Vodafone 3G PC card launches in UK

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It could be just what your laptop has been waiting for. Vodafone has today launched the Mobile Connect 3G/GPRS data card for laptops.

So in theory, laptop-owning Britons can access the web on the go at speeds of up to 384kbps.

Vodafone hopes the card will help claw back some of the £13 billion pounds it has invested in 3G networks across Europe.

The demonstration the company gave at today’s press conference certainly looked impressive with good quality video streamed on the PC via 3G at around 300kbps. Vodafone also claims that a file as large as 10MB could be transferred to a PC in less than ten minutes.

The tariffs aren’t bad too. The card costs between £50-80 depending on which payment option the user chooses, while monthly fees range from £20 a month (for downloading up to 50MB) to £85 per month, which gets you a whole Gigabyte.

3G card owners will also be able to roam with their laptops in eight European countries still downloading data at 3G speeds.

But inevitably there are limitations to its performance

1 Vodafone’s 3G coverage is just 30% of the UK population – This includes major cities like London, Manchester Cardiff and Birmingham. It promises that around 60% of the UK population would have access to its 3G services by the Autumn.

2 Changeover between 3G and GPRS – Apparently the card automatically diverts to GPRS, yet maintains the connection which is essential if the user is in the midst of a download. However, given the difficulties Three has had with its GPRS to 3G handshake we will wait to be convinced if this works in practice.

3 Speed – At the demo in the Savoy Hotel in London, it was easy to display streaming at speeds of 384kbps, because no one else was using the 3G network. When that bandwidth starts to be shared among many users speeds could slow significantly. Voda does however promise it won’t dip below 200kbps.

4 Upload speed – Just 64kbps – about half the speed of broadband.

5 Battery life – Just like Wi-Fi the 3G card seriously saps your battery.

Still it works as billed the Vodafone 3G Mobile Connect card should be a no-brainer for anyone with a laptop who spends more than a couple of days a month out of the office.

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