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.