The number of people using mobile broadband dongles for internet access when out and about and at home is on the increase. Orange is trying to improve its customer numbers by launching a mobile broadband with laptop bundle for £25 a month.
The mobile broadband is supplied via a USB dongle and comes with 3GB of data allowance, plus 100 free texts. The charges for going over the allowance are high compared to ADSL services at 1.46 pence per MB (£15 per GB). If abroad every MB used is charged at £3 per MB in Europe and £6.46 per MB elsewhere. The laptop is an Asus Eee PC 900 with Windows XP and 16GB of solid state storage, weighing just 0.99kg. Orange value the laptop at £299.
The 24 month contract is lengthy, and while people may find that their Internet access easily fits in the 3GB a month currently, if switching from dial-up the tendency is for people to consume more audio and video eating into the allowance quickly. With the same mobile deal from Orange available for £15 a month, then under this new deal you are effectively paying £240 for the laptop, and a little bit of looking reveals other Eee computers with varying specifications from £160 to £300.
At this time we are aware of only one mobile broadband provider that does not charge extra if you go over the bundled data allowance, and that is T-Mobile who instead restrict usage once over the limit. If mobile broadband is to succeed and not be a flash in the pan, the various providers need to address the massive costs of going over the bundled data allowance, and make it very clear when using the device abroad what the costs of access are. At £3 per MB, just checking your email a couple of times while on holiday could easily set you back £10 to £20.