I have been testing out the latest generation of MiFi units from mobile network 3.
It’s fair to say that the mobile broadband revolution in the UK was kickstarted by the ever-enterprising 3 network. They were the first to bring decent priced USB dongles to the market. The had a lot of network capacity to play with, together with an entrepreneurial sales attitude that saw their dongles being snapped up by legions of grateful subscribers. I reckon I must have bought about 5 of them over the years, probably more. My brothers and my father probably account for at least 25 USB dongles, some still resting at the back of drawers after being well used.
I’m trying to recall who was first to bring a MiFi to the market here in the UK. I’m pretty confident it was 3. That began to change everything for those seeking to cut the desk cord properly. I can remember the excitement of being able to connect more than one device to the MiFi and not having my already precious mobile phone battery hammered in return for some connectivity. Used sparingly, you could get a good few hours out of the first generation 3 MiFis. Nowadays, dependent on usage, you can often get a usable full day out of them. The genius of being able to get connectivity on multiple devices rather than the one with the USB dongle is still a source of delight to this day.
The network’s most recent addition to the line-up is a nicely thought-out unit called the Huawei E5372. It’s got a pretty huge 1780mAh battery that, so far, has lasted me much of the business day easily. However I should point out that I haven’t been absolutely hammering the unit in testing because I *wanted* it to last the whole day. The tech specs rate the E5372 for 6 hours use or 300 hours on standby.
Perhaps the best thing about the MiFi unit is the 3 network. For a long time I have been an admirer of 3. (I should point out for balance I’m certainly never slow to criticise some elements of the network’s business — just do a search here on MIR.) Now and again people still cite the 3 network as ‘bad for calls’ but I haven’t found that a problem in recent years. Indeed, as long as you are in an area that is clearly served by 3, the chances are you will have really good internet connectivity. The virtue of using 3 is that you’re using a network that was, by and large, constructed for the purposes of delivering large amounts of data to you. Unlike the other networks who had to retrofit the whole ‘data’ thing across their network.
A slight geek point: You can actually take the cover off the E5372. This is rather important if you’re planning on some continuous heavy data usage — just pick up a and charge a few batteries to give you round-the-clock usage when you’re in the middle of nowhere, miles from an electricity socket.
Of course, 3’s data network is now even faster and the E5372 is 4G-compatible. Which, of course, you aren’t going to be charged extra for.
When it comes to costs, the E5372 is very reasonable. It’s not the cheapest I’ve ever seen from 3, but then again it’s a quality unit with a big battery. There are a load of standard price plans to choose from. If you don’t have a MiFi in your arsenal, then you might consider the 24-month £10.87 contract. Yes it’s two years but it’s also a tenner a month. That gives you a 1GB allowance per month. Now that isn’t much if you’re going to stream a 600mb Game of Thrones episode, however it’s perfect as a backup data connection. I keep a number of MiFis in my back, for instance, just in case. And inevitably, at some point through the month I’ll need them (or, more often than not, someone I’m with needs a data connection and wasn’t organised enough to have their own backup MiFi.)
If you’re looking for some serious data allowances then double the rate (£23.16) per month for two years will beef up the allowance to a whopping 15GB (plus an up-front £49.99).
For those who don’t want the long term commitment, you can pick up an entirely reasonable 10GB per month deal, on a month-to-month contract, for £21.27 per month, provided you pay the up-front £79.99.
Or, you can pay-as-you-go. This is what I used to do a LOT when I worked at Reed Exhibitions and was faced by the unexpected arrival of a senior executive from an international division in town for a few days and wanting data connectivity. I would pop down to the local 3 store and pick-up a PAYG MiFi for them. You can get the E5372 for £99.99 which includes 3GB of data, valid for 3 months.
So if you’re looking for a workhorse MiFi unit, do check out the 3 Huawei E5372.
Note: Researched, authored and published at approximately 80mph on the 831 to London Waterloo, using the Huawei E5372 on 3.