Mobile broadband in the sticks

I recently bought (and blogged about) an O2 mobile broadband USB stick.

As I was on a camping holiday in a remote part of Pembrokeshire last week, I decided to take my Eee and the USB modem, just to see how it would work. I was aware that there would be no HSDPA coverage, since I had checked the coverage map before I left.

UK cellular network coverage
UK cellular network coverage
Yellow 2G
Pink 3G
Blue HSDPA

Three give the following summary of the different connection types:

  • 2G network: gives you voice, text and picture messaging services
  • 3G network: gives you all of the above, plus video calling and the internet on your mobile
  • HSDPA network (Mobile Broadband): gives you all 2G and 3G services, plus high-speed internet access on your mobile and with your dongle (USB modem)

When I connected to the network in rural Pembrokeshire, I was not surprised to find that I only got a 2G connection. The dongle’s LED was green, and according to Huawei:

  • Green – a GPRS data service is established
  • Dark Blue – a UMTS data service is established
  • Light Blue – a HSDPA data service is established

But what surprised me most was the latency in the connection. Pinging http://www.google.com gave responses between 4 seconds and 35 seconds! This of course makes web browsing totally unusable.

So my advice to anyone who is thinking of getting a USB 3G modem is to make sure your target areas are covered, and don’t expect it to work outside cities.

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