Interestingly, when I connected using the Mobile Connect Modem on a Windows PC, Windows reported the connection speed as 3.6Mbit/sec, which would indicate second generation HSDPA hardware. Under test though, it was clear that I was still getting the more common 1.8Mbit/sec HSDPA service, with fast downloads coming at a rate of around 130KB/sec and the ADSLguide Speed Test reporting around 1.1Mbit/sec real throughput. What this could mean though, is that the USB Mobile Connect Modem is future proof, and when Vodafone launches its 3.6Mbit/sec service the device will ramp up. Unfortunately Vodafone could neither confirm or deny this suspicion, so it may just be Windows misreporting the connection speed. It’s also worth mentioning that the Mac software stated a connection speed of 1.8Mbit/sec.
When it comes to pricing the USB Mobile Connect Modem follows the same pricing plan as the Mobile Connect Data Card. This means that if you want to go for the entry level monthly plan, you’re going to have to pay just under £30 per month and around £116 for the device itself. When I reviewed the data card I considered these prices too high, since T-Mobile was offering 2GB a month of data with an identical card thrown in for free. But that same argument doesn’t hold true this time around, because T-Mobile doesn’t have a comparable product to the USB Mobile Connect Modem – in fact, no other network operator has anything that can compete with this device, which puts Vodafone in a very strong position.
When I reviewed the first Vodafone Mobile Connect Data Card I was very impressed and the competition struggled to keep up. When HSDPA rolled out though, T-Mobile stole much of Vodafone’s thunder, offering a near identical product with more data and a lower cost. Now however, the tables have turned and Vodafone has a product that will be the envy of all the other network operators.
The USB Mobile Connect Modem has the advantage of being truly universal, something that no data card - whether PC Card or Express card - can boast. The ability to hook it up to any Windows based computer, without the need to carry a driver disc makes it truly flexible. But it’s the fact that this device is compatible with both PowerPC and Intel based Apple Macs that makes it really special. With the MacBook offering great design, decent performance and a rock solid OS, many Windows notebook users are being tempted over to Apple, and now Vodafone is offering them a high-speed mobile data solution.
Yes it would be nice if the Apple driver could automatically load from the device like the Windows one does, but hopefully Vodafone will address that issue. As it stands though, this is the only HSDPA, or even 3G, EDGE or GPRS data solution for the latest batch of Apple notebooks (and some Windows ones). So, if you’re packing a laptop with no PC Card slot, you really want one of these.
Note: The Vodafone USB Mobile Connect Modem is available online from today and through selected Vodafone business stores from Wednesday 22nd November.