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.