3G dongles – alright in the end

I bought a 3G USB dongle today to get Sa’s mum back online.I use one every day for work, and they are very reliable. Well, so far the t-mobile web-n-walk is a total waste of space. We can’t get a connection from one house at all, and from Beryl’s house it seems to only connect poorly. Hopefully sortable, but not nearly as easy as I had hoped.


Actually, after faffing about a bit, the dongle (it’s a phone modem really, but it looks like a dongle) works very well.  There are places Beryl’s house where reception isn’t so good, and it doesn’t appear to be great on 2G – my blackberry is much better.  But when on 3G, we can get a 3.5Mb/s link.  Monitoring the actual data rate had a peak of about 1.2Mb/s, and it’s typically 3-500kb/s, but it’s notable that it’s very spiky – I suspect it doesn’t get higher because the computer wasn’t requesting pages fast enough – the experience feels pretty nippy as well.  It also doesn’t work at Sa’s sisters house on 3G at all (and isn’t supposed to, to be fair – coverage map is pretty clear).

One thing I hadn’t realised is that the system replaces all the images on a web page with very lossy copies that are much smaller, to save bandwidth.  You can get the real images by various keystrokes.  This is done within the network or dongle, not the computer, and is not changeable (on t-mobile – it is on Vodaphone apparently).  It’s slightly annoying at least not to have the option, and if I had realised I might have checked against all the providers to see who does have the feature to turn it off.

But, basically if you use less than 3G/month (as many do) it’s a very credible alternative to a fixed broadband link at very similar pricing.

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