Saturday, 26 March 2011

Dingle dongle... surving when the internet connection is down

T Mobile dongle
I am not a techie but have heard of broadband dongles and brushed them off as I try to switch off from the internet when I'm on holiday (I'm online on most weekends so sometimes I just need to have a break from the web), but necessity made me reconsider them when my internet service failed.

What to do when the home internet connection dies?
I have always been a very happy customer of Virgin Media Broadband, which is fast and offers a great package with phone and catch-up TV. I also have a Virgin Media mobile phone. But last weekend my internet connection started to wobble, going off during the day and coming back at night. I didn't worry too much and a call to the customer service number revelead there were no problems in our area, so we thought it was a glitch and a readjustment of the cable brought the internet back. Except that the internet connection died on me on Monday at 10.30am. Luckily I'm not working on any urgent project at the moment, so we called, got the same answer and decided to go for a cycle to enjoy the great weather. When the internet came back at 8.30pm I worked till late to catch up. I'm no stranger to working in the evening, so I coped.

However the same thing happened on Tuesday and I started to have jitters (a bit like withdrawal symptoms - I am an internet addict). Then my partner, who also works from home on some days suggested that since it wasn't too busy workwise, we could do another cycle ride in the sunshine and catch up in the evening. Same thing happened on Wednesday - I had stuff to do with my daughter so I didn't mind too much but on Thursday I was due to contribute to an online discussion on freelance writing and I needed the internet.

After finding out that our local library had wi-fi I relaxed, but thought of sounding an internet forum for options. I waited until the internet connection was up again at night then posted on ukpress, where there had been a conversation on mobile broadband for trips abroad. Steve and Jaspal suggested Mi-Fi from 3, which sounded great but a bit expensive for irregular use (I still have a connection I'm paying for and I think that despite their denial of local problems, they are doing some work as the city is crawling with Virgin Media vans, which we spotted on our cycle ride).

Hey dongle... problem sorted
My partner (my unpaid IT manager) investigated dongles and found a great deal at Argos for a T mobile dongle at £8.99 (half price offer). We loaded the minimum of £5, but just £2 bought us 30 days. So I did my chat on freelance writing on the Guardian's site (where of course I was talking about digital writing most of the time) and use the dongle again yesterday when our connection switched off. My partner called again and it seems there was a problem, which Julian from ukpress confirmed on Thursday.

I'm quite impressed with the dongle, I downloaded a huge folder from a client, which comprises several videos and the speed has been just marginally slower than my normal connection but as fast as my old BT broadband line. My partner is monitoring the bandwith use on the dongle to see if it's cheaper to use a dongle instead of having a fixed line connection (or whether we need to keep it as a backup). Right now I'm using my Virgin Broadband, but I don't have to worry if it decides to switch off - I will grab my pink stick (you just plug it in the slot you'd use for a memory stick and voila')!

Last but not least: I paid for this product and this is a genuine customer's review. None of the above companies sponsored this post.

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