I’ve been using mobile broadband for some time. I live in the UK. First of all I used Vodafone’s network, but soon got rid of that as Vodafone charged £10 per GB of data transferred (note: that’s per GB transferred, not per GB downloaded)… it worked out as very expensive. Eventually I switched to 3 (another UK mobile phone/mobile broadband service provider) that charged £15 per GB transferred. Still pricey, but a lot cheaper than Vodafone.
Problem with the dongles is, they are plastic sticks that stick some 7cm out the side of your laptop, and are held in place by the vulnerable USB plug. Laptops are portable devices, often moved around etc, and if the dongle hits something that vulnerable USB plug can easily break. A while ago I suggested to 3’s Twitter account (@ThreeUKSupport) that they should use a different design; eg. a “L” shaped dongle that wouldn’t involve 7cm of plastic sticking out the side of a device putting undue stress on the USB plug (after all the USB plug is designed as a plug, not a strong physical connection). But 3 weren’t at all helpful on this, stating that they had no plans to use a redesigned dongle. Of course, 3 aren’t the only culprits – as far as I can tell all the mobile broadband providers use the stupid vulnerable design. But does that make it right? Of course not! (There are less vulnerable devices available, such as the MiFi routers, but they are not so mainstream and are more expensive than the dongles.)
Anyway, my 3 dongle got damaged – it hit something, the weak USB plug got bent, and now the dongle doesn’t work. I have prepaid credit on the dongle which I can’t use! What to do? I’ve got in touch with 3 on Twitter again, and am still waiting for a response. And what are they going to do? I hate to think. It’d be nice if they gave me a new dongle, maybe with extra credit to make up for my trouble (after all I did warn them about this possibility). But what do you think? Will @ThreeUKSupport be nice? Or will it be a case of TSB (Tough Sh*t Baby)? I hope for the best but expect the worst.
So, what should you do if you need mobile broadband? One solution is to wirelessly tether a smartphone (or tether by wire a 3G “dumbphone”, something I did for a while when I owned a 3G dumbphone). But to tether a smartphone you have to jail-break it. Which voids warranties. Or buy a MiFi router… not as affordable as a dongle. You could creep about with your laptop, taking extra care not to knock the dongle into anything… but is that paranoia how you want to live? No, me neither. And now they’re rolling out 4G mobile internet devices, they have to take care of their customers better.
We all need to contact our service providers, demanding redesigned, possibly L-shaped dongles (I did that, but my lone voice had no effect… maybe if we all hassled them, maybe they would do something). 3’s Twitter account for customer services is @ThreeUKSupport. Get onto them! We need redesigned dongles or more affordable MiFis. Come on, let’s tell ’em what we think! Surely I’m not the only user to have accidentally trashed his dongle. Am I?
UPDATE 18:37 UST: Well whaddaya know! I was right to expect the worst! Customer goodwill is worthless as far as 3 are concerned. I broke their idiotically-designed dongle, with £15 credit on it. Their answer? “Tough Sh*t Baby”. They want me to buy a new one! Bastards…