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3 Mobile Broadband USB Modem - 3 Mobile Broadband USB Modem

By Benny Har-Even



  • Recommended by TR
3 Mobile Broadband USB Modem


Our Score:


The modem is the same model from Huawei that's used by both Vodafone and T-Mobile, and is a smallish smart white oval. Black ones will be available from 7th December, but this more in vogue colour will be a limited edition of only 2000. 3 is also offering 'skinable' dongles, available in various colours and patterns, so if you've always hankered after a 3G data dongle with a Union Jack or pink polka dots, now's your chance. Business executives, start queuing now.

There's a small plastic insert on one side for a plastic cover onto, in which 3 has placed its branding. There's a small slot in the side for the SIM card, and a mini USB connector at the end. In the box you'll find a short USB cable, and a longer one that has two connectors at the end, should you hook it up to something that can't deliver enough power over one port.

The light flashes green when it's connecting and displays a different colour depending on the speed at which you're connected - light blue for HSDPA, blue for standard 3G and green for GPRS. Another major bonus of having a USB device is that the modem has some flash memory inside, on which the drivers are preinstalled - making it a plug and play experience. The first time you plug it in you have to wait for the device to be recognised as a virtual CD-ROM drive but after the first time it's a quicker process. Even so, when you plug it in you have to wait a few seconds for your machine to recognise it.

Ironically on the Mac though, it's not simply a case of plug and play. In fact, far from it - you have to download a PDF containing complicated instructions, and you have to manually enter details - not really what you'd expect as a Mac user. While it's good that there's Mac support, a better user experience would have been appreciated.

When connected via HSDPA, Windows informs you that you've connected at 3.6Mbps - despite the fact that the maximum potential speed of the service is 2.8Mbps. This is because the hardware itself can support 3.6Mbps, and means that when the network is upgraded further the hardware should be ready, but Windows is a little misleading at this stage. Once you're connected, the modem software interface fires up. To be honest the software doesn't look particularly slick, but then 3's market is rather more consumer. It provides basic information regarding your data usage, your maximum transfer speed during that session and your total data downloaded. If you remember to rest this you can keep tabs on how close you are to your data limit. Once you're over your allotted allowance, 3 charges 10p per megabtye.

At the TrustedReviews offices I was just able to connect at no more than standard 3G speeds - so that's 384Kbps, but at home I was in a 'Turbo' region, potentially giving me the full 2.8Mbps. I also tested when out and about such as while hanging around at Heathrow airport.

Paul Radcliffe

June 10, 2008, 4:50 pm

The broadband modem offered by 3 works well if there is a decent 3G signal. It also works with Linux, such as the Asus eee. However, it should also work reasonably quickly using GPRS and it does connect but the data transfer is so painfully slow it is useless.

Another point which 3 don't advertise is that if you want to activate it for international roaming, they demand a 𧵎 deposit, repayable after 12 months!! This isn't visible in any of their terms and conditions. Roaming data is charged at ١ per MB, which is rather prohibitive too....


July 5, 2008, 10:06 pm

I have been stuck with a 3 mobile broadband contract for the last 6 months. The service is hopelessly unreliable, rarely faster than dial-up, and often struggles to maintain a connection for more than a few seconds (according to 3's website I am in a strong signal area, and they have told me the same on the phone). The useless and frustrating internet service is coupled with some of the worst customer service I have come across. Avoid


July 9, 2008, 12:25 pm

I am a new user to 3's mobile broadband but, thankfully, went down the PAYG route initially rather than committing to a contract. Boy!!! How pleased am I that I decided to do this. Their customer service is bad, ......really really bad, with no hint of customer care. The maximum speed in a good coverage area that I have so far achieved is 42kps. On initial set up 3's website was down so I couldn't even activate my voucher as they offer no facility to do this other than online. I wouldn't ever consider using this service on a regular basis and it is just not man enough for the job. Buyer beware.....

Marty jar

July 17, 2008, 9:15 pm

You reviewer has been amazingly lucky. I have tried to use my modem in a wide variety of areas and on different computers - rarely reaching dial-up speeds, and often not maintaining a connection - including in areas the website says are 'high speed'.

