Virgin Media has long been the UK’s fastest home broadband provider. Now thanks to its new dongle that apparently delivers speeds of up to 7.2Mb, on paper at least it's set to tie Vodafone for the fastest mobile broadband provider.
However, we've all been stung before by mobile broadband products failing to live up to their billing - whether that's through patchy signal strength or speeds that are well below those advertised. So is Virgin Media's new gadget just another dongle downer? Or does it live up to the bold claims being made for it? The short answer, I'm happy to report, is that it easily delivers on the speed promise. And easily matches Voda's rival offering.
But let’s begin at the beginning, with the start up procedure. With no CD required, it’s simply a case of plugging in. The whole process took a total of two minutes, after which we were surfing the web’s highways and byways instantly.
Just as impressive were the speeds we were able to do so. Although we never quite reached the headline speed of 7.2Mb when used in our central London office and outer London home, we weren’t far off.
Perhaps more crucially, we found that signal strength was consistently and uniformly excellent – vital when, as I was, the inclement weather stops you getting to work and your home broadband goes down.
That meant that once the working day was done we were able to watch BBC iPlayer and wintry YouTube clips just as smoothly as we would have done with an ADSL connection. And that applies when we were watching at peak usage times of between seven and ten. The dongle also doubles as a memory stick. In order to get the most of out of it as a mass storage device, however, you’ll need to insert a microSD card.
The device is available on an 18-month contract with a monthly usage limit options of £10 per month for 1GB, £15 for 3GB. Alternatively, existing Virgin Media home broadband customers who add the dongle to their broadband product portfolio pay £8 and £12 for the same usage limits.
If you're after a premium service or want to upgrade from your existing snail-like provider, Virgin Media's dongle is a terrific product. And at just £10 more than the standard Virgin Media dongle that delivers half the maximum speed, it’s actually something of a bargain too.
Top 10 Broadband review score: 9/10