Looking at the MBM621 modem, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was just a wireless bridge. It's reasonably small and finished in the old lozenge Netgear style, rather than the angular design that the current crop of routers sport. On the front are status lights for an Ethernet connection and for an HSDPA sync, while at the rear you'll find a single Ethernet port, a power socket, the SIM slot and the antenna. The SIM slot is spring loaded, so you simply insert the SIM and it clicks into place, then press it again to eject it.
The beauty of this device is that there is no need for any type of driver or application on your PC or notebook. Yes the USB HSDPA modems are cool because they have all the software embedded on the device, but with this Netgear, there's no need for any software whatsoever. The most simple usage model is to run an Ethernet cable direct from the modem to your computer, and as far as your computer is concerned, it's directly connected to the Internet via its wired network adapter.
There is some configuration though - you'll need to put in the correct modem strings for your service provider. For me I simply looked at the Vodafone config file for the HSDPA modem embedded in my notebook and entered the data in the Netgear's config page. Accessing the modem is as simple as it is with any router - once you've connected it via Ethernet, you access the admin panel via a web browser. Since this was a pre-production sample, there was no manual with it, but it only took me a couple of minutes to figure out that the modem's IP was 192.168.2.1 and that the default admin login was "admin" with the password set to "password" - obviously you should change the latter as soon as possible.
But the Netgear HSDPA modem isn't just limited to a single computer connection, this baby can be used just like any other broadband modem, which means that it can be shared. So, if you didn't want to pay for BT line rental and a broadband package on top of that, you could simply get an HSDPA data SIM, slip it in the MBM621, then plug the Ethernet cable into the WAN port of your router. Hey presto, all the machines on your network will be able to connect to the Internet using HSDPA instead of ADSL or cable. Of course most HSDPA contracts have a download limit, but then so do most ADSL packages these days.
The best thing about the MBM621 is that you can use it as a backup for your broadband connection, which is ideal for small businesses that can't afford to have their broadband go down. If you install a router with two WAN ports, you can have your main ADSL or Cable modem as the main connection, then hook up the MBM621 as the secondary. With a setup like this, if your broadband connection goes down, your router will automatically switch to the MBM621 and get all the users on your network online via HSDPA. Plus, if you use a pay as you go HSDPA SIM, it won't cost you a thing while your broadband is working, then if it does go down, you'll simply pay for the data used over HSDPA until your ISP sorts itself out.
Netgear could still give me no launch date or pricing for the MBM621, but if it's not too expensive, this could be a real winner in both the small business and even consumer sectors. The latter could even give BT a bit of a kick, since many people I know, including myself only have a landline for broadband.