As talk in the UK turns to 4G delivered by LTE, many people will benefit more quickly from a 3G upgrade, DC-HSDPA. This standard doubles the download bandwidth of current high-speed devices (21Mbps) by using 2 simultaneous connections. Often called '4G' in the US ('faux G' by critics), UK networks have so-far avoided this (just). Three have now launched their 42Mbps service[1. That's 42Mbps 'theoretical' - real world speeds will be less. Three are using the term 'HSPA+42' to describe it.], aiming to cover 50% of the UK by the end of the year so newer smartphones - including the Apple iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3 - will get an immediate speed boost even without 4G.
In real-world use users can already achieve speeds over 10Mbps on HSPA+. With the 40% boost Three (realistically) describes for the 'dual channel' upgrade users can expect to achieve speeds around 15Mbps on handsets. Contrast this with the '8 to 12Mbps' average speed Everything Everywhere's 4G promises for 16 cities in the same time-scale and whilst the 4G offering clearly will be quicker in good coverage, overall experience looks distinctly like it will be better with the 3G offering.
Along with the launch of the faster service Three have also announced a new 3G dongle by Huawei, the E3256. With a similar form-factor and software to previous models this upgrade really differs only in speed from the previous 'premium' offerings. Huawei's offerings have proven rock-solid in years of use for me - expect this device to perform just as reliably. Available immediately it's offered with both contract and pre-pay deals:
- £44.99 on pre-pay including 1GB of data (3 and 12GB bundles also available)
- £17.01 per month (for 24 months) for 15GB of data plus £4.99 up-front
Other contracts, including a 30-day version, are expected soon. A similarly-equipped MiFi is also surely on its way.