Although this is a sailing blog I thought I’d follow up on my earlier post on internet aboard just a quick tip if you need 3G access. It’s well worth buying a 3G dongle which will act as a wifi access point so that you can share the access amongst several Internet hungry devices (such as your ipad, iphone, notebook or andriod) while just buying a single local SIM. I’ve used the same Huawei e585 dongle from amazon (unlocked so it’s network independent – and cheaper) in both the UK and Portugal. Given the choice go for a wifi enabled dongle that doesn’t rely on a usb connection to a notebook or pc.
Sharing a 3G dongle with wifi
A wifi enabled 3g dongle let’s you position the dongle near a window for better reception for example and without relying on it being directly connected to a PC you can use the dongle to connect to the Internet from a smart phone, iPad, iPhone or several phones for example. The 3g dongle is simply a wifi access point (a hotspot) which allows every device to connect to it and share the same 3g access. They are more expensive but well worth it.
I use my Huawei dongle with my ipad 3, Nexus 7 and our two mobile phones both htc’s (htc touch and htc desire) at the same time without a problem. We also take an Asus notepad and again no problem using the e585 Huawei as a wifi access point. You do need to connect securely with the wifi access WPA key which you find on the inside of the dongles cover. Its just like connecting to any other wifi access point, it will broadcast its presence, you pick it and enter the password and away you go.
Out of the box the Huawei dongles default password is “Admin” (username the same “Admin”).
If your trying to share a dongle (adsl or 3g) which is attached to a PC for a example, read my how to share a dongle post.
Three for 3G
When travelling to the UK I’ve used the Three network for data access. What’s great about the Three SIM is that offer a top up which gives you a days Internet access for just 50p. But be warned, and I fell foul off this, if you go over the “days” allowance (which is circa 150mb) it doesn’t automatically add another day – no it defaults to 10p or so a MB. so 90mb later you (or as I did in this sorry tale) can blow the rest of your £9.50 credit in the blink of 10 minutes of movie watching.
Monitoring 3G usage
You can monitor your 3G dongle usage with the my3 website but it’s easy to forget to keep an eye on it. Although they warn you it’s running out they do that via an SMS message (as do other networks like O2, Vodaphone etc). Dongles do receive SMS messages but you need to access the http server that runs on the dongle device itself (the dongles own user interface) via web browser (for example by connecting to http://192.168.1.1/) to read them unless your running a feature rich client on your end device or using a usage monitor.
To play it safe I’d advise with Three when using daily 50p Internet top up that you buy an additional days top up. Three have a “queue” feature so when one top up is used the next one kicks in. That way if you do go over it should just move onto the next days allowance even if it is same day, much better paying at the daily rate than the over usage rate.
It’s also worth noting that you cannot top up via a credit card (other than initial top up) within 7 days on a newly registered Three SIM. You can however go into a store and buy a voucher and top up via the my3 website.
Registering your 3G SIM card
Another hint with my3 and registering your dongle is that the device number ( which they ask for when registering or restating the password) is your SIMs actual phone number. To find that you may well have to connect to the dongles own menu via a web browser (my huawei 585 dongle is accessed via http://192.168.1.1/) or find it on the packaging.
How to find your Three device number
- Power on your dongle, connect to the it’s wifi signal.
- Next open a web browser on your smart phone, ipad, pc, notepad etc and goto http://192.168.1.1/
- Next select the section “change your settings”
- Enter username “Admin” password “Admin” (no quotes)
- Once logged in, on the left hand menu select “Diagnostics”
- And you will see you SIMs phone number, this is it’s device number
By taking the SIMs phone number together with the last 6 digits on the sim card (long number on the SIM card itself) Three will SMS you a password to the dongle so you can register your SIM card which you need to do to be able to top up. You will need access the my3 site to register and access the dongles user interface to read the SMS message.
If you forget your my3 password three will reset online. Its the same process as above, you need the device number (phone number), sim card number (last six digits) and they will SMS the new password to the SIM in your dongle. So again try not to forget the 3G device password otherwise you’ll have to reset it dongle to take it back to factory settings and the known username password.
3G dongle network settings
When you swap SIMs you are also changing network (just like if you swapped broadband or adsl provider). Different telecoms networks often have different configurations the APN (access point name) might need changing on the dongle (via a web browser to its menu) so make sure you grab a list before you change network (otherwise no Internet to find the settings…). A good starter list for APN setting for worldwide 3G Telecoms providers can be found here.
Remember you have both the telcos system for topping up (by minutes, days of access, or bandwidth) and you manage your SIM card and the menu (dashboard) for the dongle to updates it’s configuration.
Problems accessing the dongles menu
I initially had problems with with accessing the admin functions within the Three 3G dongle dashboard, when I went to login the device it would hang and lockup and I literally would have to remove the battery in order for it to function again. It turned out the the web browser (old version of Internet explorer) on the notebook that I was using to access the dashboard crashed the dongle by going into some sort of recursive loop.
Once I switched to firefox it was fine.
Unlocking a 3G sim card
If your dongle is locked to a particular network and you want to change search for the PSAS (phone system analysis software) application, this dumps out the contents of your dongles configuration allowing you to find the code that will enable you (via another piece of software) to unlock it.
Another option – and better – on Huawei devices is to use “Huawei mobile partner” which replace (by flashing the device i.e. Over writing the programs that the device runs). The dashboard on your 3G dongle is customised by the telco in my case Three you replace their settings with a generic version provided by the dongle chipset manufacturer, in the case Huawei. Then yo can access any network.
It’s often cheaper to by a locked 3G dongle (just like it is a locked mobile phone) and unlocking i from the particular network. Plenty of mobile phone outlets will help unlock you dongle if you need help or you can buy unlock services via the likes of eBay (you keep your dongle and they provide unlock codes) or just buy an unlocked 3G dongle in the first place.
Using you dongle to access SD cards
A less well known feature of some 3g dongles is the ability to share micro SD cards over WiFi. Simply you can install your SD card and access it from your device. The reason this is useful is when you have devices such as the amazing kindle fire,Nexus 7 or iPad that don’t support SD cards. I’ve written another post about this if you interested in how to access sd cards.
3G in Portugal
In Portugal I used the Orange network (and very handy it is too when the Orange store is right in the Algarve airport – Faro airport and I found them very helpful). The SIM I bought was based on time rather than data usage which is a bit a hassle if your light bandwidth user, but it worked, I then topped up at the Algarve shopping centre Orange store as needed. (If your looking for villa to rent in the Algarve we used Algarve Housing which aren’t a big mass market agent and so seem to have a number if niche properties, no connection other than as a satisfied customer.)
In Jersey a couple of local telcoms providers offer 3G access
Keeping it local…
CW or Sure currently do a couple of different deals for 3G internet iva a dongle or handset, either one pound a day deal with a data SIM or on a normal a payg sim they offer free unlimited data for 14days with a £5 topup etc outside of that they currently offer payg at 2p per MB, check surecw.com for latest deals). It changing regularly so check.
JT do similar deals on payg
Payg data is currently 5p per MB rather than 2p with surecw.com
Airtel Vodaphone are the third supplier, though personally I’ve only had experience with JT and Sure.
Data Roaming Warning
Network Three are not represented in Jersey nor are Orange, be warned on your UK SIM (as in Orange, Three, O2 etc) you will be roaming in both Jersey and Guernsey I.e. potentially several pounds a mb of data access – which is hugely expensive.
Best to buy a local SIM for 3G access in either Jersey or Guernsey ( or Sark or Alderney!).