3 launch Mobile Broadband Wi-Fi Hub

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

3 have announced they are launching a Mobile Broadband Wi-Fi Hub, which will allow users who have selected Mobile Broadband USB Modems to be able to share them (to up to 5 devices) via Wi-Fi, in a similar way to the newer 3 MiFi.

This, I guess, is similar to the original D100 USB Router they released a few years ago now, and like that device, only works from mains power; ie it has no battery (again another plus for the 3 MiFi).  However, one very positive aspect is that it covers many of the recent and not so recent USB modems 3 have sold.  The list includes:

  • Huawei E122, E1550, E156G, E169, E1750, E1820, E353u, E367u
  • ZTE MF112 and MF627

This list does include the latest Huawei USB Dongle that offers HSPA+ speeds (up to 21.1Mbps).

It’s 88mm x 66mm x 25mm, gives you around 30 metres range, and is only available in Black (unlike the 3 MiFi, which now comes in White too); pricing and exact availability will follow in time.


3UK Mobile WiFi device Hands On

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

3UK Mobile Wi-Fi Device (MiFi)

I’ve had access to one of these devices since yesterday, and I am quietly impressed by the device, and it’s capabilities; it’s not perfect (more later), but it certainly is a very useful device…

Although it costs a little more than a standard 3 Mobile Broadband USB Modem, the extra facilities it offers may make it worthwhile for many.  Basically, it shares it’s 3G connection over Wi-Fi to upto 5 devices at the same time.  Now, the 3G network speed is not enough for all 5 devices to be streaming audio or video, but would cope with all 5 checking mail and web surfing.  In fact, I’ve been sat here with 2 laptops connected to it, with one streaming Spotify music for over 2 hours now without any glitches or problems.

One problem with the device is that it is 3G / HSPA only; it will not fallback onto the Orange 2G data network (like a 3UK Handset would), so if you are out of coverage of 3UK‘s own 3G network, it will not work at all.  3UK claim to be at 70% population with 3G, which is still one of the highest (if not the highest) for pure 3G connectivity, but the lack of fallback may leave you stranded in the short term.  Last night, 3UK showed their plans for a “monster” 3G network for 2010, which fills in a lot of gaps in their current coverage, so as this better network comes online, this problem will fade to some degree.

One key use of this device is for Wi-Fi only devices, such as the iPod Touch, the Nokia Internet Tablets, PSPs etc. and certainly all these devices gain extra features with connectivity, and it’s very easy to just turn the device on and be able to access the internet anywhere (with signal).  The battery is claimed to last 5 hours, and althougwe haven’t yet got to 5 hours of usage, it’s certainly a plausible figure.  If needed, you can turn off the wireless to limit it to local wired USB connection only, or you can turn off 3G to just give you a local wireless network hub for file sharing.  The network name (SSID) is quite obviously a 3UK device, so you may want to change it (all mangement needs to be performed via a wired cable connection).  You can also change the encryption key, although given this is listed under the battery, it may be easier to leave this alone for convenience.

Other positive points? 3UK are trying to ensure nothing (legal) is blocked by their Internet connection, and certainly everything we accessed worked fine without any issues.  As 3UK have good support for Skype, they are happy for you to run the client on your laptop.  Also interesting to note is that iPhones and iPod Touch can also use a MiFi to allow full access to Skype for calls; whether or not you are allowed to make calls on the Skype client is based on whether the connection is 3G (from the phone) or WiFi (from the phone); the fact that the WiFi access point then uses 3G is not factored in to the switch within the application, so these functions work fine too.

The only other downside we can find is that when you turn it on, you then seem to need to turn on 3G every time; it’s a shame it needs 2 buttons presses, and not just one, but this is a minor point.

The 3 MiFi will be available on Friday in Stores (and available to order online on Thursday)with two pricing options; the “Broadband 5GB 1 month” service will cost £69.99 upfront and then £15 per month for 5GB of data (with a rolling 1 month contract), or you can select the PAYG “Ready To Go” option at £99.99, which will include 3GB of data to be used over a 3 month period, and then it will move onto standard Mobile Broadband PAYG pricing.  3UK have indicated that there may be more tariffs in the future, and they will also review the 5GB limit over time too.

If you are worried about “Bill Shock” with this device (you will get warning SMSes, but as these are only available if you have the connection software installed and connect to the device via the wired USB cable, most people will never see these), 3UK have a “hard block” of £25 per month; once you hit this limit (comprised of the original tariff and then the overspend), 3UK will block the SIM for the rest of the month.  This is a nice feature to limit exposure, and you can ring up 3UK to increase or decrease this limit if you wish.  Of course, the My3 portal is accessible from any connected device (even on wireless) which gives you a live data usage figure should you wish to check how much you have used.

All in all, a useful device, and one you should consider if you want to have the capability of easily sharing your Mobile Broadband and have sufficient 3G coverage in the areas you want to use it.


