Dear Lazyweb, please recommend a PAYG 3g dongle

Dear Lazyweb,

I’ve had a “3” USB 3G dongle for a few years. I bought it so that if I’m away from home and there’s some sort of work emergency, or if my home DSL should die, I can have tolerable broadband internet access on my laptop.

It’s been okay as far as the service goes. My main issue with it is that the PAYG top-up lasts for one month at £10 for 1GB data, and if I don’t use it then it disappears. Since I rarely need to use it, any time I do it will invariably have no credit on it and I’ll have to buy some. I know when I do that I’ll use hardly any of it before losing the rest.

This wouldn’t be so terrible, but the 3 web site is awful. Even by the very low standards of a mobile telco. It frequently just does not work. I once managed to register a credit card in order to top up online, but never managed again. That one has now expired so I can’t top up online any more. Customer service is hopeless and I’ve lost the will to fight it.

So, can anyone recommend a 3g USB dongle that:

  • works “out of the box” in Ubuntu 10.04 onwards
  • is on a network that has reasonable UK coverage
  • is PAYG with credit that does not expire, or at least doesn’t expire in as short as one month
  • can provide at least 1GB data for no more than £10

I’m not looking for a smartphone or netbook with built in 3g.