Three UK MiFi service

One of the main problems I find with working on the go is connections. I have an account with the three major WiFi providers yet when I need internet – there is never a hotspot around. I have used HSDPA modems and phone tethering but none really deal with the issue and never seem to work that reliably. In my experience, USB Modems are great but usually no good as the sensitivity of the units genrally sucks. I have been looking in to getting a new unit to connect my upcoming iPad and laptop together and to save some cash – the Three MiFi modem seemed to fit the bill. The MiFi is a branded Huawei E5830 and is very compact. It features an internal battery that allows around 4-5 hours of use solid and a small LED based display to show you when there is signal, battery level, WiFi and connection status.

This is also partly a review of the Three network itself. In the past I have stayed away from Three as when they first started, the based a whole company based on a technology that hadn’t even rolled out over 95% of the country and where it was, you were charged a huge premium just to make a video call to someone who wasn’t in a 3G area. That said, since 2002 they have made some real headway and Ofcom’s network map [PDF] shows that Three is actually now the network with the most national 3G coverage. This is reflected with the speeds you receive just in the middle of no-where. I am currently sitting in the car going down the M6 at 70mph yet I have enough bandwidth to stream podcast on my iPhone, syncronise my files to Dropbox and write this blog post.

If you are in a static location then you can get ridiculous speeds both down and up with personal experience of download speeds up to 5.2Mbps down and 2.5Mbps up. Three says the maximum throughput on the network is 3.6Mbps but if Hardware permits, some places can get up to 7.2Mbps. On the road however you do get some issues. If you are on the train or in the car and switching between base stations (mobile transmitters) the network seems to be a bit patchy and the MiFi unit does not alert you if it disconnects, it just ignores requests sent to it.

When you receive the device, it comes pre-configured with a unique SSID (network name) and Security Key (my unit was WPA2 by default). However it suffers from being locked down by Three and the only configuration utility is available through Three’s proprietary Windows only application so if you’re on an alternative operating system like Mac OS X or linux, you can’t customise the settings like SSID or Security Key. This lack of windows also means you cannot receive SMS messages and therefore register for the online account ‘My3′ service that allows you to view you usage. The great thing is – no drivers or programs are necessary to just get online – just grab a WiFi enabled device and turn on the MiFi and press the connect button on the side .

The MiFi device is great for people who love gadgets and want to connect multiple devices to the internet meaning you can write blog posts from a bench in the middle of the local park!

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