Another 3G WiFi Router

Monday, July 20th, 2009

3G HW550

After we covered some options for sharing your 3G connection a couple of weeks back (here), Solwise have informed us they have another device available which can also act as a 3G WiFi router; the Aztech 3.5G 11n Router.  This device brings together 802.11N WiFi technology with 3G (not this device does not seem to act as an ADSL router like the previous device we featured, but can be added into an existing wired network).

At only £53.66 this is a nice cheap device for sharing your 3G USB Modem with other users, and it seems to support the majority of USB Modems in use today (with support for various Huawei, Option and ZTE devices).  An interesting device for when away from home and looking to provide multiple devices with internet access.

More details available direct from Solwise here.


3 planning ads

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

3 logo

INQ1 Silver £15 per Month, Free 3 to 3 calls at 3M

3UK have announced today that they are looking for a small number of exclusive ad partners who will be able to display ads within the Mobile Broadband dashboard, the software used to connect their USB Modems to their network.  They have stated they have over 1 million users, and hence there will be over 30 million advertising impressions every month.  As they state each advertiser will be getting 1 to 3 million impressions, it would appear they are looking for around 10 advertising partners.

Apparently brands such as VW, Suzuki, Kia, Peugeot, Mazda, Honda and Land Rover have placed adverts on 3Austria’s dashboard in the past.

This presumably will bring in additional revenue to 3UK, but we see no mention of plans to reduce costs, or offer the consumer anything in return for being presented with ads…


Vodafone reduce roaming data charges

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Vodafone square logo

A week or two back, 3UK informed us they were cutting their data roaming charges to just £1.25/MB, claiming that was the lowest rate available in the UK.  It may well have been, but I’m afraid it seems to me that Vodafone‘s new rates make that look pretty poor…

If you are using a Handset (as opposed to a Mobile Broadband USB Modem), then in Zone 1 (roughly the bigger countries in Europe) you will pay £4.99 for each block of 25MB (ie go 100k over 25MB and you will pay £9.98).  Outside of Zone 1, you would pay £14.99 per block of 25MB.

If you are using a USB Dongle (actually Vodafone‘s terms are “on phone” and “on laptop”, not explaining where a laptop or PDA tethered to a phone comes) then it’s £9.99 for each block of 50MB in Zone 1 (so the same rate per MB, just only available in bigger chunks) and £29.99 in Zone 2.

All these charges are per day, and end at midnight *UK* time (although Vodafone will send you texts when you get close to the end of a block of data and when it’s close to midnight), and Vodafone do state the charges are based on browsing and emails, and not file sharing, downloading music or video or streaming media either (as these will quickly eat up those blocks of data).

So, if we do our sums properly, it looks to us like Vodafone works out a lot cheaper per MB than 3UK are when roaming, but of course if you use a really really small of data per day, then 3UK will be cheaper, but where’s the fun in that… 🙂

With the aide of a handy calculator, we think the following would apply:

  • Using 1MB a day for 7 days on 3UK in France: £8.75
  • Using 1MB a day for 7 days on Vodafone in France: £34.93

So, 3UK comes out best, until you start using more data…

  • Using 4MB a day for 7 days on 3UK in France: £35.00
  • Using 4MB a day for 7 days on Vodafone in France: £34.93

Of course, as the numbers go up, it still starts to add up for both…

  • Using 15MB a day for 7 days on 3UK in France: £131.25
  • Using 15MB a day for 7 days on Vodafone in France: £104.79

Now, 15MB a day for 7 days is only 105MB, and, to be honest, with both networks offering over 500MB (3UK offering 1-2GB) for £5 per month, all these charges still look ridiculously high, but let’s hope the price war between the networks continues to drive down data charges before the EU has to act and set limits on roaming, like it has for calls and texts.


UK Gadgeteer Offers Page

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

3 logo

INQ1 Silver £15 per Month, Free 3 to 3 calls at 3M

Although we update the UK Gadgeteer Offers page most weeks with new deals we have found / agreed with companies, we thought we would draw your attention to the last update, which added a couple of exclusive 3UK offers.  Both offers include a white USB Mobile Broadband Dongle, which are currently very rare on 3UK, to the extent that if you head off to the 3Store website, you will only be offered the black ZTE modem.  However, we can provide you access to the white Huawei modem with two options; either a 24month 15GB contract for just the USB dongle or with an Acer laptop.  Head off to the UK Gadgeteer Offers page to see these two offers and links to the offers direct at 3UK.

Please note these are time limited offers, and will be removed once they are no longer available from 3UK.

We try to provide access to deals such as these (ie not available to the general public) as often as possible; if this deal does not interest you, please keep an eye on the UK Gadgeteer Offers page in case something else catches your fancy.


Want to share your Mobile Broadband…?

