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Orange Mobile Broadband Review

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Best Mobile Broadband Editor Chris High orders Orange Mobile Broadband online and sees how good it is ...

Overall Rating for Orange Mobile Broadband and Conclusion: 9/10

I have been impressed by Orange Mobile Broadband. In the testing performed so far it has shown it can provide a very usable internet connection. At its best, the experience isn't too far away from a fast home broadband connection. I am perhaps being a little unfair to the other networks in this test, as I did choose to upgrade to Orange's Option 515m modem, which is their premium modem with a better antenna. To make this testing comprehensive, I would like to do some testing in major cities, just to check that network capacity is not being stressed. However, for smaller cities and towns, I can say that Orange looks to be a good option, with the fastest broadband speed obtained being 3.04 Mb/s. The only really slow result I got, of 0.09 Mb/s, was out in the rural countryside, which can be forgiven as other providers don't work well in such locations either.

It's a shame that the Orange website has a major usability issue, as outlined below, which can't be helping them sell the product. The Orange connection software is clear and easy to use, and registering for the additional online account manager was easy. On the basis of my testing so far, if I had to choose only one modem to keep, it would be the Orange Option 515m, but then it is their premium modem.

Ease of Ordering: 6/10

USB Modem Ordered: Option 515m Dongle £49.99
Date of Order: Sun 16 May 2010
Delivery Cost: £3.99
Total Cost: £53.98
Monthly cost: £10

In this test I wanted to order Pay As You Go mobile broadband where possible, but Orange does not offer this, so I had to order their monthly recurring plan which for £10 per month offers 1GB of monthly data. I also decided to upgrade to their high-performance modem, the Orange Option 515m dongle, which was £20 more expensive than their standard dongle. This is perhaps a little unfair on the other mobile broadband providers, where I bought their standard modems, but I did so in this case because the premium modem was quite affordable, and I wanted to see how much better it might be.

I had to mark the Orange website down in terms of usability because of the animated pop up layers they're using to display key products on their site, as shown below. When you click on the "find out more" link given, it changes the content being shown within the page below it, which is largely off the screen. The problem is that it's extremely easy to miss the fact that the content below has changed, and you just think the link is not working.

The checkout process is clear and I did not encounter any problems.  It's good to see they confirm the e-mail address, open the Terms and Conditions in a separate window for convenience, and are using Mastercard Secure Code and Verified by Visa.

Note that delivery was an additional £3.99 charge, whereas some other providers deliver free.

Orange Mobile Broadband Order Delivery: 9/10

Date of Arrival: Tues 18 May 2010
Time Taken for Delivery: 2 Days
Delivery Firm: dpd.co.uk Express Parcel Delivery

The modem arrived quickly and was accompanied by a simple Delivery Note.


Orange Mobile Broadband Ease of Set Up: 7/10

Initially I was looking for a user guide, but there's just a short Quick Start Guide on the reverse of the card slip that is the back of the packaging. A separate user guide would be better. Installing the SIM card and 8GB microSD card was easy enough, although the guide diagrams were a little on the small side and could be clearer. Once the dongle had been inserted into my laptop, it installed smoothly, and the Orange Internet Everywhere software was up and running, telling me it had a 3G signal and was ready to connect. The modem itself had a blinking blue light, indicative of a UMTS/HSPA connection, so I clicked on the Connect button and it attempted a connection. Unfortunately, connection failed, and there was no explanation from the software as to why. Whilst not particularly obvious, referring back to the Delivery Note referred to phones being delivered with a security bar in place, so assuming the same was true of modems, I gave customer services a ring. Indeed you are required to remove the security bar from modems, so after answering the security questions I was told to remove the SIM card from the modem, wait 15 minutes and then try to connect again.

After 15 minutes I was able to connect, and the interface showed the connection as alternating between 3G and 3G+. Initial impressions were good, with this feeling like the fastest mobile broadband I've used to date.

Orange Mobile Broadband Ease of Account Management: 9/10

For the other mobile broadband providers I'm rating them for Ease of Top Up, but since Pay As You Go isn't available on Orange, I'm rating it for ease of account management instead.

I found it fairly easy to set up the Online Orange account to accompany my new mobile broadband service. You have to type in your modem's number online, and you're then sent a validation text message which you pick up using the mobile broadband SMS client. Once you've done the validation, you have to enter your account number to finish the process. This was the only slight difficulty I had, tracking down my account number. It's actually given in the middle of the standing order confirmation, but I'm more used to looking in the invoice header to find account numbers. This was only a mild inconvenience and was quickly resolved. Once you're logged in to your online account, you can check your data usage. To do this you have to use the "view the balance of your bundles" link, and this could perhaps be made clearer. Overall, getting the online account management working was straightforward so I've scored it highly, and below you see the data usage screen:

Orange Mobile Broadband Connection Software Usability: 10/10

The Orange connection software is simply laid out and very easy to use. As well as having an icon, each function is clearly labelled, which is good as you don't have to play "guess what the icon means". I don't have any complaints about the Orange software, so I had to give it full marks.

In the usage screen there is a usage limit function, where you can set data usage limits for in the UK and for when roaming. Whilst we haven't tested this,is should be useful if you intend to use the mobile broadband abroad, where roaming onto other networks can be expensive.

Orange Mobile Broadband Performance: 8/10

Fastest mobile broadband speed obtained so far: 3.04 Mb/s Download.
Slowest mobile broadband speed obtained so far: 0.09 Mb/s Download.
Average broadband speed from testing so far: 1.65 Mb/s, based on 8 results.

