Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G HSDPA USB Modem

Vodafone's compact USB modem boosts accessibility to the telco's high-speed 3G mobile network — but the speed can range from over 2Mbps to less than 300Kbps depending on your location.


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While the first iteration of 3G and HSDPA modems relied on the PC Card form factor, recent months have seen the arrival of USB alternatives for those users whose laptops are fitted with only an Express Card slot, or in some cases (such as Apple's popular MacBooks) no card slot at all.

There's also a bonus in the speed department. Like the USB modem of competitor BigPond Wireless Broadband, Vodafone's little white wireless wonder is rated for HSDPA at 3.6Mbps rather than the 1.8Mbps of its PC Card sibling. The trick is finding out where such speeds are available in Vodafone's admittedly patchy HSDPA network.

Design
Manufactured by Chinese telecoms hardware giant Huawei, Vodafone's USB modem looks more like a soap-on-a-rope, or at least soap-on-a-USB-cable.

The palm-sized modem uses the USB mini-plug most commonly seen on portable USB hard drives and as the combo charge/data connector on smartphones. A 10cm cable connects the modem to the PC, although the bundle includes a more generous 80cm cable with a second USB plug for instances when a single port can't provide enough power to drive the modem.

Features
The modem itself sports precious little in the way of frills and features. Most of the extra goodness in the Vodafone Mobile Connect package comes through the bundled software and the network's active data compression.

As detailed in our earlier review of the Vodafone 3G HSDPA PC Card, this pocket-sized puck works hand-in-hand with Vodafone's network to shrink some files — mainly pictures and documents — to a fraction of their size using on-the-fly compression.

Incoming files are automatically decompressed so there's no need to fiddle with third-party software. Users can also block bandwidth-bloating elements such as video, audio, animation and Web applets.

This enhances speed and makes the most of your monthly download allocation, although it's not ideal for everyone. For example, there's no way to prevent incoming data compression, which some Web developers have reported as an issue when working on the road. (You can, however, disable compression of files sent through your VMC card.)

We were also impressed by the card's software. With SMS and MMS messaging, address book management, connection profiles and a graphical summary of account usage, the console is easily the best client we've seen for any mobile data card.

Performance
As with the latest PC Card, achieving HSDPA speeds with the USB modem relies on the user being within the footprint of what Vodafone calls its "3G broadband" service, which is currently limited to "inner metro" coverage of Sydney and Melbourne.

Outside those areas, as well as inside them if HSDPA signal strength is too weak, the modem falls back to standard 3G and its 384Kbps peak — or all the way back to the painfully slow 60Kbps data stream of GSM.

There's a small bit of silver lining around the HSDPA cloud, and this is that some parts of the high-speed network are already running at the 3.6Mbps rate of the HSDPA 3.6 spec rather than Vodafone's standard 1.8Mbps (HSDPA 1.8). While the PC Card can peddle no faster than 1.8Mbps the USB modem is rated to 3.6Mbps, making it able to deliver higher throughput if you happen to stumble into of those enhanced hotspots.

And "stumble" is the operative word. Although Vodafone says it's flicked the switch on several 3.6Mbps transmitters as part of the HSDPA rollout, the company isn't exactly trumpeting where these souped-up cell stations are. They've admitted that parts of Sydney and Melbourne airport received 3.6Mbps base stations from the get-go, but the rest remains a mystery.

Testing the USB modem in Sydney's CBD and Lower North Shore delivered fairly stable connections over a surprisingly broad range of speeds — sometimes as low as 800Kbps, other times soaring to 1.7Mbps in the same location.

In several instances the USB modem kicked in with a stronger and faster signal than the PC Card when used in the exact same location.

However, Vodafone's biggest disadvantage remains the uneven coverage of its mobile broadband network. There were several times where the modem seemed to endlessly toggle between standard 3G and HSDPA (which the software flags as "3G+"), yet in neither state was the connection usable for anything more than instant messaging. Email downloads stalled because the software couldn't maintain a solid connection with the mail server, while the Web browser sat waiting for sites to respond.

We're sure that users would prefer a reliable connection at even 3G speeds rather than having the odd shot at HSDPA, regardless of whether it's 1.8Mbps or 3.6Mbps.

So while Vodafone's pricing plans are keen and carefully structured — from AU$29.95 per month for 100MB of data (both downloads and uploads are counted) to AU$99.95 for 1GB — road warriors may find that the Next G-based BigPond Wireless Broadband USB Modem is a better bet, if only for its more consistently reliable connection.



