Mobile broadband for home usage in the UK

I've recently moved into our own home (yeah!) but found myself with no timeline yet on when I can get home broadband :-( The situation is that Openreach has an open order on our new phone/ADSL line so can't do anything for quite a few weeks, until then - and that particular order is probably a cancellation!! It is a peculiar situation in that it would have been quicker if the previous owners hadn't done the right thing and then we could have "taken over" the line. No ISP is interested in the line until then even though I can show we legally own the house. So I've decided to document how I kept working and kept our sanity.

Firstly my requirements were that needed a fair bit of bandwidth as we have three heavy Internet users in the house and many devices, and that we don't get hit with massive bills if we go over any cap. I looked at pure pay as you go devices but the cost per GB worked out at about £5 per GB. Nasty! So for the main bandwidth I went with Three on the MiFi - Huawei E586. This gives 15 GB per month on a 24 month contract for £18.99 - £15.99 for the bandwidth and £3 for the device. I know Three has a bad reputation for some people due to poor initial coverage at launch but they have been brilliant for me in the past - used them for a dongle when we first moved to the UK and were the only ones who would give me a contract on the spot at the time. Again this time I went to a Three shop and they sorted it all out for me instantly.

This was working well and decent speed (6 Mbits down, 3 Mbits up) but is getting used up fairly quickly. I had turned off WiFi for phones and iPads that had data on, but the gaming / YouTube etc takes it's toll. One thing to note is that you can get the bill capped on these as well so that you don't get a nasty bill once you hit the 15 GB. You do have to tell them this though, and they don't guarantee it will work if their bandwidth site is down (which it has done a couple of times) so I will turn the device off when it gets close to the 15 GB each month.

I then went looking for a pay as you go option that was reasonably priced and I settled on T-Mobile. They are unique in that you pay per time period and that if you go over the amount of allocated bandwidth then they just slow down your connection and not allow videos or downloads. The data allowances / days are £2 for 1 day and 250 MB, £7 for 1 week and 500 MB or £15 for 1 month and 1GB. I figure that this will work fine for the short time when the allowance on Three has run out during the month. One useful thing T-Mobile do is graphics compression which reduces your bandwidth use. If you don't like it you can always turn it off at http://www.accelerator.t-mobile.co.uk/. I did have a bit of  problem getting the T-Mobile connection going. I paid £25 for a Huawei E3131 including £10 topup. They didn't apply the topup to my SIM and it was not working. I rang them up and they said they would correct and activate. In the meantime I decided to test it on a Zoom 4501 3G router that I had lying around to see if this would tell me the status of the card. Unfortunately the data stick stopped working altogether at that time. This then made me think back a few weeks ago when my work Vodafone data stick stopped working and funnily enough I had tried to test this as well... On the Zoom you plug the USB data stick into a USB port and it shares out the connection. This is great in theory and I have used it a fair bit in the past. But it now has developed a fault and has destroyed two USB data sticks so I would say stay away from it...

After breaking the new Huawei data stick I put the Micro SIM into the only phone I had that took a Micro SIM - a Nokia 800 and it worked for receiving text messages, but not for Internet. The phone had previously been used for Vodafone. None of the "download automatic settings" seemed to work for the phone, so had a hunt around on the Internet and just went and put in an APN of general.t-mobile.uk - note the lack of .co in the middle as some websites had this wrong and having it wrong doesn't work..

Having said all this I will be very happy to go back to Sky Broadband when I can for £10 per month. Will be even better when they roll out fibre here.. I have used Virgin before but found they "managed / shaped" the traffic a lot and this interfered with gaming. I also can't get it at this house anyway...

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