Info

A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

My dongle (a word Sam the PR guy from 3 is having far too much innuendo-laden fun with in his e-mail subjects, if you ask me) turned up a week ago. I plugged it into the MacBook and it asked if it could install some software. That turned out to be the dialler below:

Mobile Connect Application
Click “connect”, and off you go…
Honestly, the first 24 hours made me wonder if the effort had been worth it. I could barely hold a connection in any of the places I tried, and eventually gave up. I pretty much forgot about the dongle for 24 hours, before trying again on Wednesday morning when I badly needed to get at something blocked by the corporate firewall. And it worked smoothly. And it has done since.
At it’s best, it feels like being on slightly sluggish WiFi – like being in a coffee shop when every third patron has their Apple laptop open and sucking bandwidth. Fast enough to use comfortably, but not up there with your own ADSL line. And, seeing as they’ve given me unlimited bandwidth for the time being, I’ve been abusing it thoroughly. Downloading podcasts: fine. Downloading small software apps: fine. FTP to my blog host? No probs. All good. 
I have had a few on-going issues. It seems unable to hold an iChat connection for any length of time, which is intensely irritating when I’m in the middle of a conversation. And there are “spikes” of poor connection speeds, which leave me tapping my fingers in irritation on occasion. 
But when it works, it works well. I’d certainly have liked one of these during those weeks in Norwich. The only thing that concerns me a little is how much bandwidth I’d actually burn using this on a paid plan. Based on 3’s website, the cheapest plan is £10 a month, and gives you 1Gb of usage. I’ve racked up 60Mb today, on fairly light use, but that’s enough to blow me right past that limit. £15 gets you 3Gb, but that feels tight if I’m going to be out and about. So it’s be the £25 7GB plan for me. Is it useful enough for me to justify that? I’m not sure. I guess we’ll find out when the three months is up…
Anyway, the next couple of weeks are going to give me the chance to test the little white dongle more extensively and in more demanding situations. I’ll report back. 
Update: My later experiences have not been so good.
  • http://adrianmonck.blogspot.com Adrian Monck

    My self-financed dongle from a rival supplier is a joy – though like yours it has lousy Mac interface (the Windows one keeps better track of everything).

    Train journeys especially…and when the copper wire plays up at home.

  • http://www.studiolift.com http://openid.aol.com/studiolift

    We’ve been considering getting one of these for the office — as a ‘whoever needs it grabs it’ tool on pay as you go. The lack of tethering on my iphone is frustrating on long train journeys where I have done some work and want to email it. This might be useful.

  • http://kristinelowe.blogs.com/ Kristine

    Interesting. I’ve been relying on mobile broadband since spring 2006 as it’s been the only sensible solution for me as a freelancer travelling a lot and based in Norway where wifi connections can be far and few btwn.

    It’s been invaluable in that I more or less always have a connection wherever I go in Norway, though often frustratingly slow, fragile and volatile – even gives me something to fall back on when I’m abroad and can’t find another connection (terribly expensive to use abroad though). I pay about £50 incl VAT for unlimited monthly access in Norway.

    Whenever I’m in the UK I’m usually able to find a wifi connection though. But since mobile broadband can be a slow and volatile thing, my online provider’s customer service reps tend to tell me that ‘all Norwegians’ use a landline-based broadband as well (another £50 a month), which seems a bit absurd to me. Anyway, am now changing to a USB modem, new mobile broadband provider, hoping it will be better (I’ve succumbed to buying into the promises of the former state monopolist here that because they’ve been in the game so long their coverage is far surperior to anyone elses. Yes, am desperate for a better connection)

    Come to think of it though, I can’t remember one online provider or telecoms company in England or here worth cheering for. Think Compuserve was the least bad (perhaps because it was my first online provider)….

  • shaggyuk316

    hi there ive had 3’s mobile broadband for 24 hrs now and i had a sluggish nigh but seems to be working ok what i have found out is that within 24hrs it stays on a temporary proxy server and now its on a dfferent ip and server but as to say everything is ok better than 4yrs ago when they had their own 3 internet and couldnt do much
    i will post more if any probs or good things happen
    shaggyuk

  • leaf_bbi

    I tried 3 broadband as an Addon on my contract phone for a month. I used a Asus modem given by a friend. It was OK. I got disconnected or fate connection occasionally, but overall it was not bad. So I took a new 18-month contract with 3 with 3G allownce and canceled the Add-on, because I wanna a dedicate SIM for broadband. I got a free usb modem as on the photo. It is a jok compare to my old modem. I got disconnected almost every half an hour (Windows xp), and can not reconnect without a reboot. I have tried to call 3 services (500). I was put on hold for about 20 minutes. I tried three times, only got through once. After telling the guy the connection is very slow (have not got a change to tell him about modem problem), the guy said he would check if there was any technical problmes, then I was put on hold for another 15 minutes. I gave up finally, not believe the guy would pick up my phone ever again. Now I am using my old Asus modem. But I still feel the speed is lower than before when I used Add-on. I wanted to cancel this contract and return the modem, and found out I need to return everything within 3 days, not 15 days on their website because I took the contract from a store.

