The emergence of cheap mobile broadband deals from all the major operators in the UK was one of the biggest stories in tech last year. Suddenly choosing broadband wasn't simply a case of comparing the best ADSL and cable deals, but instead it became a three-way choice between ADSL, cable and mobile services. Naturally, there is a trade off between the faster speeds and higher data download allowances on offer from fixed line deals compared with the added benefits of mobility, but for many people having mobile broadband as their only Internet connection became a real possibility.
Of course, to use mobile broadband you need either a laptop with HSDPA support built-in or a USB broadband modem. There's no denying that most people are not really interested in the type of modem that they use as they just opt take whatever they're given by their mobile operator and in reality many people will get this modem as part of a broadband deal from O2 where it is available from free as part of their business mobile broadband deal. However, if you're more discerning or just want a modem that's not tethered to a particular operator then you can also buy this modem with its original Sierra Wireless branding for around £145. That's not an inconsiderable sum so just what do you get for your money?
The modem is supplied in a pretty non-descript card board box, but when you open it up you'll find not just the modem, but also a USB extension lead for hooking it up to computers or laptops that don't have enough clearance to let you insert the dongle directly into a slot. Sierra Wireless also includes a plastic clip that lets you mount the modem on the side of a laptop screen and a small satchel with a rope tie at the top to keep all the various bits together when you're travelling.
The dongle itself is a little bit larger than most of the others we've used recently. For example, although it's around the same length as the Huawei E160 used by the likes of Virgin Media and Orange for their mobile broadband services, it's slightly thicker which means it won't easily fit into USB ports that are slightly awkwardly placed. For example, it wouldn't really fit comfortably in the side USB ports of a Sony JS2E all-in-one PC as the side of the case on the Sony is slightly angled. However, it did fit into this machine's rear USB ports without any problems. Still, the extra girth does mean that the USB extension lead for the dongle may come in handy from time to time.