Monday, June 29th, 2009

3 D100 Wi-Fi router

We first covered the Huawei D100 Router as sold by 3UK earlier this year, but we now see it’s been removed from the 3Store (most likely due to 3UK concentrating on the ZTE USB Modem right now, which is not compatible with the Huawei).  Well, courtesy of Hot UK Deals, we’ve been informed that Carphone Warehouse are currently selling their stock of the 3 branded device at half price, which is £34.25.  That’s a very good price for the device, although it is limited to only working with 3UK, and, as already stated, needs a Huawei 3UK USB Modem to work.  However, once you have that, it will offer you the ability to share your 3UK Mobile Broadband connection with upto 4 other devices via Wi-Fi as long as you have access to a power socket.

Given that this does have these limitations, what are the options for others?  Well, the Solwise 3G Router may help out; although it’s designed as an ADSL router, it has a 3G failback capability (ie when the ADSL line is down, it will use a 3G USB Modem instead).  Now, because this isn’t being sold by any particular network, it’s not limited to one mobile network, and also supports a whole range of USB Modems, including a number of ZTE models as well.  It can even support some mobile phones being connected via USB if you have one lying around spare.

As the Solwise has both an ethernet port and Wi-Fi capability, it can act as a nice portable connection sharing device too. The Solwise is a little more expensive at £60 though (although for another few pounds you can get a Euro plug adaptor for the same device given you the ability to use it across Europe; although use a local SIM or be prepared for some horrendous data roaming charges!).

Both these devices still have one problem; the USB Mobile Broadband Dongle has to be physically located close to the main unit (and hence a power socket); if this location does not have the best 3G signal, then you should head over to Mobile Fun, who sell external aerials and signal boosters for the majority of USB Modems on the market (and have some generic ones for those without external antenna sockets).  Finally, it’s not clear if Carphone Warehouse are selilng the Black or White variant (or if you get a choice when ordering online), so it may be prudent to go to your local store if you are looking for a particular colour.

We should say that T-Mobile have a similar unit, but it’s only available with a new Mobile Broadband contract, so if you already have a device, there’s no wasy way of purchasing one…


3UK Skype Price Drop…

Friday, May 15th, 2009

3 logo

INQ1 Silver £15 per Month, Free 3 to 3 calls at 3M

We’re a big fan of 3 UK and also of Skype, so we are happy to promote the 3UK Skype Free Calls Forever promotion that 3 UK have launched.  Even better than that, they have just announced a price drop on two of their Skype phones on Pay As You Go (PAYG):

  • The INQ1 PAYG has dropped from £99.99 to £69.99
  • The Skypephone S2 has dropped from £99.99 to £69.99

This makes the 3 UK deal even better; for around £70 you can now buy a phone which will offer free Skype to Skype calls and not even need to topup the device to continue using it (although if you get the INQ1, we’d recommend it’s worth keeping the phone topped up and also getting Mobile Internet access on it to access the other Social Networking features of the phone).

Also, if you are on the lookout for a deal on 3 Mobile Broadband Starter Kits, 3 UK have just dropped the price of their 3GB Starter Kit from £59.99 to £49.99 (for selected USB Modems).

We believe all these deals are already available in the 3Store.


3UK reduce Mobile Broadband prices

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

3 logo

INQ1 Silver £15 per Month, Free 3 to 3 calls at 3M

3UK have this week reduced some of the prices of their Mobile Broadband solutions. Firstly they have reduced the price of some of the USB Modem sticks to even lower prices than before, now starting around £30.  Secondly they have reduced the price of the 3 Mobile Broadband Starter Kits, with these now starting around £59, although we still think the 12GB version offers the best value for money.

We see 3UK have also launched a new Starter Kit with a 24GB allowance, for use over a period of upto 24 months, which might appeal to some.

All items are available for order today from the 3Store.


Vodafone launching TopUp and Go Mobile Broadband special offer

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Vodafone have just started a promotion on their TopUp and Go USB Modem Stick for £39 (down from £49 yesterday), which includes the first free TopUp of 1GB (worth £15).  Unlike 3UK, this TopUp will not expire, and we understand nor will any subsequent TopUps.  The K3565 Modem Stick offers downloads of up to 3.6mbps, and includes a microSD slot.

This may be an interesting competitor to the 3 USB Modems, especially with the non-expiry of the TopUp vouchers; but is it good value…  Let’s compare the main networks:

  • Vodafone: £15 buys you 1GB of data, but with no expiry
  • 3UK: £15 buys you 3GB of data, but it will expire after 30 days
  • T-Mobile:£20 buys you 30 days of usage, with a 3GB of data cap (includes Wi-Fi access too)
  • O2: £15 buys you 3GB of data, but it will expire after 30 days (it does also include “unlimited” Wi-Fi)
  • Orange don’t offer PAYG Mobile Broadband

So, is this a good deal?  Well, we think for those who want to occasionally take their laptop out and about it could be wonderful, removing the need for TopUps unless the data has been used up; for those who need more data, we would probably recommend the 3 Mobile Broadband Starter Kits or any of the contract Mobile Broadband deals.

In other news, we’re hearing Vodafone has an offer on their Vodafone netbook (Dell Mini 9) laptops; half price line rental for the first 3 months; we are finding our netbook very easy to use, and you can read our first impressions of it here.  Full details of this should appear on the Vodafone website soon.