Product: 3G data card
Price: €0 – €288
Anyone who’s heard of 3G over recent years will know that it has been a long time coming. From the initial hype of the late Nineties when ambitious telcos forked out €160bn for 3G licences, the final arrival of 3G is less of a big bang and instead more like a whimper. Operators are being conservative in their initial offerings and instead of pushing all kinds of handsets they are carefully honing the first wave of offerings into meaningful commercial plays.
The first 3G product to hit the market in Ireland, Vodafone’s Mobile Connect 3G/GPRS data card, looks like a bigger and bulkier cousin of its GPRS predecessor. Considering that it will be the first of a whole new generation of products, that’s allowed. Forgetting the size, what the product is capable of will mesmerise most wireless data users.
My experience of wireless internet access has always been a pretty nebulous affair. My first taste of wireless internet access was with a Nokia HSCSD card, which gave me speeds of less than 30Kbps, but at the time simply to have wireless internet access anywhere in the country was one hell of an achievement. That was followed by last year’s GPRS connect card that gave me speeds of around 56Kbps, identical to a standard dial-up connection.
My first taste of Wi-Fi was two years ago at a trade show in Berlin – the very idea of having more than 2Mbps access speeds wirelessly was nirvana! Since then I’ve been firmly converted to Wi-Fi and through players such as BitBuzz, various cafes in Dublin’s city centre have become my remote office.
Finding the middle ground between GPRS and Wi-Fi has been a struggle. But this struggle is over, thanks to the latest incarnation of Vodafone’s Mobile Connect 3G/GPRS data card.
“It’s the original Connect card but with wings,” proudly exclaims a Vodafone spokesperson. The company says that the card has download speeds of up to 384Kbps, which it claims is seven times faster than a GPRS data card. To the company’s credit, in my use of the card I’ve managed to attain a speed of 614Kbps, which is roughly five times faster than even an ISDN line.
However, bearing in mind that only 45pc of Ireland’s population is covered by 3G, the product in general operates at a speed of around 160Kbps. Prepare to see the product slip seamlessly back to GPRS speeds of around 56Kbps a lot of the time, depending on where you are.
Vodafone has created five bundle price plans to support the new data card, ranging from free up to a maximum of €288 (excluding Vat) depending on the size of the bundle, which incorporates between 20MB to 1,000MB of free usage; inclusive data usage of 20MB to 500MB, with a 60 cent to €1.45 charge per extra megabyte of data used. Monthly bundles cost €25, €55, €70, €150 and €199 respectively.
The universal nature of the product marks the perfect midway point between standard GPRS and those who enjoy Wi-Fi. The Mobile Connect 3G/GPRS data card is the first generation of a new family of products. You should very soon expect to see a data card that can handle GPRS or 3G data anywhere in the country, also being something that will work well within a public or private Wi-Fi hotspot.
By John Kennedy