Roadtesting mobile broadband from 3

SimonGeneral6 Comments

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

6 Comments on “Roadtesting mobile broadband from 3”

  1. I have found the 3 dongle of such a benefit; there is a however though. I have to travel fairly frequently to Geramany and France + Spain and though I have cleared this all with 3’s Customer services I find that accessability is chronicly slow and if it all. Though the mobile phone signals are good in these areas; I am on o2 the dongle connection in these countries I have found pretty useless.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    With thanks/ Robert

  2. Really good at home (where we don’t need it) in uk but for roaming its a real learning curve. Seems you have to buy data to use in UK and have cash on account to work abroad. Learning this has cost us £20 of wasted add ons so far. Still getting my head around it. We did manage once t connect in France but so slowwwww we never reached anywhere till money ran out. Each time we complain when back in UK we realise we have made some stupid mistake so don’t get refunds. Still driving 30 mins in France to use internet cafe.

  3. I live in an area with perfect 3 HSDPA reception and only get a download speed of between 8 and 20kb/sec! It’s totally useless and I’m stuck with paying for it for another 14 months.

  4. I have had mobile broadband with three for 3 months now and the service is extremely slow, every time I phone customer service they keep given me excuses on updating there systems in the local area, I have the 15 Gigabyte package and stuck paying £22.75 a month.

    I like to embrace new technology but this is horrid.

    At the moment I would stick to land lines.

  5. Bought a 3 mobile internet dongle, wont download on my laptop & nobody can give me a reason why. I a not entitled to my money back because the dongle works in other computer. So my advise is throw it the bin if you have one

  6. 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.

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