3G data: the choice expands

3G data: the choice expands

Summary: Mobile professionals now have a choice of four 3G mobile data solutions from UK network operators. Check out our reviews.

TOPICS: Networking, Reviews

The UK's first 3G network was launched by 3 in March 2003, since when the company has offered handsets carrying consumer-orientated services such as video calls, location-based applications, sports highlights, games and so on. Although 3 has now signed up over a million customers in the UK, the lack of data services means that few of these are likely to be mobile professionals.

Data services are provided by Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and, most recently, O2. These solutions, all based on a PC Card-plus-software bundle, are in their infancy and are evolving as the competitive landscape changes. Therefore, you'll need to look carefully at factors such as 3G network speed and coverage, handover between 3G, GPRS and -- in some cases -- Wi-Fi networks, and tariff structure. The table below provides links to some of this information.

3G datacard solutions





3G data solution
O2 Data Card 3G/GPRS Orange 3G Mobile Office Card T-Mobile 3G Communication Centre Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G/GPRS datacard
3G coverage
Check here Check here Check here Check here
Key features
Protocols supported 3G, GPRS, SMS 3G, GPRS, SMS 3G, GPRS, SMS 3G, GPRS, SMS
Software O2 Connection Manager Mobile Office Card dashboard T-Mobile 3G Communication Centre Vodafone Dashboard
Wi-Fi hot-spot access yes (O2 handset account required) by end of 2004 yes yes
Mac support no no no yes
384Kbps throughput yes yes Q4 2004 yes
Check here Check here Check here Check here

ZDNet UK has now reviewed all four available 3G datacard solutions in the UK, allowing you to compare each product and decide which is best for you. Check out the links listed below for all the details.



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Topics: Networking, Reviews


Charles has been in tech publishing since the late 1980s, starting with Reed's Practical Computing, then moving to Ziff-Davis to help launch the UK version of PC Magazine in 1992. ZDNet came looking for a Reviews Editor in 2000, and he's been here ever since.

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  • On of the interesting elements which doesn't appear to mentioned is the way in which internet traffic is handled by the 3G suppliers. With Vodafone the traffic appears to go through a proxy which results in jpeg images being resampled - this can result in quite a drastic reducition in image quality. We have had to move to Orange whch doesn't suffer from this problem.
  • This seems to be true - a picture on www.photosig.com that was 163k on broadband is reduced to about 18k over vodafone GPRS. The degradation in quality is very noticeable.

    Maybe Vodafone have a workaround - but Orange charge less than half for the data so maybe it's a better bet anyway...
  • The fix is to CTRL-refresh the browser page when an image is loaded to redisplay at full resolution. It seems Vodafone have opted to compress all their content to minimise bandwidth and maximise speed of loading. If your content is graphics rich this may help a lot (though at lower visual quality) - but if you are forced to CTRL-refresh everything it may make life pretty tedious and more expensive as you will actually end up downloading more!
  • I'd like to offer a "virtual hug" to the poster of that workaround. I've spent a very frustrating day on the phone to Vodafone about this very issue - just trying to get hold of someone who understands what it means is impossible. Their customer service leaves a lot to be desired, and when (if) they evencall me back as promised, I'll be able to tell them something!
  • Graphics degradation is not the only problem with the Vodafone compression, I have upgraded to the new 3G Broadband card in an effort to operate my company's interactive website. Unfortunately, whilst refreshing the first page produces a clean graphic, any further progress into the site becomes impossible as the navigation buttons disappear. Vodafone have not been able to help so I am now forced to consider re-writing the java script on my website to allow access.... unless anyone out there can help me?