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Virgin Media Mobile Broadband USB Modem - Virgin Media Mobile Broadband USB Modem

Niall Magennis

By Niall Magennis
Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

7/10

Review Price free/subscription

We tested the service in East London and the majority of the time we were getting signal strength of 90 per cent or above. Download speeds tended to jump around between 0.8Mbps and 2.1Mbps, but more often than not the achievable speed was closer to the 1Mbps mark. Upload speeds were more consistent and hovered around the 0.3Mbps mark.

These speeds put the service broadly on a par with most of the other mobile broadband offerings around at the moment. Certainly it feels fast for normal day to day surfing and there's enough bandwidth on tap for web applications like watching YouTube videos or streaming shows from the BBC iPlayer.

One problem, however, is the image compression which is turned on by default. Obviously this is designed to speed up the web browsing experience, but it's set a little bit high for our liking and makes pictures look decidedly blocky. Unfortunately, there's no way to turn this off from within the supplied software. We looked for a solution on Virgin's website, but it seems that it simply doesn't offer a way to disable it. However, you can get around the problem by going to the T-mobile site and downloading its Web n' Walk Accelerator application. Nevertheless, Virgin really needs to offer its own solution to the issue.

Verdict

Virgin's service certainly works well and delivers decent download and upload speeds. The supplied software makes it easy to keep track of your data usage and the company is very upfront about it's coverage area.

The main problem we have is with the pricing of the service. Virgin's standard 18-month contract deal costs £15 a month for a 3GB data allowance and a free dongle. However, T-mobile's own package is better value as for £15 a month, plus a one off £15 fee for the modem, you get the same data allowance, but you also get free access to T-mobile's network of Wi-Fi Hotspots. That said, if you're already a Virgin premium broadband customer then its £5 a month service with a 1GB data allowance is very competitively priced.

Scores In Detail

Value
7/10
Features
7/10
Design
8/10

Our Score

7/10
Previous page

Martin Daler

November 10, 2008, 3:48 pm

Whilst you say Virgin is very upfront about their 3G coverage. They are also very confused. The page your article links to clearly says mobile broadband = 3G = 85% coverage.


But then on their more upfront "Mobile Broadband" home page it says:


"With Mobile Broadband you're connected to the internet through our mobile phone network which covers 99.5% of the UK"


http://www.virginmobile.com/vm...

Niall

November 10, 2008, 6:16 pm

Hi Martin,





The 85 per cent refers to the 3G coverage, while the 99.5 per cent refers to the coverage of the entire mobile network including non-3G areas. The postcode checker shows whether it's full 3G or just 2.5G in your area, plus they offer a 28 day money back guarantee. That's pretty upfront in my book, but of course people are free to differ in their views.





Niall

Krog2b6

November 11, 2008, 1:22 am

A warning to all existing Virgin Media customers who also have Virgin mobile phones i.e. 2 phones. Having the mobile broadband dongle counts as a third 'sim' and it takes at least 72 hours to get clearance for this on your account. I've just spent an afternoon on the phone with Virgin Customer Services trying to get this sorted out. All I got was an apology and the offer to upgrade my home broadband at an extra cost to myself !!!!!!

LittleGreyCat

April 15, 2009, 10:34 pm

I am currently having problems with the Virgin dongle.


I have managed to install it once on Windows XP Pro (SP3) on a Dell laptop but I can't see the modem device on my Scaleo L desktop running XP Home (SP3) or on my Gateway Win2K (SP4) portable. Note that only the Professional version of Win2K is supported (although this is not clear from any documentation).


I can also not see the modem device on my Linux EEE PC 900 and when running Ubuntu on my Scaleo and my Gateway.


This points to a possible firmware problem in the dongle. I am waiting for a replacement and will report back on progress but it is strange that I can see the USB virtual CD drive and install the software, but not see the modem device.

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