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My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together
My laptop is a Dell D620, I opted for the built in 3G data modem when I ordered it as my PCMCIA vodafone 3G card didn’t have Vista drivers available and I liked the idea of not having to have a great big card hanging out the side waiting to be snapped off.
I have been very impressed since I got it and I use it a lot on the train, hotels and on client-sites when I can’t get an Internet connection to my own laptop because of some company security policy about connecting non-corporate machines, sometimes it’s even more convenient to use it rather than the corporate wireless LAN!
It’s suprisingly cost-effective too (although full-disclosure I don’t pay the Vodafone bill myself) especially if you travel a fair bit and stay in hotels/use public hotspots. It never ceases to amaze me that here in the UK they want to charge so much for WiFi or broadband access in public places.
Hilton Hotels for example; I stay in a lot of Hiltons on business, they typically charge at least £110 per room per night even on a corporate rate, they then want £15 per night for wireless/BB access; they do a number of package deals but they’re still pretty expensive, and let’s not get started on the “tray charge” of £3.50 + the overpriced food… yes I guess I do have a choice to stay elsewhere, but they are convenient to where I usually work and have a good points scheme – so maybe I’m a sucker for familiarity whilst I’m away!
I see a fair number of BT Openzone, T-mobile Swisscom, wireless hotspots about the place but they all generally want you to take a subscription with them, some offer a complicated roaming deal but if you do the maths it’s not cheap.
Add in the limited coverage and highly variable quality of service (I lost count of the number of public hotspot’s I’ve used that either just didn’t work or were too slow to be usable – a fact you find out after you’ve given them your credit card details.
Now compare that against my 3G data card – I can use it pretty much wherever there is mobile coverage; granted it falls back to GPRS where there is no 3G coverage – but the mobile network has significantly more coverage than any WiFi at the moment.
It’s flexible, I can use it when/where I want and I’m not tied to a particular provider and the locations that they provide WiFi and the best part of all its about £40/month for an unlimited* data package, or to put it another way that’s the same price as 3 x 24 hr sessions a month in a Hilton, or most other WiFi hotspots – yes they offer pay by hour – but do you really want to do that?
3G speed is pretty good; I’m typically getting about 250kbs+ and that’s more than usable for email and general web browsing etc.
Will be interesting to see how some of the bigger carriers change this market space with their quad-play offerings, that may make mobile 3G data even cheaper if you take a TV/home phone/mobile/broadband package – I see a lot of people buying laptops rather than desktop, they could really clean up here.
However, I’ve been in Amsterdam for a couple of days now and have ben using it quite a lot inbetween conference sessions as the on-site free WiFi hasn’t been working – suspect I may get shot when the bill comes in at the end of the month as roaming data isn’t quite as cheap as doing it in the UK! I just discovered iTunes has been downloading about 150Mb of Podcasts as I typed this over my 3G connection, a figure of £4/Mb for roaming data seems to be at the back of my mind..ulp.
*Fair-use terms & conditions apply – from memory “fair use” is up to 1Gb/Month