So, the USB Modem Stick is easy to install and use, while also being the smallest HSDPA device on the market, but how does it perform? Well, this is in no way the first 7.2mbps rated HSDPA modem to hit the market, but although units like the Orange Option Icon 2 are rated at 7.2mbps, the Orange network actually has no 7.2mbps support available. Vodafone on the other hand, at least has some 7.2mbps coverage here and now, allowing you to take advantage of the capabilities of the USB Modem Stick.
Vodafone currently offers 7.2mbps coverage in most major airports in the UK, along with much of central London. To test the USB Modem Stick I ventured to Gatwick Airport, sat down in a restaurant, ordered some breakfast and whipped my laptop out. I was instantly aware of how quick web pages loaded and how fast downloads completed, but what really surprised me was that I was actually able to get a faster connection than I have at home using ADSL! Now, I accept that living in a small village in Surrey won't afford me the fastest broadband connection, but my home broadband gave me a throughput of around 2.2mbps, while my router claimed a connection speed of 5mbps. Comparatively, the Vodafone USB Modem Stick returned a download speed of 3.3mbps, with the modem claiming a 7.2mbps connection.
Now, there are a few things to consider with those numbers. First up, my broadband performance at home is in no way a poor reflection of my ISP. In fact my ISP, Eclipse, has provided me with nothing but first rate service for the past two years. The issue is that I live a fair distance from the exchange and telephone lines are pretty old and routed overhead (that's what you get for living in a period cottage). Add to that the contention that's inherent with ADSL, and the speed I'm getting is pretty much right where it should be. Likewise, the fact that I was using the USB Modem Stick in an area of 7.2mbps coverage and getting real world download speeds of around 3.3mbps is pretty commendable, and definitely the best HSDPA performance I've experienced so far.
The fact that Vodafone is already rolling out its 7.2mbps service bodes well for its customers, while the company's 3.6mbps coverage is also better than most. I found that I could get good HSDPA coverage all over London, in and around Ascot and at home, where signal strength can often be an issue. It's also worth mentioning that the USB Modem Stick provided far better upload speeds than I've been used to, which is a pretty big help for an online journalist who has to file stories while out and about.