Product Type: Three in Modems & Communication
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3's the Bees Knees!
3 Prepay Mobile Broadband Modem
Member Name: Zmugzy
3 Prepay Mobile Broadband Modem
Date: 19/07/10, updated on 14/07/12 (152 review reads)
Advantages: Freedom to roam and freedom from your landline
Disadvantages: Some will moan rightly or wrongly about the download speed
I purchased my 3 prepay mobile broadband from Argos back in February. I decided to take the plunge after much thought and hesitation due to the many mixed reviews detailing people experiences with mobile broadband. My concerns were reliability and download speed. So far I've been more than satisfied with my all round mobile broadband experience.
There are various 3 prepay mobile broadband packages currently available. Mine was for the 12 months package - not necessarily a package that lasts 12 months but based on the idea of 1GB of data download per month. So if you download a lot of Mp3s your package may only last 6 months or less. One thing to bear in mind though is that the package will only last for a maximum of 12 months so you have to use up all your 12 GB allowance within this time if you want to get your money's worth. There are other 3 prepay mobile packages; one month or three months starter kits for example and these come with varying monthly data allowances.
The total cost for my package was £80 and this included the dongle or memory stick preloaded with the 12 GB of usage (smaller and slimmer than the one pictured above). The download speed is supposed to be up to 3.6Mbs but I would say that I only ever get roughly just over over 1Mbs - most of the time. I know this because I am use to using the 2MB bandwidth supplied my Post Office Home Phone and Broadband package and my mobile broadband is definitely slower. Having said this, it's faster and more reliable than I expected - certainly a lot faster than the old telephone dial-up system. On the other hand, if you're someone who is use to using a high speed internet package, supplied by Virgin for example, then mobile broadband may seem excruciatingly slow. I now see that the same package I have is being offered by Argos with a speed of 7.2Mbps but I doubt that this would alter my download speed where I live and I do wonder if anyone will actually get this.
Of course download speed will vary depending on where you live and some areas may still be unable to receive 3 mobile - it's important to check this out before you buy. I live about 5 miles from Liverpool city centre and use my mobile broadband in a house nearer the centre and in a high rise block of flats on the outskirts. Surprisingly I seem to get better reception in the block of flats.
Regarding reliability, getting cut off is a more common occurrence, but it really doesn't happen enough for it to spoil my online experience. What's more, it usually only takes a few seconds to reconnect. In contrast with my landline broadband experience, losing a connection can be a real hassle and usually means re-starting the computer.
Getting online in the first place after you turn on your lap top can be a little slower and one thing I dislike about 3 mobile broadband is that their homepage automatically opens every time you go online. If there is a way to block this I haven't found it. A Mobile3 information box will also pop up every time you make a connection - this provides useful accurate information regarding your past data usage and how much you have left, and less accurate information regarding the present bandwidth speed being used.
Once your GB allowance is reached/expires, an additional top-up and Mobile Broadband Add-on must be purchased. In my case I would pay £10 for each additional month. At present I am more or less on course to use up my allowance in 12 months - I use just under 1Gb per month. I find 1Gb per month is just about manageable for general web browsing and emails etc. I don't watch videos, use BBC iPlayer etc on account of the limited monthly allowance but also because the download would be too slow. I can't for example complete online surveys that include video content - the videos just stall too much of freeze altogether.
Another important thing to take into account when deciding what GB allowance you choose is the numerous 'updates' and 'add-ons' that an online user constantly has to download nowadays - in particular those supplied by Microsoft or virus protection packages. These updates can use up a considerable proportion of your monthly GB allowance which is why a package with a 3GB monthly allowance might be a more convenient option. A few weeks ago I was quite miffed off when I was forced to 'update' my '3' dongle and used up a quarter of a monthly GB in 10 minutes.
A big plus is the ease of setting up. The 3 mobile broadband package is very easy to set up and really is a 'plug in and go' package - a big advantage when compared to the expense, time and hassle that can occur when setting up a landline based broadband connection. The dongle is like a memory stick and you just plug it in to a USB port. One concern I always have though is looking after my dongle, especially when it's loaded with £80 worth of GB - if you lose it or gets broken you've probably lost your £80 or whatever's left.
So as I said at the beginning, so far I've been more than satisfied with my overall mobile broadband experience. Even though in terms of download speed it has been a small step backwards, I have found many advantages of using mobile broadband instead of a landline based package. The most obvious one is the freedom to go online in any location but there is also the ease of set up and not having to rent a telephone landline. Of course I know that it hasn't been as smooth for everyone and I have been lucky in that I have had no need to call customer services (touch wood).
I would recommend 3 mobile broadband as long as you take on board the issues of speed and data usage mentioned above. There are a lot of recent reviews on the Argos website with people complaining about the speed and not being able to watch BBC iPlayer. Mobile broadband will probably be considerably slower than your landline broadband, but for general browsing it's more than sufficient and it fills me with the deepest joy to know that I am now truly free from BT... forever!
Summary: Good enough for general web browsing but not for watching missed episodes of Eastenders
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