Product Review: O2 wireless modem

17 Jul 2007

This is the first year of truly mobile broadband services. However, with three mobile operators offering services based on the same kind of modem product, how do they differentiate from one another?

3, Vodafone and now O2 have all launched high speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) broadband services. Both 3 and O2’s service stand at 3.6Mbps while Vodafone’s service is in the process of moving from 1.4Mbps to 3.6Mbps.

This is a lot of firepower in broadband terms when you consider that the average fixed line DSL broadband connection stands at 1Mbps in areas lucky enough to get it.

Each of the three operators offer their service via an identical tiny white plastic device made by Taiwanese manufacturer Huawei, the only difference in appearance being their respective corporate logos.

O2, as the most recent entrant to the wireless broadband arena with its 3.6Mbps service, has always attested that it would move into 3G broadband when it felt its service was good and ready. It’s ready but is it good?

The initial outlay expected for the new USB modem device is €69 and the service will initially be made available for a three-month introductory price of €15 per month for O2’s post-pay mobile customer or new post-pay customers. For all other potential users the service will be €20 per month and will come with a 10GB download usage limit. However, O2 says it will be the first operator not to charge users if they exceed the 10GB limit, which is subject to a fair usage policy.

Once the three-month promotional period ends, the price will be €30 with a voice connection and €40 per month without a voice connection.

The introductory offer puts O2 ahead of 3 which costs €19.99 a month while the price after the promotion ends puts O2 slightly behind Vodafone (€29.99) but which has a smaller 5GB download limit.

I found O2’s service to be quite robust and it came with an attractive and simple to use graphic user interface (GUI) that made it very easy to connect to broadband and go straight to your browser. You can also use the (GUI) to manage your contacts and send text messages.

The first advantage I identified through using the device was that it was excellent for sending documents like photos and Word files. There was also very little delay as you hopped from one web page to another.

The software on the device allows you to see how much data you used to ensure you aren’t exceeding your usage rights in a dramatic way.

As long as the connection stays up and there is good network coverage, I envisage very few performance issues with the device and it could prove a viable alternative for people who like to move around as well as those currently not served with fixed-line broadband.

My only gripe with these Huawei devices is the small USB lead that they dangle off – which I’ve been told doubles up as an additional radio – I wish there was a way it could fastened to your laptop rather than hanging free.

My conclusion? O2 is ready for 3G broadband, and yes, it’s a good service.

Pros: Fast for sending and downloading documents

Cons: Annoying USB lead

By John Kennedy