  • Adam Tinworth

    That’s a pretty unhappy story, mate.

  • http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=2055293008&page=2 Greg

    I’ve had 3 Broadband for 4 months. Was good sometimes, slow and unstable other times. Updated the modem firmware today, and what a difference – works great now! Found the info at: http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=2055293008&page=2

  • http://www.mobilebroadband123.co.uk/ Daithi

    I got the 3 dongle back in feburary when we move house and BT was going to take about 4 years to get a landline installed – it worked great for a while – but recently it has got to the point where it is just unworkable!
    More recently I got the Iphone from O2 – and now I just use that as my mobile internet – not great screenwise, but a heck of a lot less frustrating than waiting for 3’s dongle to do its thing!!

  • Owen Ball

    I got a 3 dongle two weeks ago in Dublin, after spending 4 weeks in a Travelodge in Slough. I decided that if I had to spend four weeks in Slough again, and in a Travelodge to add insult to injury, I would either have to turn to drink on the internet.

    The deal in Irleand is €19 per month for 10GB, which seems pretty good to me. The connection does vary, but seems to have a prescence of some sort or other over much of the country. My front room seems to be a black spot, but I think that might be my eircom home wireless trying to get all territorial on its ass. (a little phrase I picked up in Slough)

    What I like about it is that they do not charge roaming fees for when I am back in the UK, so long as I use the 3 network only. What I really like about it is that it works perfectly at the bottom of my garden in a small-ish town miles away form the capital. Happy enough so far, I’d say.

    And almost looking forward to Slough. Almost.

    OB

  • Adrian Pope

    I just purchased E160 G, Having tried various locations in London and the South Coast I am stunned at how slow it is, I was not expecting miracles or anything like the claimed speeds
    however to get 10% of claimed speed is useless to me
    I think it took 7 minutes to send a 1 mb file.The assistant in the 3 shop also mislead me, by ignorance no doubt, by assuring me the upload speed would be the same as the download speed. I truly hate 3 now and will never go near them again. I am going to try to take the product back but expect an arguement due to their no return after 3 days policy.

  • George

    I wish I had read these comments before believing the salesman in the 3 shop.It is a joke.I can see a phone mast from my garden,so no problem with connection,just painfully slow.Many sites wont even load.Phoning 500 didn’t help.He said it was my computer at fault.I even reset my computer to its origional setting in the recovery program.I am going to the 3 shop for an arguement now.TATA

  • dennis

    i have had 3g dongle for my laptop for ayear,to use in my motorhome,i find that any where near the coast it fails to connect,in one place redcar it worked ok.one month and later date failed to connect.completely unreliable i woud avise against having one?????

  • Gary

    Hi There, anyone else having the fatal execution problem with the black 3g modem?

    it kills the computer (screen goes black and asks me to hard shutdown) on random odd occasions, im using a macbook pro and think there must be an update or something from 3 to stop this . . . .

  • henrymabuti

    I've been with 3 mobile broadband for almost 2 years (painful 2 years..). I live in Melbourne, Australia and the connection was incredibly below the 500kps minimum transfer rate printed on the product package (3 boasted that it could go up to 1.3mps which practically as good as fixed broadband). The maximum I could get (at areas indicated with service) was 150kps but most of the time 60kps. Complained to a customer guy in India but such customer service is the worst I've experienced in my life. They appears to be virtual (as oppose to real) for no commitment to customer service excellence at all. I'd been reminded so many times by these Indians (they like the Untouchables) that I've signed a contract and as such I have no option but live miserably with this junk made-in-china unit. I wish 3 would read this comment and would offer an option to me to prove that their service is not some sort of a scam where once you signed that dotted line you're on you own and endure with dignity your worst nightmare. Being a software developer, I could barely use such questionable service of 3.

