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Students using mobile broadband

As predicted by Top 10 Broadband in June - free mobile broadband has hit the UK.

3 has begun offering mobile broadband in conjunction with selected mobile phone contracts. Under the terms of 3’s deals, consumers can pick up a Nokia 3120 with 500 minutes or texts (or a mixture of both) with the Mix and Match 500 Bundle Plan –– and receive a 3 USB E160G Stick Modem with 5GB data allowance, for a monthly outlay of just £20.

Alternatively, the company is offering the same contract terms with a Sony Ericsson K660i and free mobile broadband with a 3 USB E156G Stick Modem Black. Both contracts are for 18 months and allow unlimited minutes for calls made between 3-registered handsets and free voicemail. The dongles offer download speeds of up to 3.6Mbps.

The announcement marks the latest broadside in UK companies’ mobile broadband price war, which has seen the price of the service drop dramatically in recent months as competition has become more cut-throat. Accompanying the price cuts is a shift in the public’s perception of mobile broadband from being regarded as luxury product just two years ago, to an everyday necessity for many today.

Jessica McArdle, Web Editor at Top 10 Broadband, forecast the coming of free mobile broadband as early as June this year. At the time she compared the recent mass market penetration of USB Modems or dongles to the huge take-up for mobile phones in the mid 1990s, when they went from status symbol to staple communication device.

Jessica perceives that 3’s announcement will transform the market and prove the final nail in the coffin for the practice of people paying for landline rental home broadband. And better yet from a consumer point of view, she now expects the move to be matched by rival ISPs as Christmas approaches.

Ms McArdle said: “3’s ground-breaking decision to offer free broadband with mobile phone contracts is the final death-toll to home broadband. Now that people can get their mobile phone and broadband for as little as £20 a month, the case for paying separately for landline rental and home broadband becomes untenable.”

3’s pre-eminence in the dongle market has been precipitated by their decision to court youthful customers. Their appealing pink and black mobile broadband modems have been taken up with particular gusto by fashion-conscious consumers.

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