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For a couple of years when I first met my husband he did not have a fixed internet connection and then we both ended up using wireless 'dongles' to keep in touch when away on business courses and other things that kept us away from home.
When the first package was taking out we had to pay around £40 for the modem and then be tied in to a contact for a year before being able to cancel. The Huawei dongle was the one that we were first provided with and ended up being the one that we used for several years, on and off, and have only stopped using very recently, in the past few weeks, and this was only because of moving on to using a mobile phone as a tethered device while on the move.
Using this modem has been very simple, all we had to do was plug this in to the USB port and we had a flexible clear and metal coloured wire that run from the modem to the computer. Our speeds usually ran at around 4mps but this was dependant on where in the country we were using this modem as well as the time of day that we were using it and we have found up to 6mps when I was working away up North for a few weeks last year.
This has been very simple to use and there is just a little slot that you put the sim card in, we never needed to take ours out, and the only part that ever needed replacing was the wire which became a little more difficult to work with over time and we found that we had to sit holding it a particular way to keep a strong signal. The signal can be seen by the sometimes flashing green light that turns blue when the signal is strong & connected.
The on screen console that we used to run this was also very easy to use and it was possible to receive text messages on this. This was a feature that we only utilised on two occasions, both times when one of us did not have a mobile phone with us and needed to get an important message to each other and we haven't used this feature for about 2 years now either.
Overall this modem worked well for us. Back in 2009 I used just this modem to access the internet for around 6 months and it worked well, particularly when I was reading/rating/commenting on reviews and it was only once, sometimes twice a day, that the connection would dip out but it would reconnect quickly enough. For a mobile device this worked quite well and we have definitely had our use from it!
We used to have a 3GB £15.00 per month package from the mobile network Three and we only cancelled this contract and switched to pay as you go back in 2011 once we got BT installed in our home. We continued to use this for another year before cancelling it entirely and in this time we have always been happy with the quality of this modem, its connection speed and the service in general. A few times they were 'upgrading' the service but this barely affected us at all and we were always warned well in advance if this was going to happen.
It appears that these are not widely available any more but if you could pick one up second hand for a few quid I would certainly recommend it.
The Huawei u220 is a great little dongle that I have used for over 2 years without too many problems.
The signal at my house(in a little village) is usally 4 or 5 out of 5 and the speed is good. It installs quickly on windows xp/7 and can be installed in Linux too without too much fuss.
Quick to Connect, Stays Connected
Good signal for me
The extension cable means you can hang it up higher than your machine to get a good connection and it can be placed out of the way of a laptop.
Easy Installation and use.
Mine was pretty much a zero configuration easy installation in 2 minutes(Three Network UK)
Resource heavy on old machines running windows( on my old 1ghz desktop it slowed it down considerably)
Can be temperamental at times, sometimes requiring a reboot.
Not a Novice friendly Linux install, but once its up and running it works much better than the windows version and much more stable!
With the factory installed software you can get up to 3.6mps but if you flash the firmware you can raise that to 7.2mps
Test on Windows XP, Windows 7, Ubuntu, Puppy Linux
I received one of these Huawei E220 wireless mobile modems free with a 2 year subscription to a mobile internet package, they also threw in a laptop. Pretty good offer it seemed at the time. The laptop is a little worse for wear, but the modem is in pretty good nick and still works. It's HSDPA, which after working with the telco industry a few years ago I know stands for High-Speed Downlink Packet Access. It also supports 3G, GPRS and UMTS. Speed is dependant on your provider and the area you are in, but it is possible up to 7.2Mps. At it's launch 4 years ago it was classed as the smallest and fastest 3G USB modem in the world.
It's a white plastic box of tricks which allows you to get online in places where you are not in easy reach of a wi-fi signal. You connect it to your laptop with a cable, rather than it plugging directly into the usb socket. Mine came with a double USB socket on one end, and I've always plugged them both in. One is labelled "assistant power" which I assume means it needs a lot of juice, and one USB socket is not enough.
There's not much of interest to talk about with the box itself, apart from the light which flashes green when it has a signal, and steady blue when it is actually connected fully. It's a small unit, of just over a couple of inches long, half an inch thick and just over an inch wide. The tough plastic case means you can throw it around and it won't suffer too much.
The antenna is built into the modem, rather than the cable, so moving the modem around will vary your connection performance. The modem has some internal memory, about 20Mb or so which allows software to be pre-loaded inside it, which can also be upgraded.
Inside the modem sits a sim card, with it's own "telephone number". It is therefore possible to send and receive texts as well as surf the net on it, although I hardly ever bothered to do this.
Generally performance is dependant on your signal, so wherever your mobile will work, this will work, and if you can't get a mobile signal, you aren't going to be surfing the web either.
All works very well so far!
I bought one of these dongle's 2 years ago and have been really impressed by it. Its given me fast and reliable mobile internet (on 3 UK) pretty much everywhere i've tried it. I've used it a lot on my laptop in the back of the car on long journeys and had no trouble on most motorways and dual carriage ways (I find I get travel sick using it on winding single carriage ways).
I used to use my mobile phone (Nokia 6280 and Ericsson k800i) to get online and found that the e220 often works in places they don't. I've tried using speedtest.net to test the speed a few times and have speeds up to 1.4 megabits per second downstream. However it can often be a lot less when you are somewhere with patchy signal or on a 2g signal.
I managed to unlock mine using software and instructions I found online. However, I tried to unlock my mum's newer E160 (an E160 is basically the same device but smaller and with a microSD card reader) but found that newer E220s and E160s can't be unlocked so easily.
This dongle requires a USB mini cable to connect to your PC instead of plugging directly into the USB port. The advantage of this is you can put it on a long cable to help get better signal (place it near a window if you have problems). The disadvantage is that you need to remember the cable and it often causes the dongle to just dangle out from the edge of a laptop and sometimes it can come loose.
I've used this dongle with my Linux laptop and it works fine. Initially it was a bit of hassle to get working but in newer distributions it seems to work as soon as its plugged in. The Three windows software is on a virtual CD drive on the dongle and works fine but feels a little bit tacky.