New Toy: I just bought myself a 3G modem

 

I’ve been deliberating for some time about getting a 3G connection to use on the train between Havant and London Waterloo.  I have a three hour round trip that I do four days of most weeks.

I know from my own Orange phone and the work O2 one that there are various dead spots along the route some of which last for a few miles, so I didn’t really fancy signing up to a contract for 3G.  Instead I have gone the PAYG route.

I wandered into our local Three store today, and came out with a 3Gb Mobile Broadband Starter Kit.

Hardware

I had a choice of three different modems, all made by Huawei.  The E220 ‘soap on a rope’, the E160G or the E169G, both USB sticks.  I went for the E160G in black (like the colour makes a difference!).

All of the offered modems are capable of 3.6Mbps speeds, although the Three network only goes up to 2.8Mbps at best, if you can find HSDPA coverage.  The E220 has been around for a couple of years, and depending on what you read, it is not capable of 7.2Mbps speeds, but the E160G and E169G will be.

The 160 has the added advantage that it has a MicroSD slot, so I could add in up to 4Gb of storage.  As it stands, it has a built in storage partition containing the install media, including the drivers and the 3Connect utility.

Data

As you might expect from the package name, I get 3Gb of data allowance included, which is valid for 90 days from first use.  I can then add 1Gb for £10, 3Gb for £15, or 7Gb for £25.  These topups need to be converted to ‘Add-ons’, which are valid for 30 days.  This can all be done from the My3 section of the Three website.

Initial Setup

Setup is about as plug and play as anything can be – the install media is held on the device itself, and autoruns when plugged in.  No reboot required.

My3 Registration

At this point I registered on the My3 section of the Three site.  It sent a text message to the device, which was meant to include my password for My3, but it was all in Chinese characters?!  More on that later.

2nd Setup

I went looking for a ‘check for updates’ option or similar, without success.  I needn’t have worried – it was evidently already on the case (using my existing WiFi connection – I’d not hit the ‘Connect’ button yet), because it told me there was a mandatory update available.  That took a few minutes to download, then when I ran it, took a few minutes more to remove the initial install, reboot, then install the updated version.

It would  be very cool if that had updated the on-device storage with the updated install, but I doubt it.

I then did the ‘forgotten password’ option on My3, and this time, I got a text message in English.

Where from here?

Public holiday here in the UK, but off to London tomorrow, so will get to try out the modem in anger.

My initial testing at home was on 3G, but with low signal, giving a rather rubbish 60kbps, according to SpeedTest.

I also found that the device itself got very warm in the 10 minutes or so that I was testing it.  Will have to keep an eye on that.

 

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