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O2 Mobile Broadband Review

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Best Mobile Broadband Editor Chris High orders O2 Pay As You Go Mobile Broadband and gives it a workout ...

Overall Rating for O2 Mobile Broadband and Conclusion: 7/10

I found O2 Mobile Broadband easy to setup and usability was good. A special mention goes to the setup manual included with the product which was particularly clear. The TopUp process was also extremely easy. In this testing I found O2 to offer a respectable mobile broadband connection that was good for general web browsing and video streaming. However, in terms of outright broadband speeds offered, other networks have recorded better results, and the fact that O2 is one of the networks that does not allow VOIP means it cannot be the market leader for value for money. That said, the O2 Pay As You Go mobile broadband product is a cheap and easy way to get online for those needing just a web browsing service.

O2 Mobile Broadband Ease of Ordering: 10/10

USB Modem Ordered: O2 MF100 Black USB Modem £9.99
Date Ordered: Friday 14 May 2010
Total Cost: £9.99

The ordering process was very easy, I can't really fault it.  Every step was logical and clearly set out.  The Terms and Conditions open in a separate window, which is the best way in my opinion.  As expected of a big company, Mastercard Secure Code is operational on their site for additional card security.

O2 Pay As You Go Mobile Broadband Box Contents

O2 Mobile Broadband Order Delivery: 10/10

Date of Arrival: Monday 17 May 2010
Time Taken for Order to Arrive: 3 Days (but this was over a weekend)
Delivery Firm: Europack UK Omega Standard

Delivery was effected swiftly over the weekend and a simple delivery note was provided, so no complaints here.

O2 Mobile Broadband Ease of Setup: 10/10

The O2 mobile broadband dongle was straight forward to install. The accompanying user guide booklet was excellent, I found it gave very clear instructions and was well laid out.

O2 Mobile Broadband Ease of Top Up: 10/10

I found this extremely easy to do. There's an easy to find "Buy Access" button from the home screen of the connection software, and the TopUp page was clearly laid out.

O2 Mobile Broadband Software Usability: 8/10

The O2 Connection Manager software feels quite polished. However, where it gives icons for selecting functionality, I would prefer to see text descriptions visible as well to improve usability, not just appearing when you mouseover. The signal strength indicator is a little unconventional, curving round above the connect/disconnect button, and displaying the signal strength with a light blue bar. In areas of low signal, where no light blue bar is being displayed, you might not realise there is a signal strength indicator. Overall, O2 has gone for a "high design" interface, perhaps sacrificing a little usability in the process. However, the key functionality is easy to access.

Pictured Below: The O2 Connection Manager Interface. As well as connecting to the O2 Mobile Broadband service, this is also able to connect to your home broadband Wi-Fi and public Wi-Fi hotspots such as BT Openzone Wi-Fi hotspots.

Pictured Below: The O2 Connection Manager showing the various networks available in the locality. The mobile broadband service is given as O2-UK.

Pictured Below: The O2 Mobile Broadband SMS Client.

O2 Mobile Broadband SMS Client

O2 Mobile Broadband Connection Performance: 7/10

Fastest Broadband Speed Obtained: 0.41 Mb/s
Slowest Broadband Speed Obtained: 0.02 Mb/s
Average Broadband Speed: 0.30 Mb/s, based on 7 results.

In the limited amount of testing that I've performed so far, O2 Mobile Broadband was giving an average connection speed of 0.30 Mb/s, which was much lower than some of its competitors, e.g. Orange had an average of 1.65 Mb/s. How much of an issue this is is open to question, as the connection speed was almost always fast enough to offer good web browsing and to stream videos from YouTube. The one really slow result of 0.02 Mb/s we got could be attributed to test location, which was at the bottom of a steep hill, usually not ideal for line of signal to the local phone mast. This explanation was supported by the fact that connection speed was greatly improved when we moved from the first to the second floor of the building. If you are going to be using O2 Mobile Broadband for a lot of downloading, then the slower speed than some its competitors may be more of a factor, so we've marked it down a bit for this.

