I’ve been a customer of 3 mobile broadband for more than 2 years. The issue of accessing the internet when you live in a motorhome fulltime and don’t have a fixed line comes up time and again on forums. Most of the people I know use 3 mobile broadband and so I thought I would give some information about the service, and products that can help boost your signal.
When mobile broadband first became popular in the UK it was not really suitable as your only connection if you, like me are a relatively high bandwidth user. Many contracts limited you to just 1GB per month and the charges for going over your limit were excessive.
3 Mobile Broadband
I was finally convinced to enter into a contract when 3 mobile broadband introduced a contract where for £15.00 per month they would give you 15GB. I’d never been a customer of 3 mobile broadband for any of my previous mobile phones and indeed some people said they were not the best provider for mobile phones 2G services. They had however invested heavily in 3G and their mobile broadband coverage was generally considered to be the best in the UK. The contract was for 24 months and I was supplied with a free Huawei 156G dongle which plugs into your laptop via a USB port. This dongle proved itself very reliable, I still own it and managed to easily unlock it after which I was able to use it with SIM cards from other networks in Europe during my tour in 2010. Another good feature of the Huawei 156G was the fact that it has a CRC9 connection for an antenna as can be seen in the image below. This connection was a little loose but I was still able to buy an antenna that boosted my signal, very useful!
At the time of taking the contract I also bought a DT100 wireless router which I would connect the dongle to and then the DT100 would plug into the mains. I should perhaps explain that at the time I entered into the contract I had not yet purchased a motorhome and was still living a traditional lifestyle. The DT100 proved a clever gadget, allowing me to place the dongle wherever the signal strength was best in the house. It also came in handy when I wanted to share my 3 mobile broadband connection as others could ‘see’ the connection and use it if I gave them my password. This router was especially useful during my tour when it allowed both Joy and I to use the internet at the same time, though when wild camping it did mean powering it from a 12v-240v converter. Wireless routers like these are also very useful if you own a wireless printer, as I do.
3 Mobile Broadband
So what is the signal and coverage like on 3 mobile broadband? Well there are very few places in the UK where I’ve not been able to get a signal, and I travel extensively! In populated areas like cities you can expect to get a good connection. The speed of this connection often matches that of fixed line broadband. On my travels I’ve also found good signals in remote places like the Scottish Highlands. There have been a couple of times when getting a signal was difficult, for example remote places in the Lake District and parts of Cornwall spring to mind.
If you also own a USB dongle with a CRC9 type connection and you are interested in boosting your signal why not look at the following magnetic aerial. Magnetic and clip on antennas are omni directional, ideal if you don’t know where your nearest 3G mast is. If you know the location of the mast and prefer a directional antenna look at patch antennas, which can either be desk mounted or external units.
If your modem does not have a connection point for an antenna you can still buy the following product which fits over the outside of a USB dongle and has a SMA type socket the other end.
You will then need to look at antennas suitable for SMA connections such as this:
When my first contract recently expired I decided to renew again as I still believe that in terms of coverage, bandwidth and cost, the service is still the best in the UK. If you want to find out more about their service visit the 3 Mobile Broadband website. My personal rating for 3 Mobile Broadband would be 8/10.