Mister Mobility's review of Airtel broadband modem and 3.75G service – Part One

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Airtel USB modem

Airtel Nigeria recently launched their 3.75G internet service. At an even more recent event, the operator announced a reduction in the price of their USB modem. At that same event, units of the modem, and a SIM card bundled with 200MB of data were given out. Mobility was represented at the event and we ended up with the free package too.

Airtel broadband modem package
The USB modem is an Airtel branded Huawei E173 device. Capabilities wise, it supports GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, and HSUPA with a maximum download speed of 7.2 Mbps. There’s also SMS support and a micro SD card slot. The modem is compatible with both Windows PCs and Macs.

The Airtel USB modem is compact, lightweight and does its job well. The PC connection interface is nicely done and easy to use.

I took the Airtel 3.75G internet service for a spin at my Ojodu location. My first observation was that 3G coverage was poor at my end. The signal flunctuated between zero and one bar for the most part. I have a personal Airtel line in reserve, inserted that into a smartphone and set it to 3G-only. Same results: zero to one bar.

Of course, I could get no browsing done with that. None whatsoever. I had to beg both the phone and the modem to GPRS/EDGE-only before I could get a connection that worked. Browsing via EDGE on Airtel was manageable. There were regular periods of frustrating service, but I got work done.

Thankfully, the story does not end there. Shortly after my initial trial of the modem, and right after this review had been queued for publishing, Airtel 3G signal received a boost and I began to record as much as 4 bars at my location. The signal still fluctuates and sometimes drops to one or two bars, but it is a significant improvement.

As such, I will be doing a second part of this review to be published in the next few days. Don’t draw your conclusions yet, as this might still end well.

18 comments

  1. Truth be told I am one of the people that never spared giving Airtel a bashing whenever the opportunity avail itself. Airtel 3G rocks in Kwale Delta state and it is throuncing all other networks here with its service.Though the service drops to edge beyound the data /voice services are still good.I give a thumbs up to Airtel

  2. One reason why the number portability scheme may not yield much fruit is because you hardly ever find a single network to satisfy both your data AND voice needs at a point on time.

    On a mobile, unless I want to download, I use GSM / EDGE mode. It is usually the most stable / available.

    I have also found that all the classifications as 3g/3.5g/3.7g are just that -classifications. The connection speed often depends on location / the particular network.

    I use Etisalat for browsing (fast and cheap), but use Glo for calls. I have been using airtel from inception, so I must have that active at all times. That makes it three SIMs I need to have active at all times (for now). Without a phone with multiSIM capability, that is three phones to lug about!

  3. I’ve never used an Airtel sim to browse the net, so I have nothing to say about them.

    On a different note, for over two weeks now it seems there is a serious network problem. I stay around Ojuelegba and browsing the net has been a pain in the neck. It is terribly slow and often disconnects. I use MTN. I thought it was peculiar to MTN, so I bought a Glo sim, but it’s still the same thing. I don’t know if anyone here stays around Ojuelegba but does anyone experience the same problem.

  4. I have long reserved my Airtel line for calls and occasional SMS. A couple of weeks back, Airtel rewarded me with 10MB of data probably to remind me that I can still browse with the SIM.

    Well, I inserted the SIM in my Android device just to see how much their network has improved. I could not detect 3G in my area – Okota – Oshodi or Ikeja and was confined to using only EDGE. Even at that, the Airtel EDGE network was poor, though usable.

    Someday, I’m going to give their data network a try again but only through pay as you browse to see if there is appreciable improvement.

  5. I subscribed last month to airtel night data pack.#2500 for 3gb and was given 4.56gb. To cut a long story short, i finished the gbs b4 the 30days were over. I noticed though that if my modem read WCDMA or HSPDA it was extremely fast especially the hspda(getting downloads speed of upto 1mb/s). The edge connection was manageable. I used it in ilorin.

  6. I just subscribed to the 1GB data plan with the Sim in my galaxy tab and presently using it in ketu, Lagos. So far, it has not blown my mind. The 3G or H symbol seem to be there always, with full bars, but the speed is not fantastic (through subjective assessment).

  7. I subscribed to the 1GB data plan for N1,400 for the first time on the 31st of May.. also first time using Airtel. it took two days for the 3.5G to pick up on my nokia 5800 xpressmusic. i later put it in my sgs2 and what i get most of the time is HSPA (H+).. very fast
    port harcourt area

  8. I wouldn’t hold my breath on this one. In Nigeria, whenever the cost of a service crashes its either because the service delivery is crap or competition is stiff. In Airtel’s case, in my opinion, the pricing is too good to be true; what with the going rates (N1,000 will get you 260MB on Etisalat & Glo while N1,400 will get you 1GB on Airtel) and all…So I expect the service to be wishy-washy and below average…a layman’s view though!

  9. The price must have increased. I subscribed to the 1GB plan today at a cost of N3,000 even though I was given additional 512MB. It is not really cheaper than competition (especially Etisalat)

  10. ……I don’t want to say Airtel internet is a crap but if you want faster internet go for MTN or Etisalat….I have active data plan on the three as am writing this.

  11. How much does the modem cost? Does it really come with a sim card? Will the sim card need to be registered? Thanks

  12. airtel 3.75g sucks in ibadan.. They really need to improve on their nonsense 3.75g network in dis part of the world

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