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Web Cube, Broadband in a box

10/02/2012

No phone line.

No faff

Easy

These are the catch lines that greet you when you remove the box from the mail packaging that Three used to courier their latest 3G device, the Web Cube. How many other companies would use the expression “No faff”? I suspected that this would set the trend for the initial experience of the Web Cube, and I wasn’t wrong.

What is it?

The Web Cube is essentially a 3G WiFi router in a box, that does not require a phone line or service contract with an Internet Service Provider. That is it. As simple as it is possible to make things, this really and truly is what it says on the tin, it is indeed “Broadband in a box”. And with a few simple actions to set it up it simply works.

Where can I get one and how much?

Currently Three are “testing the market” and the Web Cube is only available at Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Three do say that they hope to go nationwide with these “soon”. No doubt the Three website will announce that availability as soon as it occurs. Although you could always nag them on Twitter at @ThreeUK, you never can tell, the power of social media and all that.

Meanwhile, you can review their initial price plans and check for availability in your area by visiting the Three Discover web page. There you can register to be alerted when the Web Cube becomes available in your area.

Unboxing

Inside the typical Three white box with black print is the Web Cube itself, a rather gorgeous looking white plastic with translucent walls. Permanently attached to the Web Cube is a mains cable and UK three-pin plug. There is also a “Getting started guide” and a statutory notice from Huawei, the manufacturer.

Also included was a 3G SIM Ready-to-go Mobile Broadband SIM with 3GB pre-loaded and valid for up to 3 months from first use. I presume that this is how the Web Cube will ultimately be sold on PAYG. There may be contract term options also, but right now none of this is clear.

The intended audience?

The first question that pops into mind with this kind of technology is “Who exactly is this intended to sell to?”. And that is not at all an unreasonable question seeing that Three already have their E586 MiFi (available in black or white). How does another, what is effectively a mains-only, MiFi fit into the scheme of things? Well, Three say on their Blog that the Web Cube is “… designed for the significant chunk of the population, especially renters and students, that have told us they want Wi-Fi at home, just without the phone line and the lengthy contract“.

That all makes sense to me really and if I didn’t have any, or a decent, terrestrial broadband service I would certainly consider one of these. The fact that it is mains powered is ideal over a MiFi to stop people (ie. flatmates) unthinkingly walking off with it. Also, if you don’t want the portability of a MiFi this is a very appropriate device.

In fact, the Web Cube is perfect where a degree of permanence is required. That said, it would be perfect for taking on UK holiday with you – hotel WiFi is usually horrendously expensive, if available at all.

Fitting the SIM is easy

Getting started

Once out of the box it took me less than three minutes to get the Web Cube up and running. It really is simple.

First unpack the SIM from its carrier. Locate the USIM drawer on the Web Cube and remove it. Slide in the SIM. Pop the drawer back into the Web Cube and then plug the device into the mains. After a few moments the Web Cube will show a series of signal strength bars on its top and you’re good to go.

Signal strength bars illuminate

The cube lights up when a WiFi device attaches

Control and Administration

The Web Cube is configured and administered by way of a web browser to connect to its own web server using the URL http://192.168.1.1 or http://3.home that will bring up the Admin page. From here you can read any SMS that Three may have sent you, check how much data you have used and can log in to the Admin function where you can change much of the Web Cube’s configuration settings. There is a reset button on the Web Cube should you completely mess things up, that restores it to its factory configuration.

Several people have asked me already, so I’m going to take a moment to point it out; If that blue light becomes annoying you can actually turn it off in the Admin page.

WiFi connection

The Getting Started manual and the base of the Web Cube have a sticker that details the SSID (that is the WiFi network’s name) and Password, do not lose these.

Connecting your WiFi device (laptop, tablet, game console) to the Web Cube is exactly like connecting to your home wireless network. Find the name of the Web Cube, select it, enter the WiFi Key and you’re done.

Performance

This is the thorny question, as always. How fast does the Web Cube operate at? Well the answer is most reasonably stated that the Web Cube will operate to the same performance as any comparable Three-connected device at your location (see the technical stuff below). And that also depends on a number of factors, not the least being how far you are from the local Three transmitter mast, the building you’re in, the location of the Web Cube in your home etc. The usual stuff to do with radio.

In my case I am rather blessed with being at a fairly good location where it is quite typical to get a speed test result from Speedtest.net of around 6Mbps downlink and 3Mbps uplink to my MiFi and my Galaxy Nexus smartphone. The Web Cube did not disappoint and the very first test I ran delivered 7.73Mbps downlink and 2.06Mbps uplink as you can see in the photograph. Further tests were very comparable.

