3 Mobile Mobile Broadband USB modem
- USB a flexible alternative to PCMCIA, Windows and Mac capable, software installed on modem, ease of use
- Unreliable when in standard 3G or GSM coverage, pricing
3 Mobile's USB modem is a flexible alternative to PCMCIA cards, but be sure to check HSDPA network coverage before you buy
Price$ 399.00 (AUD)
Offering wireless access to the Internet via 3 Mobile's high-speed 3G network, the MobileBroadband USB modem is a convenient way to go wireless. It connects via USB, so it offers a flexible alternative for users of desktop PCs and notebooks, as many new machines don't have PCMCIA card slots. Unfortunately, limited High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) network coverage means users won't be able to take full advantage of high speeds in every area.
According to 3 Mobile, the MobileBroadband USB Modem provides theoretical maximum data download speeds of up to 3.6Mbps and upload speeds of up to 384Kbps, although the actual speed achieved will vary depending on a number of factors such as device capabilities, your location and equipment, as well as network usage at the time. Not all parts of the 3 network are running at a rate of 3.6Mbps; most of the time, users will achieve speeds ranging from 600kbps to 1.5Mbps. For more information on 3's HSDPA coverage, check out their website.
The 3 service supports connectivity in HSDPA, 3G and GPRS coverage areas. If the HSDPA signal strength isn't strong enough, the service falls back to standard 3G (a maximum speed of 384Kbps). If no HSDPA or 3G signal can be received, then the modem will revert down to standard GSM (60Kbps maximum), which is barely useable, even for basic web browsing.
During testing, the modem performed well in our offices (based in St Leonards, Sydney) receiving a standard HSDPA signal. For consistency we performed a number of tests, ranging from small amounts of data, like emails and basic Web browsing, to streaming services, and finally to basic downloading of files (ranging from 1MB to 4MB in size).
The USB modem has no problem with basic web browsing, loading pages swiftly and without much delay. We also checked our email successfully, with a stable connection and fairly consistent speeds in our offices. If you are in a HSDPA or 3G coverage area, streaming media from such websites as You Tube isn't a problem, but this is virtually impossible if the coverage drops down to GSM. Downloading small files while in a standard HSDPA coverage area, we were able to achieve speeds of up to 100KB/s, but most often fluctuated between 82KB/s and 93KB/s.
The MobileBroadband software included in the package scores points for ease of use and setup. It is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS's, and took less than a couple of minutes to install on our notebook. For PC users, the software and drivers of the modem are installed on the modem itself, so installation is as easy as plugging the modem into a spare USB port and running the installation. For Mac users, a CD containing the MobileBroadband software is included in the package and needs to be installed before you connect the modem. The software has menus for connect/disconnect, browser, SMS and contacts. You can quickly view information on the current session to the right of the screen, including duration of connection, data sent and received, and the fastest transfer rate of the session, both for downloads and uploads.
Three plans are offered for the USB Modem, ranging from the entry level $29 a month for 200MB of data to the highest $69 for 2GB of data. All plans charge an additional 10 cents per megabyte for any additional usage, and $1.65 per megabyte for international roaming usage.
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