Flatrate 3G access from Vodafone

ENN reports that Vodafone Ireland have announced a flatrate 3G access package from 1 July.

For around €50 per month, users can enjoy up to 1 Mbps downstream Internet access while on the move, subject to a monthly cap of 5 GB of data.

This sounds like a pretty good deal, though I’m dubious as to how close to 1 Mbps your average mobile user can expect; I’d expect speeds closer to 128 Kbps. You only need to have a conversation with someone on a car phone to realise how hard the mobile network works just to keep a connection up at all.

However, I’m more interested in its potential for fixed base users, such as those in areas too remote to have traditional broadband available. Until now, the only solution for such users has been satellite, which is both expensive and awkward.

Vodafone have > 99% coverage around the country, so there is an excellent chance that almost every household will be within range of a mobile signal. It’s not clear whether Vodafone need to upgrade the transmitters on each mast to support 3G access, or whether this can be accomplished by a software upgrade. If the latter, then this may finally be a cost-effective way for small businesses in remote regions to get decent Internet access.

(Keep in mind also that a fixed antenna should be capable of much better datarates than a purely mobile solution. And if the introductory price is €50 per month, prices can only get cheaper over time.)