The true cost of wireless data


Published in July 2006, this article looks at the cost of wireless data, both WiFi and via mobile phone, and explains the options for when you're travelling and need to stay in touch. Please note that the prices in this article were correct at the time it was researched (May 2006) and may have changed since then. Do not use this piece as a definitive buying guide.

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While many of us are only now starting to move to 3G mobiles - much to the chagrin of the phone companies that paid billions for the licences - already the next stage in the evolution of mobile data is on the horizon. Called HSDPA - High Speed Downlink Packet Access - it's a bolt-on technology to 3G that's claimed to increase the speed up to around 10Mbits/second ? or comparable with WiFi. In practise, the speeds offered are more likely to be around the 1.5Mbits speed, but that's still three to four times faster than 3G, and makes services like mobile TV easier to deliver.

As an add-on to the 3G networks, it won't take as long to roll out as 3G itself did, and most of the UK networks expect to have services running this year, starting in major urban areas; T-Mobile's latest 3G datacard already supports HSDPA at a reasonable £58.75, plus contract, with the service, like Vodafone's, due to go live in the summer. The first phones supporting the technology should be available around July.

However, as always you need to watch the smallprint. At £19.99 a month for unlimited data the T-Mobile deal is good in the UK, but you'll still pay over the odds when you roam. And don't forget that, for some, the high speed means you'll just hit the 2Gb 'unlimited' fair use barrier that little bit sooner.

End of article.

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