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3.5G comes to the UK

Courtesy of Vodafone

After trials run by Vodafone showed that users actually preferred it to Wi-Fi, the company will launch its HSDPA - or 3.5G - service in the UK tomorrow.

With a 1.4 Mbps (megabits per second) download speed, Vodafone is calling this '3G broadband', but HSDPA is known as 3.5G or Super-3G.

From tomorrow, the company will sell data cards and users can buy HSDPA laptops from Dell (which has started taking orders), Acer and Lenovo, or share their fast link using a 3G broadband router from Vodafone that lets multiple users connect via 802.11g wireless to the same 3G link.

Rivals T-Mobile, Orange and O2 have all recently released products using the technology, although not all in the UK.

In Vodafone's trials earlier this year, 73 percent of users said they preferred "3G broadband" to Wi-Fi, and 85 percent said they would use it instead of hotel-provided broadband.

The prices will be £25 plus VAT per month for 250MB, or £45 per month for "unlimited" use - where "unlimited" means Vodafone will probably charge you more if you use more than a "fair use" limit of 1GB per month. Cards cost £99 on the 250MB plan, or £49 on the not-quite-unlimited plan.

The service will be available in the M25 area, as well as Glasgow, Sheffield, Greater Manchester and Tyneside - outside of those areas, laptops will fall back to 3G or GPRS speeds.

All of Vodafone's 3G coverage should have HSDPA by summer 2007, the company promised. Users can roam to Vodafone's HSDPA network in Austria, France, Germany (where it launched in March), Portugal, Spain and Hong Kong.

Vodafone claims to have 80 percent of the business market for 3G data cards in the UK.

"The speeds that HSDPA can deliver under real-life operating conditions will significantly improve the mobile working experience, enabling mobile workers to do things more quickly and easily," said John Delaney, principal analyst with Ovum.

Existing 3G users can upgrade by contacting Vodafone.

This story first appeared on Techworld.com

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