Orange E173 USB Stick Modem

First generation 3G USB modems were large and unwieldy, but developments in miniaturisation have transformed the whole regime of portable connectivity. In this instance, Option has produced its iCON225 USB modem for HSDPA networks, supporting speeds up to 7.2Mbps for downstream data.

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First generation 3G USB modems were large and unwieldy, but developments in miniaturisation have transformed the whole regime of portable connectivity. In this instance, Option has produced its iCON225 USB modem for HSDPA networks, supporting speeds up to 7.2Mbps for downstream data.

Option was founded by Jan Callewaert in July 1986 with a view to designing and manufacturing small modems for use with portable computers and, 20-plus years on, offers the state-of-the-art in USB modem technology.

The iCON 225 is a 63 x 26 x 13mm USB stick - very small but with very high performance as a wireless device. It supports up to 7.2Mbps of downstream data when linked up to an HSDPA network.

For those of you knew to the term, HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) offers breakthrough data speeds - up to five times (10 Mbps) higher than is possible in the most advanced 3G networks - as well as two-fold base station capacity. The new modulation method of HSDPA greatly improves the peak data rate and throughput, which enhances spectral efficiency. In addition to these benefits, users will perceive faster connections to services through shorter round trip times.

As a result of these enhancements, operators using HSDPA will be able to support considerably higher numbers of high data rate users on a single radio carrier than is possible with any existing 3G technology. For end-users this means shorter service response times and less delay.

So how does the iCON 225 rate in practice? User "Cleopatra" writes: "An excellent bit of kit. I live too far from the telephone exchange and could not get broadband. This is soooo much simpler and cheaper. I'm on Orange and if I have a strong mobile signal this little gadget gives me 7.2Mbps, not much slower than broadband!!"

User Saib states: "It is really good for the size and speed. And it's very easy to use."

The pros of the iCON 225 include very easy installation and even easier to use; small size so you can carry it in your pocket without noticing it; it works with its highest-speed connection even if the signal is low.

Of the very few negatives (though wholly comparable with any USB modem), it can get hot under heavy duty and sometimes this leads to disconnection without notice when it reaches high temperatures. When the signal is low or very low, it get hot faster than when the signal is good. It takes time to change from UMTS (3G) to GPRS (2.5G) and vice versa, sometimes necessitating disconnection/reconnection to the USB to make the switch between UMTS and GPRS.

Also, with the iCON 225, there are no options to control the SIM or change the PIN code - you can only enable or disable the PIN request. But these are small question marks for what is a remarkable device: in the vast majority of instances, performance will be excellent and trouble-free.

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