During my short stay in the US, at least as far as I recall, most public places offered free Wi-Fi access. It is a commodity. In the land of high price/low value, I found to my astonishment that even Starbucks (who pioneered free Wi-Fi in their shops in the States) is charging £5 for local Wi-Fi access, which is outrageously expensive. Some independent cafes offer free Wi-Fi such as the excellent Tuttis in Holborn but they are a rarity. The alternative is to use pay-as-you-go services such as The Cloud but not all the places I go to use it as their Wi-Fi provider and I wouldn’t want to pay for a service I could not access everywhere (prices start from a hefty £4.50 per hour on pay-as-you go or £10 a month for subscription).
If you are a business nomad, you would want to consider Three’s mobile broadband offer. I am testing it courtesy of the folks at 3MobileBuzz.
The first SIM I received was faulty but I got it replaced quickly. This is my second experience with their call centre and I must say that once again they did a great job: professional and courteous. So dealing with it wasn’t the hassle I anticipated.
Setting-up your connection is pretty easy, at least on a Mac:
- Insert the SIM card in the USB modem. You only need to do that once.
- Plug-in the dongle
- When it mounts, click on the “Mobile Connect” application.
- Click on “Connect”.
That’s it, you are online.
Connection speed varies a lot. My very first test was at my school in Baker Street. The connection was unfortunately too slow to check-out my emails. I did subsequent trials at various locations around London and the speed was good enough to check emails and surf the web. I plan to try a Skype video call this weekend, which would be the ultimate deal clincher for me.
Three has a special offer and retail their USB modem from £49.99. On contract plans, you get 1GB allowance for £10, 3GB for £15 and 7GB for £25. This is similar to the 2 other companies offering mobile broadband in the UK: Vodafone is also charging £15 for 3GB allowance so is T-Mobile. The latter has an “unlimited data” plan, which is in fact a 10GB allowance for £35 a month. Telecom plans are notoriously difficult to compare as companies have all incentives to make it look like it is different from their competitors so I am going to ask a few questions to my contacts there so I could work out where the real value is in the market.
In the meantime, I will make the most of the sunshine with some outdoor blogging.