Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What's the best mobile broadband? Not 3.

The Guardian ran a short piece yesterday morning of the relative merits of the various 3G broadband services which have become available in recent months. It’s a decent overview, but fails to mention the service that I use , 3 Mobile’s Pay As You Go service.

I signed up a couple of months ago in order to use the service on my daily commute from Edinburgh to Glasgow. I thought that it would be useful to be able to catch up on the papers and a bit of work on my travels, but wanted to dip into the service, rather than committing myself to a 12 month contract.

The ‘dongle’ cost £95 and I can but top ups from £10. The software works fine, no problems there, but it’s in the service levels and cost that the problems begin.

Despite the reassurance of the shop assistant, the 3G service is not universally available on the journey to and from Glasgow Queen Street, so you be often ‘dropped’ from the service on route, which is both irritating and time consuming. But my main gripe is with the cost of the service.

I used it the other day to do some work on my way back from a meeting. I stopped for about an hour and went through my emails, firing off a few short replies. I downloaded three or four short Word documents and a small Excel file. I ran up £10 worth of charges, making this service far more expensive than even a regular hotel’s broadband service, which usually provides unlimited downloads in a set time period.

My dongle is now consigned to the bottom of my briefcase – for emergencies only. I’m posting this from the train – on a far more reliable, free service.