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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The dongle revolution

Had to carv on the stick to get it to fit.
Had to carv on the stick to get it to fit.
Nicely in the Macbook air slot.
Nicely in the Macbook air slot.

Ready to compute anywhere where there is a desk or chair.
Ready to compute anywhere where there is a desk or chair.

For the first time in the history of mobiles the industry has cracked a key problem: selling more than one thing to users. Welcome to the dongle revolution, the real growth of mobile data. The Dongle is the familiar term of a 3G USB modem. Dongles come in key two sizes: matchbox and gum packet size. The small command a premium. I hope the manufacturers primarily Huawei understand to start segmenting the dongles. Learn from the past, give us colour covers, dongles with storage other nifty functionality. TV was introduced recently good move. After some research I picked 3’s very price competitive and stylish offer. This is one offer I use in UK. They offer free roaming in their own networks. Installing the 3 dongle was a breeze on my Macbook Air, I was online in about 2 minutes from out of box. It was a bit tight to fit into the Air usb, so I carved a bit on the cover on the modem and that did the trick. I typically get around 512kbps adequate for rich surfing and voice Skype, but not enough for decent Skype video. On the train to Oxford, last week, it was clearly slower, but I got the job done. I do not think it can be seen as a replacement for fixed broadband. In general I think 3 has again managed to package up an offer of real value. I earlier blogged about the Skypephone, which I really like. In Sweden 430.000 dongles were sold in 2007. Rumours from operators in UK is that they cannot get enough of them. I see no reason that this market would not explode. Small cheap dongles + Flatfee + good networks + advertising will fuel this business into meaningful growth. In Indonesia there are reports that there are now more mobile broadband users than fixed broadband users. Long time ago Indonesia was the number one texting country and one of the ones with highest smart phone penetration, so if history teaches us anything follow Indonesia. I have gone through the mobile offers in UK and Finland the market where I spend most time. In UK it is that 3 has the most consumer friendly offer. Vodafone sells on speed, which to me is dumb, as speed on mobile broadband will be a disappointment, as consumers can only compare it to fixed and it will be slower than office Wi-Fi or home Wi-Fi. Does Vodafone think we consumers are morons? I simply do not see how they can win with that proposition. I suspect Vodafone is having the best network. Vodafone is the only one offering a roaming package, but I still think it is too expensive. It is more expensive than hotel use model, meaning you use free Wi-Fi around town and then get the Wi-Fi at the hotel. T-Mobile, who did such a good job with the Web ‘n’ walk Max but their offer is offputting: too much for too little, I would steer clear of them. O2 came out with an offer including Cloud Wi-Fi roaming last week, but only for existing customers. My favourite offer of mobile broadband comes from Elisa in Finland, who offer 384kb for €9.90 per month for a 18m contract. True unlimited, with a fair use ‘speed reduction’ for abuse. This sounds cool to me, you do not loose the right to use it, you only loose speed if you are abusing it. Here is what I would like to see as a consumer. Give me 384kbps for €9.90, use a trottle to manage abuse. Then sell me speed upgrades when I want more speed. Finally give me €9.90 per day roaming, again coupled with speed upgrades, on roaming I accept some fair use cap, ensuring that I can do everything except P2P file sharing. With speed upgrades I mean pay more for more bandwith like on fixed broadband. As the market evolves, one can segment further into use classes, if one starts to experience network problems, that can be coupled with different best effort schemes. Market is not ready for 1GB limits. It id such an abstract volume that consumer do not understand it. Start with familiar concepts like speed. For Huawei and others give me a ‘speedometer’ on the dongle, to help me steer my activities. My advice to Nokia is to get into the dongle business quickly it is not a commodity, it is your best gateway to the PC SW business, there is a great chance to design some great value add SW for it. SanDisk, king of mobile memory, get into the dongle game, there is added value for you as well. Let the revolution begin.

04:19 PM | Permalink


Hi Christian,

Mine came with a USB extension cable so no DIY dongle whittling required.

Posted by: Ged Carroll at Apr 22, 2008 5:47:18 PM

Dongles will be a thing of the past when people start buying laptops with a 3G modem built in.

Posted by: Stefan Constantinescu at Apr 22, 2008 7:42:43 PM

A little under 10eur seems to be the norm now in Finland for unlimited 384kb. I would never sign up to a metered service where you pay extra for megabytes...

Traveling is really a problem, how am I as a customer supposed to know or find out all the different deals my operator has with foreign operators and what mobile surfing costs where I go? There was a thing on this in Helsingin Sanomat yesterday, the bill can run up to 100s or 1000s of euros if you are not careful!

Posted by: Anders at Apr 22, 2008 8:58:49 PM

I would have thought that you would have gone with the Huawei E220 if you were going to stick with 3. Otherwise you could have chosen the USB device from Vodafone and got twice the speed ;-)

Then again if only I could get you to see that my Vaio with its gobi chipset is the future ;-) I am using it with a PAYG sim from T-Mobile as they have a capped fee of £1 per day and I only use it when I cannot get a wifi single for free.

Posted by: Ian at Apr 23, 2008 8:30:16 PM

Clearly the UK and Finnish markets are different. Here in the UK the big push is for HSPA which gives us speeds of up to 7.2Mbps (Vodafone) with a norm at the moment of 1.8Mbps although often people will get only standard 3G of up to 384Kbps because the networks have not fully rolled out the HSPA technology. But it is pointless selling 3G/384Kbps here with everyone building out HSPA.

I would hate to see the suggested €9.90/384Kbps package when we are able to enjoy £15/3GB packages here at HSPA speeds. For very many 3GB is quite enough for a month, and if they want more there are higher priced packages available, i.e. £25/7GB.

Overflow charges vary greatly in the UK - from T-Mobile who charge nothing but will probably write you a letter, to 3 who charge £100 per GB that you use over your allowance. Vodafone are much fairer with their £15 per GB that you use over your allowance.

We do not need the segmentation suggested in the article. That would be horribly complex and confusing. All that is needed is simple metering software to be supplied by the mobile networks to warn users that they are nearing their monthly allocation.

First rule in business is KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) - The networks would be very wise to keep to that rule, which they seem to be by reducing their complex voice tariffs over time....

Posted by: Danny at Apr 25, 2008 10:15:37 AM

I just got mobile broadband from Three in the UK. I pay £5 month for 18 month contract, 1GB limit and 3.6 Mb/s and a free dongle.
It's becoming really popular with young people and students who want their own cheap, easy to use internet connection.
You can also get Pay As You Go and even prepay dongles. The potential market is huge.

Posted by: PAYG Mobile Broadband at May 3, 2008 12:29:32 AM

Hey folks,

Here's a low-cost router already supporting what seems to be a gazillion different 3G modems, particularly from Huawei, and one of them is the E169G!

I found it on Wikipedia, and it's called Dovado UMR:

I also located a store (in Sweden) which ships worldwide at a very low price:

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