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Three Mobile Premium HSPA+ mobile broadband dongle review

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Three's new high-speed dongle means that mobile broadband speeds can compete with landlocked rivals

Mobile has always been the poor relation of broadband access, with slow connection speeds and patchy access that’s almost entirely dependent on your immediate local geography. There’s not much you can do about geography but Three Mobile’s Premium mobile broadband dongle could be just the ticket to improving your connection speeds.

The Premium dongle – a Huawei E367 – supports the Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) standard, also known as HSPA+. Standard HSDPA dongles are sold with speeds of 3.4Mbit/s or 7.2Mbit/s; Three rates its HSPA+ speeds at 21Mbit/s. Part of the speed boost relies on network upgrades, but part is down to the way in which the dongle connects. Evolved HSPA dongles achieve high speeds using techniques such as MIMO (Multiple-Input and Multiple-Output), which uses multiple (usually two) antennas on the dongle to allow greater data throughput. Even if your local Three mast hasn’t yet been upgraded to HSPA+, you’ll see a distinct performance improvement using the E367 dongle.

Three Mobile Premium HSPA+ mobile broadband dongle closed

We tested the E367 in several different parts of London and Birmingham. The fastest connection reported by the dongle’s software tools was HSDPA, rather than HSPA+. Three is slowing rolling out Evolved HSPA across the county, but it’s clearly not arrived in any of the areas we tested in. Despite this, we saw download speeds of between 4Mbit/s and 6Mbit/s and could easily stream video content, with only occasional stuttering even from HD streams. This is much quicker than the maximum of 2Mbit/s we manage with most 7.2Mbit/s broadband dongles.

The cheapest contract which comes with a Premium dongle costs just under £10 a month and lasts 18 months, but only has a 1GB monthly data allowance. The HSPA+ dongle can handle multimedia content such as streaming video, though, so it’s easy to go through 1GB of data and barely notice it. A 5GB 18-month plan costs £18 a month, but the best value option if you have high data usage requirements is a 24-month contact, which gives you 15GB of data for £18 a month.

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