  • ADAM MORRIS

    I HAVE A HUAWEI 160G MOBILE BROADBAND DONGLE(THE ONE WITH BUILT IN 2GIG MEMORY CARD READER)ON THREE NETWORK – WHEN I FIRST GOT THIS PIECE OF TURD I HAD TO MESS ABOUT NO END JUST TO GET IT TO WORK AT IT’S SLOWEST SPEED(1.2MPS) AFTER THIS I INVESTED IN A 10 METER USB EXTENSION WITH BUILT IN REPEATER(£10-ISH) AND USED THIS SO I COULD POSITION THE PEICE OF WHITE TURD SOME WHERE IT MIGHT GET MORE THAN 3-4 OF THE 10 METER SEGMENTS-THIS WORKED BRILIANTLY FOR A WHILE(GOOD ENOUGH TO GET A DECENT GAME OF BATTLEFIELD 2142)WITH SIGNAL METER READING 9 SEGS(NETHER BEEN TO 10 EVER)HOWEVER 6 MONTHS LATER I CAN’T KEEP A SUSTAINED CONECTION FOR LONGER THAN 25-35 MINS-NOT SURE WHY THIS IS HAPPENING BUT I GET FEELING MORE PEOPLE IN MY AREA ARE USING 3 MOBILE BBAND AND SERICE IS OVER SUBSCRIBED OR DONGLE HAS WORN OUT(NOT LIKELY)-NOT HAPPY AND THINKING ABOUT NOT TOPPING IT UP AGAIN-IVE TRIED LATEST FIRMWARE AND IT WAS STILL SAME-NOT GOING TO WASTE MY TIME TRYING TO MAKE AN EXPENSIVE CALL ON MY VODA OR LAND LINE TRYING TO SPEAK TO SOME 3 REP IN INDIA THAT I CAN’T UNDER STAND BECAUSE OF ACCENT(I LIVE IN BRADFORD 3 WHERE I HAVE QUITE A FEW INDIAN AND PAKISTANI NEIGHBOURS AND HAVE NO PROBS UNDERSTANDING THEM-I’M NOT BEING RACIST)I’VE FINALY DECIDED TO SELL IT WITH MY OLD P.C.AS AN CHEAP INTERNET READY AND WORKING P.C.-I WILL CUT MY LOSSES AND GET BROAD BAND VIA MY LAND LINE PROVIDER-SHOULD PROB COST 3RD OF WHAT I WAS PAYING FOR MOBILE TURD EACH MONTH. A.W.MORRIS BRADFORD – WEST YORKSHIRE.

  • ADAM MORRIS

    P.S. YOUR GETING BANDWIDTH MIXED UP WITH DATA USAGE ALLOWENCE.I WISH YOU COULD GET UNLIMITED BANDWIDTH-NO SUCH THING UNFORTUNATELY.

  • space queen

    i think 3g broadband dongle is rubbish it even says dial up in the connections box. absolute crap for the money i really wouldnt recommend it. massive thumbs down.

  • Lee

    it’s sad they call this “mobile broadband”. for one, if used “mobile”, ie: on a train or coach, you will loose connection frequently as you move between cells, so really these are more suited to static positions like home or office. two, it’s not broadband, it is a 3g phone signal.

    you CAN get some performance out of them if you’re lucky or still enough to pull a decent signal. but ofcourse, sad fact no.3 is that everyone & their dog has an iphone or similar & they wanna look at youtube & other data intensive things – the networks haven’t caught up so these people (us) are slowing down the system.

    i can see it would be easy for networks to boost signal in urban areas (if they wanted to), the real challenge is out in the country.

  • Karen Evangelista

    I would not recommend 3G’s dongle to anyone. Use with it is the same as pre-broadband.

    It is incredibly incredibly slow, goes onto ‘work offline’ by itself without the mouse being any where near the file button, it has to be re-connected so many times. What would normally take me about 45 minutes on Facebook/Farmville with my old o2 dongle takes just over two hours with 3G (average, no less that 1 hour 50) which of course takes up and wastes much money.

    As an above post, the customer service people are very difficult to understand.

    If marked = 1/5.

  • yash

    hi

    do u have any idea about the developer api for this device?????

  • Mark Brazendale

    Yep mine does the same fatal error shuts the computer down after 25 mins on line. still ripping what hair I have left out trying to solve the issue with no help from 3g network team

  • Mark Woods

    Apart from the first 2 weeks (the time I could cancel) I’ve had problem after problem and issue after issue. It’s only free credits which have kept me going. This service is oversubscribed, under maintained, customer services are appalling (see more below), 3 don’t improve as a company year on year (as seen in online reviews). Far too many customers of which I am one are getting a totally unacceptable level of service.

    In December 2010, respected consumer magazine ‘Which’ named 3 as having the worst customer services of all of the UK networks. 3 ranked 69th out of 75 across all industries.

    An already miserable experience for many looks set to worsen in 2011 as 3 push their new unlimited downloads package for smartphone users. While the leading networks have opted to maintain a responsible approach which doesn’t penalise mobile broadband customers paying for fixed allowances, 3 have chosen to once again demonstrate a complete disregard to customers by “spotting a gap in the market”. Furthermore, 3 will permit tethering – which is the ability to use a sim card in any device, such as a pc or laptop. In other words, users have computer access to unlimited downloads and so this will inevitably worsen a service which is currently the poorest rated in the UK and subject to more negative reviews by customers than any other network in each year since its inception, which was 2008.

    It’s therefore clear that the only sensible advice to give to fellow consumers is to avoid 3 and take all business to a reputable network who are better equipped to service both you and your needs.

  • Adam Tinworth

    I’m closing comments on this entry.

    It’s now over three years old, and the situation with 3’s network has changed significantly.

    I don’t feel that leaving open comments for anyone to dump frustrations with 3 into is a useful thing any more.

    I’ll be publishing my more recent experiences of 3 shortly.