What we can say from this testing so far is that O2 Mobile Broadband is capable of giving a useful mobile internet connection in cities in towns. However, we haven't yet done any testing at peak times in densely populated cities to see how well O2 copes with this scenario, and we hope to add such tests down the line. All broadband speed tests carried out have been detailed at the bottom of this review.

O2 Mobile Broadband Value for Money: 7/10

For those that are only going to use mobile broadband occasionally, O2 Pay As You Go mobile broadband is a good choice, as they have a daily pricing plan which will be very cost effective. When I bought my O2 USB modem, it was only £9.99, which means you can get up and running with the service very cheaply. However, the modem price has since gone back up to £19.99, but it's still good value for money.

When it comes to mobile broadband contracts, O2 offers pricing typical for the marketplace, that is 1GB of monthly data for £10 per month and 3GB of monthly data for £15 per month, with free mobile broadband deals available for the first three months. However, if you are a fan of VOIP calling and Skype, which O2 does not allow, you can find better value on the 3 Network, which does allow these services. That's the main reason why we've had to mark O2 down slightly for value for money.

O2 Mobile Broadband Speed Test Results

Location: Waitrose Salisbury Car Park, SP2 7TS (Inside Car)
O2 Coverage Checker Says: HSDPA Coverage.
Connection Software Shows Connection Type As: Signal Strength 40% Low.
Speed test results at 11.49 on Weds 9 June 2010
0.37 Mb/s Download
0.30 Mb/s Upload
141 ms Ping
YouTube Streaming Performance: Good.
Disconnections during test: None.
Note: Unable to connect to O2 Wi-Fi, which showed signal strength as low.

Location: Lymington Quay, Hampshire, SO41 3AS, Indoors, 1st Floor
O2 Coverage Checker Says: HSDPA Coverage.
Connection Software Shows Connection Type As: EDGE
Speed test results at 18.52 on Weds 9 June 2010
0.02 Mb/s Download
0.02 Mb/s Upload
1095 ms Ping
Web Page Browsing: Very slow.
YouTube Streaming Performance: No meaningful performance, you have to wait minutes just for a few seconds of streaming.
Disconnections during test: None.

Location: Lymington Quay, Hampshire, SO41 3AS, Indoors, 2nd Floor
O2 Coverage Checker Says: HSDPA Coverage.
Connection Software Shows Connection Type As: EDGE
Speed test results at 19.11 on Weds 9 June 2010
0.21 Mb/s Download
0.27 Mb/s Upload
248 ms Ping
Web Page Browsing: Fine.
YouTube Streaming Performance: Fine.
Disconnections during test: None.

Location: Tesco Car Park, Lymington, SO41 9AP, In Car
O2 Coverage Checker Says: HSDPA Coverage.
Connection Type Shown As: 3G
Speed test results at 20.42 on Weds 9 June 2010
0.34 Mb/s Download
0.32 Mb/s Upload
217 ms Ping
Web Page Browsing: Good.
YouTube Streaming: Good.
Disconnections During Test: None.

Location: Lymington Hospital Car Park, SO41 8QD, In Car
O2 Coverage Checker Says: HSDPA Coverage.
Connection Type Shown As: HSDPA then 3G
Speed test results at 21.24 on Weds 9 June 2010
0.37 Mb/s Download
0.28 Mb/s Upload
198 ms Ping
Web Browsing: Good.
YouTube Streaming: Good.

Location: Southampton University Avenue Campus, SO17 1BF, Indoors
O2 Coverage Checker Says: HSDPA Coverage.
Connection Type Shown As: HSDPA, low signal strength.
Speed test results at 19.27 on Sat 19 June 2010
0.37 Mb/s Download
0.05 Mb/s Upload
134 ms Ping
Web Browsing: Good.
YouTube Streaming: Good.

Location: Southampton University Avenue Campus, SO17 1BF, Indoors
O2 Coverage Checker Says: HSDPA Coverage.
Connection Type Shown As: HSDPA, low signal strength.
Speed test results at 19.32 on Sat 19 June 2010
0.41 Mb/s Download
0.10 Mb/s Upload
114 ms Ping
Web Browsing: Good.
YouTube Streaming: Good.