Product review: 3 HSDPA broadband card

13 Feb 2007

Aside from entertaining content and alternative pricing plans, Ireland’s youngest mobile operator 3 has been looking for an extra edge to wean market share away from its competitors. With its HSDPA 3G broadband card it might just have that opportunity.

All eyes are on HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) as a way of getting broadband on the move as well as getting it in places where normal fixed-line services aren’t available. And with laptop sales exceeding desktop computer sales, the opportunity is ripe.

Having tried Vodafone’s HSDPA offering, which proved just how genuine a prospect wireless broadband is, I looked forward to checking out 3’s alternative.

My first mistake was to load it onto a Windows Vista-enabled laptop. Nothing happened!

Why? Well, it turns out most networking products aren’t ready for Microsoft’s new operating system. So while it’s not exactly 3’s fault, it is something they better remedy ASAP as the majority of new laptops on the market are now Vista-enabled.

Having reversed the step and loaded the HSDPA card onto a Windows XP laptop I was in for a pleasant surprise.

While the GUI (graphic user interface) to operate the card seemed a little old-fashioned, the results had me at the edge of my seat. I had 3.6Mbps broadband and could go anywhere with it (well, at least in 85pc of populated areas).

The 3 HSDPA broadband offering held up 100pc – it didn’t drop once. This surprised me as most wireless broadband offerings have a tendency to drop connection.

I tried it down the country and while I didn’t get the full 3G experience it has the intelligence to find you the next best thing. In this case it roamed onto Vodafone’s GPRS service.

The 3 HSDPA card has an opening offer price of €49 and its broadband packages start at €24.99 per month for a 250MB limit and €39.99 for a 3,000MB limit. Once you pass beyond either limit 3 will charge you 12c per megabit you download.

While this is not mad expensive it misses the point I keep making to mobile operators offering HSDPA: make it affordable and the masses will rush for it. There are no limits on DSL so nor should there be on wireless broadband.

Ultimately, I found the 3 wireless broadband card to be a solid performer and proves just what’s possible.

PRICE: €49 including Vat


Handling: ****
Features: **
Performance: ****
Value for Money: **

By John Kennedy