3, our top pick for mobile broadband

Rating
Overall:

Cheap plans, good hardware and excellent results in our speed tests make 3 a deserving winner, in our group test against Telstra Bigpond, Optus, Vodafone, Virgin and Unwired.

Performance:
5
Value for money:
6
Price
Price: $15
> Pricing info
Specs
Cost of modem free or $5/mth Cheapest plan per month $15 Included data 1GB Excess usage per MB 10c
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Note: The following review comes from PC Authority magazine. For the full article, read the November issue of PC Authority.

3 is the only provider to only offer a 3G network. Where the other networks fall back to their slower GRPS networks (or in Virgin’s case, back to Optus’ GPRS network), 3 has no backup. By default, 3 leaves you with no connection, though you can “roam” to Telstra’s GPRS network.

This isn’t ideal – besides being much slower, 3 only includes a paltry amount of free data in this mode – 5MB on its $49 per month plan. Once you’ve finished that you’re charged a ludicrous $1.65 per megabyte, making roaming prohibitively expensive for those who need internet access outside 3’s coverage.

This potential deal-breaker aside, there’s plenty to like about 3’s plans. It offers more 3G plans than any provider but BigPond. Its cheapest, which provides 1GB of data per month for just $15 (though you’ll need to spend an additional $5 per month for the modem if you aren’t already a 3 customer), is a great way to kick off with mobile broadband.

It remains near the top of the pile in terms of value for money throughout its impressive range of plans, and is particularly striking at higher capacities – it’s the cheapest, per GB, of all the providers at 6GB.

The icing on the cake would have been if 3 had resisted the temptation to charge for excess data use, as Virgin does. Instead, 3 charges 10c per extra MB. As with all the providers this month, we’d much prefer to see inexpensive bandwidth throttling over simply clouting consumers in the pocket.

Our speed tests provided a pleasing set of results, with 3 providing the best average speed results besides for the high-speed HSDPA networks operated by Optus and Telstra. On average we saw a download speed in excess of 2Mb/s – easily fast enough to run rich internet applications and stream video.

3’s Mobile Broadband software is easy to use. It offers the same kind of data information as Vodafone’s excellent Mobile Connect software, and we appreciate the ability to see at-a-glance data information – although as always, the most reliable information as to the state of your account is to be found online. Still, the ability to grab at-a-glance information is valuable.

If you’re after the best value for money, aren’t bothered about roaring 6Mb/s speeds, and intend to connect to mobile broadband only in major cities, 3 offers a superb collection of good value plans, particularly around the 3-5GB sweet spot. Consider the free hardware and good software and, unless you need wider coverage, 3 is the obvious choice for most.

Also see: Is pre-paid wireless broadband good value?
Vodafone responds to Optus price hikes
Telstra pre-paid wireless vs Optus, Virgin
Wireless broadband: 3's time has come
 
 

This Review appeared in the November, 2008 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine

Browse this Review:   Next
See more about:  wireless  |  broadband
 
 

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Comments: 9
Noblejoker
3 November 2008
I guess a lot of the population lives within range of 3's metro only offerings but for the many of us who don't or who travel then the 3 service is not viable and Optus is probably a better bet


Comment made about the PC Authority article:
3, our top pick for mobile broadband?
Cheap plans, good hardware and excellent results in our speed tests make 3 a deserving winner, in our group test against Telstra Bigpond, Optus, Vodafone, Virgin and Unwired.

What do you think? Join the discussion.
SirSquidness
4 November 2008
Mobile broadband fails country areas. Telstra is a pain in the arse ("Oh, sorry. We never got your order, you'll have to order again" "Oh, sorry. Your credit application failed. You'll have to order again" "Oh, sorry. Inbetween when we didn't tell you your order was cancelled and now we've ditched the plan you wanted. Here, choose from our more expensive plans, and no my supervisor can't help you."... "Screw you. We're going to optus" - this is a real experience I had with them on behalf of a customer of ours) and apparently Optus's service in regional areas is very patchy (I've not had expeience, but a few people who use them have complained about it)

At least Optus' plans weren't _too_ badly priced.
kevin_watters
18 November 2008
I signed up with them... easy as... bought my internet 'key' outright for $129 and was up and running, on a no-contract $29 - 3GB/month plan, within seconds on my XP and VISTA laptops... AND on my sons little Asus eeePC 4G running Linux ! Its easy as... fast enough for updates, browsing, messenger etc... so far happy !

happy.always
6 February 2009
Dont be fool by the cheap plans. Because that is precisely what you will get: cheap product!
Speed is slower than dial-up speed in most areas, including areas around Melbourne CBD. Dont bother to call Customer Support. What they do is to pretend to solve the problem but do nothing (well, they cant do anything, actually)
happy.always
6 February 2009
Dont be fool by the cheap plans. Because that is precisely what you will get: cheap product!
Speed is slower than dial-up speed in most areas, including areas around Melbourne CBD. Dont bother to call Customer Support. What they do is to pretend to solve the problem but do nothing (well, they cant do anything, actually)
Eddy
5 March 2009
Black berry curve 8330, vodafone, Nokia E71
Lost-Benji
6 March 2009
happy.always wrote:
Dont be fool by the cheap plans. Because that is precisely what you will get: cheap product!
Speed is slower than dial-up speed in most areas, including areas around Melbourne CBD. Dont bother to call Customer Support. What they do is to pretend to solve the problem but do nothing (well, they cant do anything, actually)


Well said (twice), you get what you pay for.
kava
6 April 2009
I was just billed $93 on what was supposed to be a $29 3Gb plan. I was even watching my usage closely!! I am so pissed at 3. Never again. I can't believe I gave these crooks my credit card. Wankers! Called 3 because they charge you 3x what you expected.
Flogger
1 June 2009
Do NOT get 3 guys. The speed is pathetic, the hardware is faulty and the customer service is non-existent.

Having been let down by 3 time and time again we have finally just written the cost of teh contract off to a bad mistake and obtained a new provider.

3 are TERRIBLE!!!
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