The pack comes in a store friendly box with the USB dongle clearly visible through a clear plastic window on the front. On the rear there’s the genius marketing slogan – “Get the Internet Outside”. Who said Britain was being dumbed down?
Inside, as well as the dongle, you’ll find a USB extension lead and the Virgin Mobile Sim card. The silver and black dongle is branded on the front with the Virgin Mobile logo but flick it over and the markings on the rear reveal that it’s a Huawei Mobile Connect E160 USB modem. The left hand side of the dongle has a couple of interesting features hiding beneath two tiny plastic covers. The first is an aerial socket to let you hook it up to an external aerial to improve mobile reception, while the second is a microSD slot as the stick also acts as a simple single format memory card reader.
As you would expect, getting the dongle up and running is very straight forward. You just place the Sim in the pull out card holder which slides back into a recess behind the stick’s USB connector. When you push the dongle into your PC it first installs itself as a removable drive. Double-clicking on this starts the install wizard. Once completed you’re left with a shortcut on your desktop to the Virgin Broadband application.
Seeing as Virgin Media hasn’t suddenly bagged itself its own 3G license the question is where is it getting its network from? As with the standard Virgin Mobile phone service, it’s actually all built around T-mobile’s network. As a result anyone who’s used T-mobile’s mobile broadband package will be instantly familiar with the software provided here. It’s rebranded with the Virgin logo, but otherwise it remains largely unchanged. You get a useful scrolling graph which plots in real time your current download and upload speeds, while a sidebar displays your daily, monthly and yearly download data usage.