Roadtesting mobile broadband from 3

Roadtesting mobile broadband from 3

A few weeks back we had some problems with our home broadband connection, leaving us without any internet access for a couple of days. image

The whole episode made me realise how many of our day-to-day activities rely on being connected. I have internet access through my mobile phone on 3, but I’d been thinking about whether to invest in a proper mobile broadband dongle to give proper connectivity when out and about, and a reserve broadband connection when at home.

The arrival of an email from the team at 3mobilebuzz offering a trial of the latest HSDPA mobile broadband USB stick from 3 was perfect timing.

I’ve been using the stick for around a week now, and thought it was about time to blog about my experiences so far.


Getting the broadband set up on my Windows laptop was a doddle. I just had to put the SIM into the stick, insert the stick in a spare USB port and then Windows did the rest.  The software required to control the connection is installed on the stick so there are no CDs or software downloads required.


imageThis is where it gets tricky, as the speeds I get on my landline and mobile broadband connections depend on where I am, how I’m connected etc. So my experiences won’t be the same as someone somewhere else, but all the same I think the speed tests I’ve done are worth posting.

For the record I’m in Whitstable on the Kent coast – so not an urban area but not out in the sticks either. I have good 3G coverage at home and for the landline broadband we’re about three miles from the exchange.

I’ve done three speed tests around the same time of day:

The first is on my landline broadband through a wired connection from my router to my laptop:


The second is using my landline broadband through a wireless connection from the router:

The third is the same test using my 3 mobile broadband connection:

So on speed grounds the mobile broadband is giving me download speeds just over a third of the speed of my home broadband, and upload speeds at around 15% of my home broadband uploads. Those figures surprise me as having worked with the mobile broadband, it doesn’t seem slow in everyday internet and email use. I guess that’s because the value of faster speeds is only really felt on heftier data volume uses like downloading software or music files.

Looking at 3’s map of their turbo network coverage I see that Whitstable doesn’t have the turbo network yet. When it does I should be able to achieve 2.8MB/s download speeds which will be comparable with my landline broadband.


The next thing worth looking at is how much mobile broadband costs. The 3 dongle is available on contracts and pay as you go. On 18 month contracts it costs £10pm (1GB data per month), £15pm (3GB data per month) or £25pm (7GB data per month). Every 1MB over those levels costs you 10p. For most of the contract plans the dongle doesn’t cost anything.

If you want to pay as you go, the dongle is £69.99 and each 1MB will cost you £1 (or it’s cheaper if you go for an internet add-on).

It’s taken me a good 20 minutes to unpick the pricing, and to be honest I’m not sure I’ve got it absolutely right now as the 3 site’s not exactly clear on what, if any, line rental you’d pay for your data connection.

While this is more expensive that you’d pay for most landline broadband connections, the benefit with mobile broadband is of course it’s just that – mobile. I’ve used it successfully on the train and when I’ve been out and about.

The only other thing worth noting is that when the dongle is in use it gets really hot. When you’re using it on a laptop without mains connection it does drain the battery faster – in my experience it reduces my laptop’s battery life by around 40%.

Having ubiquitous internet connectivity is probably the logical next step for me – so much of my work depends on connectivity that it will help make my work more efficient and responsive to client needs. The 3 dongle looks like a good solution for this, although I haven’t checked out the competition yet.

Disclosure: free dongle and unlimited data for three months from


I work with technology-centric businesses as an interim Chief Operating Officer (COO), consultant and advisor. I created the B3 framework® for scaling technology businesses and I write a newsletter called Build for leaders who are building brilliant companies.