I've always said that if the mobile phone industry in the UK would pull its collective finger out and charge a reasonable price for mobile Internet access, they'd steal a march on their cable-bound competitors. Just think – instead of having to pay for line rental, landline phone calls and broadband on a monthly basis, you could simply pay one mobile bill and have everything included.
Until recently, that just hasn't been anywhere approaching practical. Mobile data rates have been either too slow or far too expensive to justify replacing your landline connection, but that's beginning to change. With the introduction of the first HDSPA mobile data cards last year, speeds have reached a level (1.8Mbps) at which mobile Internet can compete with some of the more basic wired broadband offerings.
And now prices are beginning to catch up too with T-Mobile in the vanguard of developments. It has recently slashed monthly rates with 'unlimited' data allowance to £29.99. Now, with its new web 'n' walk USB modem, it is making the hardware just as accessible. The actual unit comes free on 18 or 24-month contracts and costs just £29.99 if you go for 12 months. Vodafone's equivalent product is also free, but you have to pay a whopping £45 per month on its 'unlimited' data access deal.
The device itself works like a dream. In fact it's identical, bar the logo on the front, to the Vodafone USB Mobile Connect Modem reviewed by Riyad in November last year. It's constructed from glossy white plastic with a single blue LED and the T-mobile logo adorning the front. Connection is made via a standard mini-USB socket on the top edge and two cables are provided in the box for this purpose: one short, stubby effort, and a longer one with a second USB plug to draw extra power if your system can't provide enough juice to power the modem.
As well as looking great, it has all of the advantages of the Vodafone device too. This USB modem can not only be plugged into a Windows notebook, but also comes with Mac drivers in the box, and of course can be connected to your home desktop PC when you're not out and about. It also allows the steadily increasing number of laptop owners whose machines do not have PC card slots, to use T-Mobile's HSDPA service for the first time.