T-Mobile debuts mobile broadband with USB device

T-Mobile is opening up its new cellular broadband network to laptops for the first time with the launch of a USB device that allows notebooks to get wireless Internet access.The prices are similar to those at the three larger cellular carriers: the plug-in dongle costs $50 with a two-year contract, or $100 if the buyer is signing up for one year.

T-Mobile is opening up its new cellular broadband network to laptops for the first time with the launch of a USB device that allows notebooks to get wireless Internet access.

The prices are similar to those at the three larger cellular carriers: the plug-in dongle costs $50 with a two-year contract, or $100 if the buyer is signing up for one year. From then, service costs $60 per month for up to 5 gigabytes of traffic.

The device costs $250 without a contract.

T-Mobile is in the process of playing catch-up to Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint Nextel in the nationwide 3G data network race. The company kicked off the network last year with a few phones, including the popular G1 Google Android-based smartphone, and has since reached about 100 million people by the end of 2008.

T-Mobile subscribers using the USB device will get access to the company's network of 10,000 Wi-Fi hot spots at hotels, airports, and Borders book stores, as well as free access at Starbucks shops, even though AT&T now operates those hot spots, according to the AP.

(Good thing, too: Wi-Fi is usually faster than 3G, and doesn't count toward the monthly traffic limit.)

The USB device is made by Huawei Technologies, and is the first order from a national U.S. carrier for the Chinese manufacturer. (Huawei previously sold data cards and phones to regional players like MetroPCS.) It comes with built-in T-Mobile Connection Manager software to automatically detect the best available Internet connection, and offers tri-band 3G connectivity (HSDPA/UMTS 1900/AWS/2100), so you'll be able to use it on compatible networks overseas. (It's also compatible with GPRS/EDGE networks.)

The USB device can also double as a portable storage device, and is equipped with a microSD/SDHC expansion slot that can accept up to 8GB cards. The device features a swivel USB design and measures 3.5 inches tall by 1.1 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick and weighs 1.5 ounces.