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How to Subscribe to and use a mobile 3G service

Services such as Vodafone Mobile Connect supports 3G, GPRS and wireless LAN connectivity so you get the widest possible coverage and it is very easy to use and there is no need for a separate mobile phone.

How do I get going?

When you subscribe to a mobile data service you will be sent a datacard and software to install on your laptop. One this is installed – you just follow the instructions to do this – you will be able to connect to the cellular and wireless networks at speeds that are up to seven times faster than a 56k dial-up connection.

It is not as fast as broadband but it is still pretty good. Using 3G, the maximum downlink speed is 384kbps – about 75% the speed of a standard 512K ADSL broadband connection. The maximum uplink speed is about the same at 64kbps.

If you find yourself in an area without 3G coverage, the card will keep you connected by switching to the GPRS data service automatically. If your laptop has an Intelr Centrio chip or a wireless network card, it will also connect to WiF hotspots, which are now found in many public places and company locations.

If you want to also connect to your company’s network a little more setting up will be required. A link will need to be established between your LAN and the service provider’s mobile network – this is something your local supplier should be able to help you do.

How much does it cost?

The cost of mobile data depends on your usage and, just as there are with mobile phones, you can subscribe to different tarriffs. With Vodafone for example, charges £199 for the data card and £11.75 per month when you sign up for 5Mb of downloads per month with additional usage beyond this charged separately. It provides the card free if you subscribe to the 1Gb service, which costs £53 per month but effectively gives you unlimited downloads.

You can also use a prepay service and top it up whenever you need additional credit. Other charges will apply if you need a virtual private network link to your company computer network: there's a one-off payment for the equipment and then an ongoing monthly charge per user. Prices are usually subject to signing up for a 12-month airtime contract and require a UK bank account.

What about coverage?

All mobile data services are of course, subject to there being coverage wherever you are but most built-up areas in the UK are now covered. Further information on where 3G, GPRS and wireless LAN coverage can be obtained from your local supplier- for Vodafone coverage go to www.vodafone.co.uk

The 3G service may be affected by the number of users accessing the 3G network in your area, the signal strength and the distance you are from the nearest antenna. As with mobile phones there are also factors beyond the control of service providers such as the weather!