To test mobile broadband performance, I tried to use Orange mobile broadband at a number of locations, and at different times and days of the week, as time of use can make a major difference to performance. At the end of this review I list all the test results, so that you can see the kind of mobile broadband speeds possible.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the connection performance. This was Orange's premium modem being tested, and it did a good job of providing a usable internet connection. If I was told I could only keep one of the providers' modems used in this test, it would be the Orange one, although a greater number of tests would probably be a good idea before making my final decision. With Orange I found it was easy to forget that I was using mobile broadband rather than my fast home broadband connection. The "lag" that can be an issue with mobile broadband connections was not that noticeable with Orange.

The slowest test result was 0.09 Mb/s, but this was in a rural area of the Wiltshire countryside, and all mobile broadband services are often slow in such locations, as 3G is not available. When I tested in town locations, performance was good. What's missing from the testing so far is a few tests in densely populated cities. Whilst cities are usually good for coverage, i.e. have the best type of signal available, they can sometimes suffer from network capacity issues. When I'm next in a big city I hope to add some further test results. However, on the basis of my tests so far, Orange is looking good for smaller cities and towns, just make sure you have used the coverage checker before buying to see if you are likely to be in a good coverage area.

Orange Mobile Broadband Value for Money: 7/10

I wanted to test Pay As You Go mobile broadband on this test, but the closest you can currently get with Orange is a one monthly rolling contract for £10 per month, for which you get 1GB of monthly data. That's the equivalent of some of the Pay As You Go data rates from other providers. However, you're only going to get maximum value for money if you will consistently use 1GB of data each month. If you are only going to be an occasional mobile broadband user, then a Pay As You Go service from another provider can be better value for money, so that's why I've had to mark it down slightly. If it's a Pay Monthly contract you want, then Orange costs are similar to those of other providers.

Orange Mobile Broadband Speed Test Results

Location: Lymington Quay, Hampshire, SO41 3AS (Indoors)
Coverage Map Shows: Excellent Coverage Area
Connection Software Shows Connection Type As: Alternates between 3G and 3G+
Speed test results at 16:32 on 29 May 2010:
1.41 Mb/s Download
0.35 Mb/s Upload
177 ms Ping
Possible to browse simple web pages? Yes.
YouTube Streaming Performance: Good. All videos tried streamed without any delays.
Number of disconnections during 1h 11m test period: None.

Location: Swallowmead, Salisbury, SP2 8JD (In the car)
Coverage Map Shows: Coverage between very good and excellent
Connection Software Shows Connection Type As: 3G
Speed test results at 16:51 on 2 June 2010:
0.73 Mb/s Download
0.28 Mb/s Upload
416 ms Ping
Possible To Browse Simple Web Pages? Yes.
YouTube Streaming Performance: Fine.
Disconnections during test: None.

Location: Codford St Peter, in the countryside near Salisbury, in the car.
Coverage Map Shows: Good coverage area.
Connection Software Shows Connection Type As: E
Speed test results at 20:50 on 2 June 2010:
Download: 0.09 Mb/s
Upload: 0.07 Mb/s
Ping: 549 ms
Possible To Browse Simple Web Pages? Yes.
YouTube Streaming Performance: No streaming.
Disconnections During Test: None

Location: Waitrose Car Park, Salisbury, SP2 7TS, in the car.
Coverage Map Shows: Excellent coverage area.
Connection Software Shows Connection Type As: 3G
Speed test results at 12.05pm on Weds 9 June 2010:
Download: 1.20 Mb/s
Upload: 0.31 Mb/s
Ping: 307 ms
Possible To Browse Simple Web Pages? Yes.
YouTube Streaming Performance: No streaming.
Disconnections During Test: None

Location: Southampton University Avenue Campus, SO17 1BF, Indoors.
Coverage Map Shows: Very good coverage area.
Connection Software Shows Connection Type As: 3G+
Speed test results at 18.40 on Sat 19 June 2010:
Download: 2.36 Mb/s
Upload: 1.21 Mb/s
Ping: 190 ms
Possible To Browse Simple Web Pages? Yes.
YouTube Streaming Performance: Good.
Disconnections During Test: None

Location: Southampton University Avenue Campus, SO17 1BF, Indoors.
Coverage Map Shows: Very good coverage area.
Connection Software Shows Connection Type As: 3G+
Speed test results at 18.50 on Sat 19 June 2010:
Download: 2.79 Mb/s
Upload: 0.65 Mb/s
Ping: 213 ms
Possible To Browse Simple Web Pages? Yes.
YouTube Streaming Performance: Good.
Disconnections During Test: None

Location: Lymington Quay, Hampshire, SO41 3AS (Indoors)
Coverage Map Shows: Excellent Coverage Area
Connection Software Shows Connection Type As: Alternates between 3G and 3G+
Speed test results at 16.11 on Mon 12 Jul 2010:
3.04 Mb/s Download
0.34 Mb/s Upload
406 ms Ping
Possible to browse simple web pages? Yes.
YouTube Streaming Performance: Good streaming, no pauses.
Number of disconnections during test period: None.

Location: Lymington Quay, Hampshire, SO41 3AS (Indoors)
Coverage Map Shows: Excellent Coverage Area
Connection Software Shows Connection Type As: Alternates between 3G and 3G+
Speed test results at 16.16 on Mon 12 Jul 2010:
1.61 Mb/s Download
0.35 Mb/s Upload
181 ms Ping
Possible to browse simple web pages? Yes.
YouTube Streaming Performance: Good streaming, no pauses.
Number of disconnections during test period: None.