the unlocked MiFi, but of course you get less flexibility as a result.
Do you know how much you will be charged if you go over that limit?
If you’re on O2 and go over by just 1GB you would be facing a £100 bill!
The BBC reports on the issue of 3G bandwidth caps on mobile broadband services.
Mobile broadband users face stiff penalties for exceeding their download limits even though most aren’t aware of what those limits are.
I use a Vodafone 3G dongle and though the Windows software (on a single computer) does measure how much data use the Mac connection software (in other words what I normally use) doesn’t. Generally I guess that my usage is fine as I don’t use the dongle everyday and rely on my home and work internet connections and not just the mobile broadband connection.
However I know some people and some learners have a 3G dongle for their internet and that’s it! Using a 3G dongle everyday would be getting close to their limits if they were downloading podcasts and watching online video.
BBC reports on how the use of 3G for data is increasing really fast.
This graph from 3 shows how fast 3G data usage is rising.
Why is this, well according to Rory Cellan-Jones of the BBC, the reason is simple.
So what’s behind the sudden explosion of data use? One word: dongles, those plug-and-play devices that give your laptop mobile broadband wherever you go.
3, T-Mobile and Vodafone have been pushing their 3G USB dongles hard over the last few months, and the monthly cost of such services has dropped considerably.
When I first used 3G in June 2004, I was paying £100 per month, now you can get 3G for just £10 per month, and as part of a phone plan it can be as little as £5 per month!
Also we are seeing an explosion in speed (just don’t tell O2 who are still stuck on 128Kbps), back in 2004, I was lucky to get 384Kbps, today with my Vodafone 3G dongle I can achieve 7.2Mbps (well I can in London, less so in Gloucester).
These fast speeds start to make 3G a viable option for many people.
With more people using 3G dongles and laptops, suddenly they will be able to access media-rich learning content where they like, mobile learning starts to become more real and accessible.
Of course as noted in the BBC, problems start to arise if you exceed the fair use limits of these 3G services.
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