I notified them in time that I wished to cancel under the terms of the contract, and have since spent over 15 hours talking to the extremely aggressive and rude customer services staff, having to explain the situation repeatedly. The matter has now had to progress to legal action from myself as several months on, they are trying to claim an extortionate cancellation fee.


Mark 3

July 21, 2008, 2:55 pm

I can confirm that 3's coverage charts are hopelessly optimistic. Believing that the two locations I'm most likely to want were fine I signed up for 18 months 㾻 for 5GB and a free Huawei 169G modem. Indoors downstairs at home it wouldn't connect and stay connected at all. Upstairs with the modem dangling out of the window on a cable it did connect just but speeds were abysmal. From the office it connected but was terribly slow.

The one thing I did do before ordering was make sure where I stood if a return was needed - currently this is return within 14 days with no more than 3 consecutive days connected. An information sheet detailing the procedure is included with the modem. I have had no problem getting a returns authorisation so I can send it back. The person I spoke to to get the return underway was polite and efficient. Of course I haven't completed the process yet but I don't forsee any major problem.

Neil Hassan

August 19, 2008, 10:56 pm

Avoid at all costs!

I took out a contract and started using the service in July. During the first month, the network was out for 7 days. This month so far, there's been a network failure for 10 out of 19 days. That, by anyone's standards, is appalling delivery.

Do not be swayed by the low cost or special offers; I'm stuck with 17 months of an 18 month contract remaining for service that's an absolute P.O.S!!!

Joe McCabe-Smith

September 3, 2008, 5:57 pm

I bought the 3 dongle about 4 months ago. Thankfully I chose PAYG and wasn't faced with contract obligations. This has been a total wast of time. In 4 months I have successfully accessed the Internet on one occasion for about 5 minutes. I have not been able to get online for the last 3 months or so. This is a complete and utter waste of money. I feel sorry for those who are tied into contracts. Final advice steer clear of this and save your money and stress levels.

A McGuire

September 7, 2008, 2:32 am

AVOID this product at all costs. It may be cheap in theory - but you'll be paying for a service that you NEVER RECEIVE. I've been using this for about 8 months, and - possibly due to increased take-up of the service over that time - the service has massively deteriorated in that time. Well over half the time, it's impossible to connect at all. Days and days will go by without any joy. Then, when it *does* let you connect, the 'line' usually 'drops' within 5 minutes. You will never - EVER - get any further than checking your emails with this service. Actually downloading anything is a literal impossibility. Often, when connected, you can access nothing beyond Three's own webpage (which adds insult to injury, really - since most of that's devoted to lauding the virtues of its mobile broadband service...). The call centre - intended to be a 'helpline' - is in India, and (not wishing to be rude, here) I've not yet spoken to anyone there who speaks coherent English. If this was a tangible product instead of a so-called 'service' - ie., something you could take back to the shop - then Three would have been out of business months ago. It's THAT BAD. If I've made one person save their money and take their custom elsewhere, then I consider this post worthwhile. PLEASE don't sign up - and if you do, don't say you weren't warned.

Steve Connor

September 12, 2008, 6:41 am

I have been using 3 mobile broadband for just over 2 weeks. Officially it supposed to provide a 2.8Gb service. In practice I'm getting between 200kb and 800kb. It depends on how near the mast you are as to what service you get. Three are planning to up the speed of their service to around 14Gb according to their website news. If they don't do it within 18 months they will lose a lot of customers. For that reason alone I'm sure things will improve.


September 23, 2008, 10:00 pm

Beware "out of bundle charges" of 10p a megabyte.

That is an outrageous 𧴜 a gigabyte if you go over your monthly limit!


December 8, 2008, 6:51 pm


1) A long-term money-sucking commitment of Frustration in a dongle.

2) Worst shopping decision made since buying expensive electronics from a developing country 6 years ago which claimed to have ‘international warranty’.


Since I live in Central London (zone 1), I though I would receive a decent service based on the ‘turbo service’, which would compensate for the general slowness of mobile “broadband”. But despite picking up to 5 of 10 bars (signal bars like you see on a phone), it is hardly faster than dial-up. I feel sorry for those not lucky enough to get the so called High Speed (HSPDA) connection.