The technical stuff

If you do not understand any of what is about to follow it really doesn’t matter one bit. This is for those who want/need/like to know this kind of stuff.

The Web Cube is 3G HSPA+ 21 compliant and you can expect speeds of up to 10Mbps in good conditions. Typical speeds, according to Three, would be 2 – 5 Mbps. Up to 5 Wireless devices may be connected at any one time, although very many more can have been registered previously. The Web Cube supports WPS for easy WiFi connection of devices that support WPS. The WiFi range is rated at 30 metres, although that would be clear line of sight, your local conditions may reduce that.

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16 Comments
  1. Rich permalink

    Is there an ethernet port on it? The three blog post says there is but I can’t see any mention of it in the manual.

    If there is, do you know what speed the port runs at?

    • Hi Rich, There is no ethernet port on the Web Cube. I just checked the blog and it looks like the Mod made a bijoux error in that comment.

  2. jamie permalink

    when you say ‘exactly like connecting to your oem wi-fi network’, does it in fact create a network? i have a mifi at the moment which does not, which is a problem as whilst i can connect 5 devies to it, they can’t talk to each other – which is a real pain for things like streaming and Apple TV…

  3. @Jamie – Yes, the Web Cube does form a WLAN. I have just connected across the WLAN between a Macbook and an Android phone running an FTP server and exchanged files.

    In your MiFi configuration check the Wireless settings to make sure that AP Isolation is set to “Off” as that will prevent wireless devices seeing other devices on the WLAN.

  4. Trev permalink

    You stated 30 metre range in clear line of sight. Have you tested throught a house? I.e if the web cube was in a living room and a laptop in a bedroom on the other side of the house.

    Also do three charge if you go over the 15GB monthly data allowance?

    • All the usual WiFi constraints apply to the Webcube. What I was attempting to illustrate is that the Webcube is no less powerful in WiFi terms as any other wireless router. That said, I did try the Webcube in the front room and pick up the signal out in the back garden through three walls of a 1930′s built house.

      If you go over your 15GB data allowance the data will stop unless you purchase an add on. The SIM I have with it is a PAYG.

  5. That’s good to know as I have a 1945 house with all solid brick walls, therefore was worried the signal will not carry across the house. Have you tried the Web Cube with Apple TV? I know Apple TV has to work with a wireless router and would like to know if the Web Cube works in the same way with Apple TV?

    Regarding add ons for Three data allowance, what packages are you aware of that provides more data allowance?

    • Sorry, I have never used it with an Apple TV. I would have thought that it could work, it will support up to five concurrent devices. So you’d just have to set up everything on the same WLAN.

      With Three, as far as I currently understand, the top package is the 15GB allowance each month. I’ve seen many appeals to Three in the past to package larger data limits, but these have not come about over the past few years. I suspect that 2013, when they release LTE, that we’ll see bigger data allowances for Mobile Broadband (as opposed to AYCE mobile data to the smartphone).

  6. maca permalink

    so when data of 15g has ran out it will stop connecting to the internet untill i add on or next month allowance starts???

    • It will not stop connecting, but you will be liable to the out of bundle charges which can be expensive.

  7. luckyBatistuta permalink

    I have bought a web cube and I’m playing COD Black Ops on PS3 and it works fine iff I’m playing on my own BUT when I try to invite my friend to my lobby in-game or him to me it will not let us join …I am able to do this on my talk talk Internet no problem….very confused…any help please would be much appreciated.

  8. DAVE permalink

    Hi

    Can you still get the 3g web cube and were from please this device would be handy if I go on holiday in uk or for in my car using my 3 uk plug inverter.

    Cheers

    Dave :)

    • I don’t see the Web Cube listed anymore, but if you ask the nice people on Twitter at @ThreeUK you should get your answer quickly enough.

    • Hi Dave
      I did ask @ThreeUK about the Web Cube – it seems that they still have it, but don’t market it. A shame really. I’d say a ready source of these would be something like eBay. Any Three mobile data SIM will work – don’t try the AYCE SIMs of PAYG or Contract, Three will likely detect and block the SIM.

      • DAVE permalink

        Hi m8

        Cheers for your reply. Did Three say I could buy one direct from them or will it be case of searching for one and contacting Three for the 15 gb deal package ? Love the concept of hsving this in my car or caravan if on holiday for email s etc.

      • They didn’t really say, but I reckon it is worth giving the CS a call on 333 and see what they say. If push comes to shove, you should be able to find one on fleabay or similar. It is a great bit of kit, I don’t know why they parked it.

        Another scheme may be to get yourself one of their E385 or E386 WiFi devices, they have a docking station that plugs into a USB power source. It would achieve the same thing and they can be had in store on PAYG or contract.

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