With Wi-Fi hot spots blanketing the nation and its 3G network rolled out and expanding, T-Mobile felt the time was right to roll out its T-Mobile WebConnect USB Laptop Stick. It's the first 3G cellular modem for the carrier, and it lets you connect to the Web on your laptop using T-Mobile's 3G network or Wi-Fi (802.11b/g). The WebConnect worked fine throughout our tests, so our issue isn't with performance, but rather, the pricing.
The WebConnect USB Laptop Stick is available now in various pricing options: $49.99 with a two-year contract after rebate; $99.99 with one-year contract; or $249.99 with no contract. On top of that, you'll need a service plan, which starts at $59.99 for 5GB of wireless data per month. If you go over that limit, you will be charged an overage fee of $0.20 per MB. This is on par with the plans offered by other providers that carry broadband devices, such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless. However, T-Mobile's pricing doesn't seem justified when you consider its 3G network reaches fewer people than Verizon and AT&T. Currently, T-Mobile's 3G network is available in 130 cities and covers 100 million people. By comparison, AT&T's 3G network is available in 350 cities, and Verizon covers 274 million people (after the Alltel acquisition). While T-Mobile plans to expand to 100 additional cities by the end of 2009, until then, the WebConnect USB Laptop Stick might be a hard sell unless it lowers the service plan prices.
Manufactured by Huawei Technologies, the WebConnect USB Laptop Stick comes in a nice black-and-neon-green color and measures 3.4 inches tall by 1.1 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick and weighs 1.1 ounces. It features a swivel design, so you can fold it and not have the USB stick protrude from the side of your laptop. However, it's a bit wide, and when plugged into our Lenovo ThinkPad, which has a vertical USB slot, the accessory extended just below the bottom of the laptop and made it a little wobbly on our desk. Not a dealbreaker, just something to note.
There's a small LED on the face of the device that flashes green when it detects signals and turns solid blue when you're connected. The SIM card holder is located on the back, and finally, there's a microSD expansion slot located on the left spine. The latter accepts up to 8GB cards, allowing you to use the WebConnect as a portable storage device. In the box, you get a protective case, a USB cable, and a SIM card.