A friend who lives near Bond Street said he couldn’t pick up more than 3 bars of connectivity either!


The industry should not be allowed to use the term “broadband”, it is deceptive!

And what’s the point of “mobile” internet with access from “anywhere” if it does not connect!


Most annoyingly, this piece of rubbish doesn’t connect. When it does finally connect, it randomly disconnects in the middle of you work!

Some good things:

At least I don’t waste so much time watching youtube, videos or downloading things anymore.. (I watch them partly load and buffer instead)

I am cheerfully surprised when ever I do manage to surf the net for an hour without interruption.. (though usually not by using this piece of rubbish)

Anyone know how to go about cancelling their contract without bleeding money? Has anyone tried?

I bought an 18 month contract at the end of October 2008.


January 6, 2009, 4:23 pm

This network and it's Technical Support/Customer Services are by far the worst company I've had the misfortune to have dealt with in all my 44 years on this earth. I've been given false information, ignored, sworn at, hung up on, wasted 2 days of annual leave from work waiting for the modem to picked up and they didn't turn up, spent over 㿆 on an 08707 number were they refused to call me back, used over 8hrs of my mobile talktime calling Tech Support and all this whilst paying for a service that has never and will never work to the advertised speeds, lowest speed was 17kbps, yes that's 17, the highest was 883kbps (tested at 5am) which is still well below what they advertise, my Google homepage would sometimes take up to 20 mins to appear, this must be false advertising in anyone's book. If I could call around and kick someone up the backside for all the stress, effort, time not to mention the money I've wasted over this useless piece of junk, I would, with bells on. TAKE NOTE... "AVOID THIS COMPANY LIKE THE PLAGUE OR GOD HELP YOU"

max williams

January 27, 2009, 11:41 pm

posted a comment last night when I had hsdpa max. speed of a download 1048 kbps

today I have not been able to get hsdpa at all ,I can dl at a speed of 21.4kbps if this

isnt cr-p then what is . I feel better now but i must take my pill.


Andy 21

October 10, 2009, 8:06 pm

Good device, TERRIBLE TERRIBLE service. Speed is worse than the worst dialup I have ever used. My 28k modem in the 1980s was better. Connections drop at random. Google pings at 3000ms. Packet loss is about half. I live in CENTRAL LONDON within sight of a cluster of 3G masts. At 15 pounds per month this is a disgraceful ripoff. Cancelling my contract immediately. You should avoid this company and their proucts if you have any sense.

Roger Beale

October 15, 2009, 3:35 pm

I bought a dongle with 12GB for a year in February, and have so far only managed to use 2GB, so slow is it. I notice that (in Maplins at least), the price of this package has dropped from £100 to £80; still overpriced if you don't even get to use half the allowance!


July 18, 2010, 2:27 pm

Appalling service from 3, especially since the software "upgrade" a few weeks ago. If you in a major city centre you will be fine but anywhere without an extremely strong signal, forget it. I can barely hold a connection long enough to check email at the moment. I cannot wait to use up my allowance so I can change to a company that concentrates on providing a good service instead of spending all their money on lying tv adverts.

Paul T

September 29, 2010, 5:17 pm

Awful service from an awful company. Same problems that have been going on for more than two years now and are getting worse - network capacity issues in too many areas, speed throttling, taking too long to respond to mast problems, poor customer services, no online support or notification, blame anything and anyone else culture.

Lots and lots of reviews online going back two years all saying the same things.

Avoid 3 like the plague.


May 20, 2011, 2:47 am

PaulT has nailed it. This is still an awful service and it's clear that far too many customers are receiving an unacceptable level of service. The customer 'care' is still atrocious too. 3 are a nightmare and should be avoided. You could be lucky and have a good experience but the best advice would be to take no chances and only consider the leading networks.


April 15, 2013, 12:51 pm

looks like im not the only 1 putting a good review on the worst service iv ever had to deal with. in short a lot of time , phone calls , and MONEY for NOTHING do NOT sing any contract with 3 broadband. I feel like iv been scammed . and thay don't care unless u don't pay up thay just call the debt collector .

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