Three is into mobile broadband in a big way, offering 18 different 18-month plans - three levels of usage and six dongles. And that's before you consider the seven pay-as-you-go and 12 'free' laptop packages.

We chose Broadband Lite - a 18 £10 monthly payments gets you one of six dongles, and 1GB of data a month at up to 2.8Mbps. Bust the allowance and pay 10p for every megabyte thereafter. Upgrading to 5GB costs an extra fiver, and a 15GB limit is £30 a month.

We chose the Huawei E220 dongle - it was the only one in the shop - and after a credit check were on our way, broadband-enabled in 20 minutes.

A lightweight plastic lozenge, the Huawei looks different to other 3G dongles. The Huawei requires a male-to-female USB cable to connect, but Three provides two cables of different lengths and in tight spaces its relatively light footprint is a bonus.

The Huawei E220 is compatible with Windows 2000, XP and Vista. Installation and use is a cinch - slip in the SIM, attach the dongle and let your PC do the rest. The interface is simple to use, providing valuable information about how much data you've sent and received (full details are available online). You can send SMS messages and, unlike O2, Three doesn't attempt to take over your PC's wireless networking. That does mean, however, that you can't use the Three dongle's software to pick and choose between 3G or traditional wireless connectivity.

Three's 3G coverage is good (as well it might be given its name). While roaming throughout London, the midlands and deepest darkest Kent, we had only one 'blackout' - and that solved via the simple expedient of moving from the kitchen to the dining room.

See also:

Orange Mobile Broadband review

Vodafone USB Modem Stick review

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Deal of the week: Mobile broadband dongle for £10/month

PC Advisor has teamed up with Broadband Genie to launch a free mobile broadband price comparison service. Check out the latest deals from the likes of 3 and T-Mobile, both of which are currently offering mobile broadband dongles for £10/month with free setup.

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Three Broadband Lite: Specs

  • USB modem
  • 89.4x42.6x14.5mm
  • Upload 384 Kbps, download 3.6 Mbps
  • 3G/HSDPA/GPRS coverage
  • requires Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Apple Macintosh 10.4/10.5
  • USB modem
  • 89.4x42.6x14.5mm
  • Upload 384 Kbps, download 3.6 Mbps
  • 3G/HSDPA/GPRS coverage
  • requires Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Apple Macintosh 10.4/10.5

OUR VERDICT

Reasonably priced, with solid coverage and a good selection of easy-to-use dongles, Three is indeed a magic number.

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