A couple of Christmases ago, I was in Nottingham at somewhere with, gasp, no internet. So wandering around the centre, I went into a 3 shop heavily promoting their mobile internet.

The price per month was a bit high, but the rest of the conversation went something like: "So it's £30 a month and the modem is…?" "£99." "No thanks."

Since then, the various networks have introduced more reasonably priced PAYG tariffs and the price of the modems has fallen greatly.

So last weekend, I was in Bournemouth at somewhere with, gasp etc. OK, it had a wi-fi network, but it expected a pile of money to use it. Fortunately, there was a handy Macdonalds to sit outside and use their free wi-fi service. (If anyone from there is reading, feel free to use this new ad slogan: "Macdonalds – now more than just a handy toilet". Much less annoying than the current one.)

But walking back to the hotel up 'mobile network shop hill' revealed that the O2 modem is down to about £13 if you look around. Hmmm.

Fortunately, I resisted temptation because their coverage is frankly embarrassing (Ofcom PDF). They also had to be threatened with a c£40m fine to extend their coverage to the 80% of the population that was a condition of getting a 3G licence.

But yesterday, thinking about where I will be at various times this summer, I did fall for a T-Mobile PAYG stick. £24, and a sensible 'fair use' limit (3 gig a month, even if you only use it for a day that month – some networks have a low 'per day' limit – and no financial penalty for going over it). Interestingly, apart from getting a free modem, there seems to be no advantage to going for a £15 / month 18 month contract rather than paying a max of £15 for a month's PAYG.

However there are some oddities that perhaps I should have (been able to) find out prior to spending the money.

Challenge: find the tariff details on – monthly plans, yes, PAYG, nope. The current rates are supposed to be different (cheaper) from the ones printed in the package, but it would be nice to have confirmation of this and know where to look when they change again.

The coverage is still very patchy. Annoyingly, there doesn't seem to be any map, never mind a useful one. Instead there's a postcode lottery page: stick a postcode in and it tells you 'The computer says "no"'.

OK, perhaps expecting something on the north Somerset coast was optimistic, but nothing in central Bristol?!? (I've tried three postcodes, including Bristol Temple Meads station.)

And while it's recognised with no problems by Ubuntu, you need the Windows client to send the free text that is necessary to get the cheaper (per day) week's or month's usage. Oh well, perhaps it will run under Wine or I can use another PC…

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