3 Mobile Mobile Broadband Card

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3 Mobile Mobile Broadband Card
  • 3 Mobile Mobile Broadband Card
  • 3 Mobile Mobile Broadband Card
  • 3 Mobile Mobile Broadband Card

Pros

  • Fast speed, Express Card interface, competitive plans

Cons

  • High data charge when used outside of a 3 broadband zone

Bottom Line

3 Mobile's NetConnect HSDPA ExpressCard is a good entry point into the world of mobile broadband. We achieved fast speeds and good broadband coverage throughout our tests.

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Working on the company's HSDPA network, 3 Mobile's NetConnect HSDPA ExpressCard can offer download speeds up to 3.6Mbps (460KBps). The card uses the latest generation Express Card slot interface to achieve this high speed, so it's perfect for those of you who have a new model notebook that features an Express Card slot.

A PC Card adapter is also supplied by 3 Mobile for those of us who don't have an Express Card slot in our notebooks. The card itself has a status light to let you know the level of your connection at a glance. A yellow light means you are using HSDPA speeds, while a blue light means you are using UMTS speeds. Our tests were conducted mostly under yellow light conditions when we travelled through Sydney's Eastern suburbs, the CBD and the north shore, which made for a very comfortable experience. We were able to stream YouTube all throughout our test area and, likewise, we had no problems downloading files from Gmail and Yousendit. This card proved to be excellent at multitasking. We were able to stream a YouTube video while downloading other files in the background. At its peak, this service provided us with a data transfer rate of 256KBps. However, this type of usage is probably not realistic as it can consume your data quota very quickly. However, 3 Mobile's plans are very competitive. Two plans of 1GB and 2GB are available for use on the HSDPA network for a price of $49 and $69, respectively. If you go over that limit, then 3 Mobile will charge 10 cents per megabyte. If you use the NetConnect card outside of a broadband zone, such as on the GPRS network (which will be indicated by a green light on the card) then you will only have a data allowance of 4MB (on the $49 plan) and 6MB (on the $69 plan), and will have to pay $1.65 for each additional megabyte you use.

The NetConnect card itself costs $399 to buy outright. On a 24-month plan, the NetConnect card will be provided for free, while and on a 12-month plan it will cost you an additional $10 per month. The data allowance by 3 Mobile also takes into account any data that you upload, so it's important that you keep track of the size of any e-mails you send and any files that you upload to Web sites. In our tests, uploads to Gmail and Yousendit fluctuated between 5 and 9KBps.

As for installation, the card's software interface and drivers were loaded first, and then we inserted the card. The card was picked up by the system automatically and once we loaded the MobLink software interface we were able to quickly connect to the Internet. MobLink shows you at a glance how strong your signal is and which network you are using -- HSDPA, UMTS or GPRS. Buttons at the bottom of the program allow you quick access to the address book on your SIM and also to send SMS. Received SMS can also be viewed through MobLink. As well, MobLink will let you quickly monitor your wireless network card and Ethernet port on your notebook.

All up, we liked the ease of use of this data card's software and we experienced excellent connectivity throughout our testing period. Coupled with the competitive pricing plans that 3 Mobile offers, and the high speeds we achieved, we think this product is the best of all the mobile broadband solutions currently on the market.

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