3 is claiming to have the biggest 3G network, which if it is true won't stay true for long. Orange made the same claim for itself based on its population coverage, but advertised it a way that (as the Advertising Standards Authority decreed) could be misinterpreted to mean geographic coverage. 3's claim covers both angles, and …
T-Mobile & Orange
I'm afraid Orange are only sharing 2G coverage with T-Mobile at the minute.
Which is Irritating as I have seldom have 3G with T-Mobile in Belfast (on the motorway is not a particularly useful location either).
However it has cleared up a couple of irritating 2G blind spots which I was suffering
I have had a Voda dongle for 3+ years now. While coverage in London and other cities has improved the coverage along the railway lines where I need it most is still next to inexistent.
Out of 45 minutes on Cambridge to Kings Cross for 20 or so there is no coverage at all, 15 are 2 G only and proper 3G coverage for only the remaining 10 or so. Out of 120 minutes on Cambridge to Liverpool street and Cambridge to Peterborough are even worse. East Coast mainline is a similar joke - there is little or no coverage along most of it.
O2 is not any better. They deployed Edge for sake of iPhone mark 1 and stayed there. Their 3G network is nowhere to be seen. I have seen my Nokia E71 on 3G data only a couple of times in the UK while in 5th world ex-soviet block backwater it regularly cruises at the max speed it can do (the lowest notch of HSDPA).
It is spelled MOBILITY for Christ sake. It is there so people can use data while MOBILE. That means covering main routes for public transport so people can use it. I could not care less how many towers you have along the London skyline in augmented reality or not. I do care however how many towers you have along the east coast mainline as on this depend can I get some work done or not.
While 3 has gaps it clearly looks like one of the best options out there at the moment. I am definitely going to cancel the Voda contract and go 3 for my modem. If it is better than O2 or Voda (as I expect) I will move the rest of the mobile data in the household as well.
It won't work very well along railway lines...
...as it is too fast to pick up a decent signal.
You will to wait for the rolling stock to introduce wi-fi.
3G coverage seems pretty good
I bought a 3 MiFi dongle (OK it's a rubbish name but it's a cool little device) and I was a little unsure what the 3 coverage would be like, especially in the fairly small town just outside the Yorkshire Dales where I live.
My experience has been very good. Coverage in major population centres has been just as good as Vodafone (which was also pretty decent) but I get a superb signal at home and easily get 5Mbps, which is perfectly acceptable.
For a measly £50 for the device and £15 pcm (on a rolling one month contract) for 5GB, I think I am getting an excellent deal (and no, I have no connection with 3 apart from being a satisfied customer).
Hmm, Layar overlay then....
....but only for 3 shop staff?
What's wrong with making it available so that anyone can have a look and see what base stations are about, and also how about the other operators doing the same?
...because you will probably find the data is incorrect or not up to date.
Phone geeks are notorious for reporting this and like they are ravenous over phones and every single spec.
Will I now be able to get a decent Three signal at home?
I live in a small town (10,000 people), which has just one Three mast. This wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't for the fact that 3g cells "breathe in" when traffic is high. So, at peak times, those of us further from the mast lose all signal. 3am I can get 6-7mbps sustained downloads, 9pm I can't even send a text. They seem to have sized the mast so they only need one to cover the whole town from the centre, but the problem is this doesn't work with dynamically-sized cells.
Other than that I'm pretty happy with Three.
even bigger question
Will their network connect your mobile phone to a home phone more than 50% of the time and not leave you listening to dead air while the other partys phone rings and then gives them dead air...
That's the reason I swapped back to Orange (on the same sim free handset) and I've had no problems since....
Maybe you are on one of the Virgin voyager or Pendelino trains? If so they have special windows that eliminate radio signals. Orange have installed boosters in the trains to overcome the problem - so you might want to switch if that is the problem.
On other train lines with normal train windows and other high mobility situations, you might fare better switching the dongle to 3G only. Trouble is with dual mode it takes ages to realise and switch to/from 2G.
Also I run the dongle on a short USB extension lead and dangle it near the window. This has two benefits - it gets it away from (radio) noise generated by the laptop, and boosts coverage level being in window.
With radio, as scottie used to say - "ye cannie change the laws of physics captain"!
3 in NI
Three definitely has the best 3G coverage in Northern Ireland from all of North Down and Belfast up to Ballymena, and up to Londonderry. Also has coverage in town centres, e.g. Newry, Enniskillen, Omagh, Dungannon, Ballycastle, Coleraine but it's the country coverage that makes the difference...
I just wish that Mid County Down was covered with 3G as 2G is so slow for data.
I used to use 3 for all my internet access, it used to work great and because it was an older style modem it worked fine on Linux too.
Recently though, their DNS servers have been crap and hardly ever work.
I've since switched to Vodafone which somehow always manages to keep a connection even with terrible signal (1 bar).
Vodafone have been FAR more reliable, and you can even play World of Warcraft on it too.
I'm still keeping both dongles around because mobile broadband is far too useful if your home DSL is down or when you just feel like taking the laptop down the park or something.
If you use the Pay as you Go versions (like I do), you pay something like £15 per 3GB - best part is that you can never go over your allowance so no nasty large bills.
I've also got a Three MiFi. I've been bouncing round the country a bit recently, and not had any problems with Three coverage anywhere I've been. It even worked (just about) in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in South Wales where I expected to have nothing, and also now works in my flat in Altrincham where it never used to.
I happily live off the MiFi when I'm travelling for work now, I don't even try the hotel WiFi any more.
I can't really say anything bad about Three's network. O2's is awful and I've heard some bad tails about Orange, but the key with Three is that when you have good 3G you get decent throughput.
Compared to O2 on even the best day, Three is superfast!