3 Mobile Broadband USB Modem

It's hard to say whether it's the hardware or the network at fault with 3's USB Mobile Broadband USB Modem. Either way, we're not impressed with what it offers.


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Design
3's Mobile Broadband USB Modem looked a touch familiar when it landed at CNET.com.au a short while back, and indeed it should. The 3 Mobile Broadband USB Modem is in fact a Huawei external USB modem of exactly the same type as the Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G HSDPA USB Modem. We can't think of a better descriptor for the modem than that which appeared in the original review:

"The USB modem looks more like a soap-on-a-rope, or at least soap-on-a-USB-cable."

As with the Vodafone variant, 3 gives you a small USB cable for direct connection, as well as a lengthier USB cable with optional second connector for providing additional power.

Features
The USB Modem uses HSDPA with a top data download speed of 3.6Mbps and upload speed of up to 384kbps. The client software -- Windows or Mac -- is extremely simple to use, but then again this is a modem only; there's precious little to configure.

Usage of the Mobile Broadband USB Modem is subject to 3's data tariffs. At the time of writing, 3 plans were available. AU$29/month will score you 200MB of data, AU$49/month nets you 1GB and the top tier AU$69/month plan comes with 2GB of included data. All 3 plans have a 10c/MB excess usage charge within 3's Broadband Zones, but roaming usage outside that will cost you a hefty AU$1.65/MB. That's a tasty AU$1650/GB, so it would be well worth your while to limit your roaming usage, if not eliminate it altogether if possible. The modem itself has a list price of AU$399, although signing up for a plan drops the price to AU$20, AU$10 or free, depending on plan type and duration. Given that it's functionally useless without a plan, we can't see a point in buying it outright.

It's also worth bearing in mind that 3's own X-Series mobiles now offer cheaper data plans than its USB Modem does -- AU$30/month on X-Series will get you 1GB of data per month. Just food for thought in comparative pricing.

Performance
Much has been written and made of the performance of HSDPA networks, especially since most carriers have upgraded to 3.6Mbps HSDPA. We've previously tested 3's HSDPA performance in the centre of Sydney and towards North Sydney, and it's no surprise that we quickly got good HSDPA connections in those locations. 3 doesn't disclose where 3.6Mbps HSDPA cells actually are located, but it doesn't take much guesswork to suggest that the centre of the biggest city in Australia might be a good spot to place them. Checking 3's Sydney coverage map, reveals no details as to other cells, just where 3's "Broadband Zone" extends to. In order to see how 3's network performed outside the CBD, we tested in a number of areas between Hornsby, Epping and Parramatta. All but Hornsby are well within the zone, and we expected big things -- and were largely left a bit disappointed.

Closer in towards Epping and North Ryde we struggled to hit 512kbps (according to tests run at DSLreports.com and CNET.com.au's own Broadband Speed Meter), while on the periphery in Hornsby things we worse. Much, much worse, in fact -- dropping at one point to an unusable 16kbps!

The one saving grace in all of this was that the card seemed to work very diligently to maintain a connection, even when we used it in a truly mobile situation while in a car.

We're not entirely sure if our speed woes were down to the network or the Huawei modem itself, however; our original review of the hardware running on the Vodafone HSDPA network noted the same problems of intermittently very low access speeds, while tests with the PC/Express Card variant showed good results. In a sense it's not relevant at the consumer end whether the hardware or network is at fault, as 3 only offers the one USB modem, so you're stuck for actual choice.



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Call me stupid
1
Rating
 

Call me stupid posted a review   

This thing is so slow that I stopped sending emails and reverted to using a pigeon to deliver my telegrams.

This thing is so slow that I stopped using facebook and instead visit my friends at home to give them my status updates.

This thing is so slow that I stopped using wikipedia and went in search of a door to door salesmen to sell me a 1997 set of Encyclopeadia Brittanica.

This thing is so slow (insert joke here)!

Call me stupid
1
Rating
 

Call me stupid posted a review   

This thing is so slow that I stopped sending emails and reverted to using a pigeon to deliver my telegrams.

This thing is so slow that I stopped using facebook and instead visit my friends at home to give them my status updates.

This thing is so slow that I stopped using wikipedia and went in search of a door to door salesmen to sell me a 1997 set of Encyclopeadia Brittanica.

This thing is so slow (insert joke here)!

 

Call me stupid posted a reply   

or should I have said (insert 3 here)

JimmyB
2
Rating
 

JimmyB posted a review   

3 'Broadband' is absolutely rubbish. They should be banned from using the term 'Broadband' in anything they advertise. I have recently signed up for one of their combo plans which comes a USB modem (3gb of data per month) and data on my phone (1gb per month). The USB modem connectivity is OK but speed is woeful. Email and basic web surfing only (and slow at that). On my phone, waste of time. When it's actually working, the speed is very slow but I'd say 50% of the time there is no connection at all. As for getting 1gb on my phone and 3gb on the USB stick, well no chance of going over those limits. I'd have to be trying 24/7 to even go near reaching them.

Alex
3
Rating
 

Alex posted a review   

The Good:Its Cheap And Easy

The Bad:Network Coverage Is Extremely Weak

the 3 mobile broadband is very cheap and easy and good for people who just use there internet at home in the CBD area as soon as i leave the house the network is very low and slow and there is no 3 coverage i some places it all runs on Roaming Networks???

 

Andy posted a comment   

The Good:portable - small

The Bad:SLOW!

So so very slow... I give up and just use my iphone to check my mail and cruise the net. I'm just about to head into the store and ask to get out of the contract because they are not giving me what they prommised... how do you like my chances?? I have the following link lined up: http://www.tio.com.au and will mention this when they refuse to let me go.

Heard that 3 got bought out by Vodaphone???? is this correct? That would explain a hell of alot, though 3 is pretty bad to start off with. I don't even get a chance to use up my whopping! 7gb of downloads per month coz it never works!

Ah well, lets see what happens...

Herbies
1
Rating
 

Herbies posted a review   

My girlfriend's internet cuts out once or twice a week during the night and turns back on at 4am in the freaking morning wth kinda service is that crap.

SK
1
Rating
 

SK posted a review   

Worst internet, worst service, ever. Changing service providers - because life is too short to sit around and wait for 3 to work.


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User Reviews / Comments  3 Mobile Broadband USB Modem

  • Call me stupid

    Call me stupid

    Rating1

    "This thing is so slow that I stopped sending emails and reverted to using a pigeon to deliver my telegrams.

    This thing is so slow that I stopped using facebook and instead visit my f..."

  • Call me stupid

    Call me stupid

    Rating1

    "This thing is so slow that I stopped sending emails and reverted to using a pigeon to deliver my telegrams.

    This thing is so slow that I stopped using facebook and instead visit my f..."

  • JimmyB

    JimmyB

    Rating2

    "3 'Broadband' is absolutely rubbish. They should be banned from using the term 'Broadband' in anything they advertise. I have recently signed up for one of their combo plans which comes a USB modem..."

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