Similar schemes may already be on the market, but 3 has just launched the first true pay-as-you-go mobile broadband plan.
As part of its existing Turbo offering customers must first buy its USB 3G modem (above) for £99 then they have the option to add credit in terms of gigabytes rather than minutes.
As it stands, 3 will charge £10 for 1GB, £15 for 3GB and £25 for 7GB with additional top-ups available either via the company's website, in 3 stores or through its customer service line. Be warned though, go outside your purchased data amount and you'll be charged a scary £1 per additional megabyte.
Still, all users will get the same HSDPA access as customers on monthly contracts giving them access to data rates of up to 2.8Mbps. Should users be located outside 3's existing 'Turbo' network they will drop back to lower 384kbps speeds (at least until this gets going), while the desperately unlucky/tragically remote will find themselves in GPRS land where stamping on your own feet is more fun.
So what of these 'similar schemes'? Well, most obvious is T-Mobile's pay per day mobile broadband, but at £4 per 24 hours this is going to work out far more expensive if you are a semi-regular user. That said, those who stand to gain most from this are the occasional dabblers. The ones who take their laptops with them occasionally but need full email and web functionality when they do. This, I suspect, is a lot of you.
Of course the big question here is how long do your gigabytes last before they expire? I'm quizzing 3 on this right now - but as long as the company plays nice its PAYG mobile broadband could be the single largest step yet to hooking the average user…
Update: You get 30 days to use the data you buy. Hmmmn, could've been better.