‘Unwired’ – Mass Transit Magazine | Fall is here along with the usual flurry of trade shows, conferences and press releases. The autumn is also traditionally the season for technical pilots of one variety or another, and the transit industry is no exception. Interest in passenger Wi-Fi is growing, and the key driver is to increase ridership. But is Wi-Fi really increasing ticket sales, and how would the transit agency know?
Continue reading the full article at masstransitmag.com here: http://bit.ly/cE443Y
Like many road warriors I now find myself with a raft of Wi-Fi enabled devices including a MacBook Pro, iPhone and iPad. I’ve been in Europe for a few weeks traveling on business, and found myself spending long periods of time on a particular train to London, which has no Wi-Fi hotspot service (shame on you, Southeastern Rail). O2’s network on which my UK iPhone works is less than perfect (read ‘crap’) so I needed a way for them all to get online easily and reliably. For that I needed a portable 3G router, so I popped into the 3 Store at Victoria Station and within 10 minutes came out with a solution.
The Huawei E585 is the latest incarnation of 3’s MiFi router. MiFi, but isn’t that Novatel’s mobile router? Well yes it is but don’t let that confuse you. 3 bought the rights to the ‘MiFi’ brand in the UK and thus the Huawei E585 is called the MiFi router. 3 refer to the MiFi as a dongle, although it is in fact a self-contained router with internal battery that provides up to four hours of connect time.
I split my time between Europe and North America with iPhones on O2 and AT&T respectively, so I did not want to commit to yet another monthly contract. Instead I went for the Pay As You Go plan; the MiFi cost £50 ($80) and 1GB of data costs £10 ($16). Topping up is easy via the 3 web site.
The Huawei E585 is an awesome little thing; its single button turns on the device and a bright OLED display shows cellular signal strength, Wi-Fi activity, and battery level, as well as current session time and total session data volume. The device has SSID and password defaults that can easily be changed via a web interface. To configure the MiFi, you connect to its Wi-Fi network and enter: http://3.home/indexf.asp which brings up the screen below.
From here, you can log into the Admin pages and configure the device’s security and other features.
For more technical folks, the Huawei E585 provides a diagnostic page showing detail about signal strength/RSSI and even cell tower ID.
The unit is remarkably easy to set up, and has advanced features including a firewall, DMZ, UPnP, virtual server and port controls. From these pages you can also upload files to an optional MicroSD card, for which the E585 has a slot on the side. Files on the MicroSD card can be shared with other users of the hotspot; up to five concurrent users/devices are supported.
I travel a lot in Europe and was pleased to find that 3 has very competitive rates for data roaming within the EU at £1.25 ($2) per MB. To stop people running up vast bills, 3 caps the roaming at £45 ($70) per 30 day period, unless you call Customer Support and request an increase. That’s an allowance of about 36MB, which is sufficient for checking emails at least. However outside the EU data roaming is £3/$4.75 per MB in the US and certain other countries, and then double that in pretty much the rest of the world. Ouch.
Coverage on the 3 network is pretty good in the UK. I was able to travel on the train from London to Dover (70 miles) with virtually no interruption of service bar in tunnels. The MiFi will automatically reconnect if the signal is connection is dropped, and I hardly noticed it. How is it on speed? Well sitting here in the kitchen of my father’s house while on a (sadly rare) visit to a small country town in Hampshire, I’m getting over 2.2Mbps down and 1.4Mbps up consistently, with an acceptable 106ms latency.
All in all, I’m super-impressed with the tiny Huawei E585, and with 3’s HSPA network which thanks to a network sharing agreement with T-Mobile has the highest level of coverage in the UK. If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to share a 3G connection between multiple Wi-Fi devices in the UK and Europe, look no further.
P.S. For those of you with a strong disposition and a wish to unlock your E585, you can learn more here.
For more information, visit the 3 UK Mobile Broadband web site.