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PEESTOF CARNT posted a comment   

The Good:The USb modem is Fine after a severe beating now unlocked for other providers for free

The Bad:The VodaFone sim for the first week was fine and worked upuntil now in 3g apparently im in a saturated 3g area and HSUPA and HSDPA are present But the Sim keeps defering to sim and when forced it says no network

Speeds were good for a while connection was fine
Then modem started dropping out i thought it was the Hardware took it apart soldered the internal aerial Bush to the PCB as its slid on and screwed in place signal increased by 2 bars wierd 3g was still intermitent put a Telstra sim in the modem after the unlock which showed up with the 3g blue led after a few green flashes put the DOGDAFONE SHIM back in and it was GPRS signal then telstra again 3g blue back to ChodaFone and green led VODAFONE ARE SCAMMING PEOPLE INTO THESE setups
3g for a little while then nothing,

Simply find another ISP if you have a CHODAFONE Modem and you want it unlocked http://bb5.at/huawei.php?imei=073628475 for unlock code replace (073628475) with your IMEI an Unlock code will be shown in your browser window Download HUAWEI_MODEM_Code_Writer.rar find this file google it run it after disconnecting and closing BLOWDAFONE MOBILE DEFECT.exe Click the (Please Select comport) then (Detect) then select modem in list that matches yours click (accept) Then click (UnLock Modem) Enter the code that website gives for unlock should be (Entsperren / Unlock: (this number) )
Disconect the modem do your other sim and be happy VODAFONE IS SELLING CANCER I HATE YOU VODAFONE CORP PLEASE FIND A FIRE AND JUMP IN IT PLEASE FIND A CLIFF AND JUMP FROM IT PLEASE STEP ONTO A FREEWAY FILLED WITH CARS MOVING A HIGHSPEED PLEASE EJECT YOUR SELVES INTO SPACE WITH NO OXYGEN OR PRESSURISED CABIN PLEASE FIND EBOLA AND MIX IT WITH YOUR BREAKFAST PLEASE FIND ENCLOSED IN A LETTER A PICTURE OF MY MIDDLE FINGER PLEASE TRAVEL BACK IN TIME AND DENY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH EXISTANCE OF GOOD AND BE BURNED ALIVE STABBED AND BEHEADED BY THE INQUISTION PLEASE MAKE A MOVIE WITH MEL GIBSON AND BE HATED BY ALL OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITYS VODAFONE JOIN THE TALIBAN SO AMERICAN CAN SHOOT YOU PLEASE VODAFONE HAVE SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH ANIMALS AND GET SENT TO PRISON PLEASE VODAFONE INJECT ACID INTO YOUR EYES AND ATTEMPT TO WALK A TIGHT ROPE AT A CIRCUS FILLED WITH PEOPLE THAT PURCHASED THIS DODGY CRAP

I HATE YOU AND YOU ARE A PATHETIC ENTITY JUST LIKE SONY DIE PLEASE

 

tarkineus posted a comment   

I totally supportand reiterate pistofs review which sums up this company concisely - "Vodaphone aka "Jokaphone" is a scam that only last night on the Southern Cross Network was exposed for its message bank dirty tricks.
Incoming calls ring for 10 seconds before diverting to your msg bank, which of course costs you money. Like its cohorts Telstra and Optus this company has a corporate criminal profile."

 

rue posted a comment   

The Good:zero

The Bad:cant run this crap on windows 7

cuts out my virus scanner and freezes my lap top

AidanH Facebook
9
Rating
 

AidanH posted a review   
Australia

Just converted to mobile broadband from cable. Shocked by the speed. Pretty impressed by the whole experence. Now trying to get a router to work with it

 

Nicki posted a comment   

Wodafone has been a headache from week one, service is bad, modem has caused all sorts of problems with my laptop, freezing,too many complaints to bother listing, My modem and its $150 credit is going in the trash!

myself
3
Rating
 

myself posted a review   

The Good:Low cost and prepaid - Linux support

The Bad:Drivers are buggy. Coverage.

Supported by Ubuntu Linux natively, and Vodafone provides its own drivers through Betavine.

Coverage in Melbourne is dismal. It really can't be called broadband.

FreddoB
1
Rating
 

FreddoB posted a review   

The Good:NO such thing

The Bad:Any slower and it would STOP

A piece of junk. Says you have very good signal and yet it runs in Bps. Can get a phone connection and talk to someone at Telstra before this thing can load my home page. NOW thats SLOW.

 

pistof posted a comment   

Vodaphone aka "Jokaphone" is a scam that only last night on the Southern Cross Network was exposed for its message bank dirty tricks.
Incoming calls ring for 10 seconds before diverting to your msg bank, which of course costs you money. Like its cohorts Telstra and Optus this company has a corporate criminal profile.

 

Egghead posted a comment   

Even though the signal is very good, during peek usage times downloads often slowwww + stop for long periods I live in Wakefield St Auckland Central New Zealand.

 

Fisherrg posted a comment   

Vodafone claims that their modem can operate at speeds of 7.6 mbps, but my highest speed was 3.6 mbps - which only occurs in the early hours of the morning. In the afternoon my modem slows down to a 256 kbps. During peak hours I might as well use dial-up. Dial up and ADSL is not an option, as I live in a hostel, so Vodafone's wireless network is good value for money. Sure Telstra's NextG network is fast, but it is super expensive, and I only could use it for five minutes a day.


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User Reviews / Comments  Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G HSDPA USB Modem

  • PEESTOF CARNT

    PEESTOF CARNT

    "Speeds were good for a while connection was fine
    Then modem started dropping out i thought it was the Hardware took it apart soldered the internal aerial Bush to the PCB as its slid on and s..."

  • tarkineus

    tarkineus

    "I totally supportand reiterate pistofs review which sums up this company concisely - "Vodaphone aka "Jokaphone" is a scam that only last night on the Southern Cross Network was exposed for its mess..."

  • rue

    rue

    "cuts out my virus scanner and freezes my lap top"

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