Orange’s tiny E5832 converts 3G to WiFi, making the iPad 3G superfluous

I apologise for writing two articles in a row about the iPad, especially after having said I didn’t find Apple’s new toy totally convincing. But I did promise then when I next visited Paris, I’d see whether it was possible to tether an iPad to an iPhone using Orange France’s tethering option combined with a camera connection kit.

So I took advantage of my passage through France’s cold and rainy capital to speak to my friends at Orange’s VIP team, who have always given me the most stellar service, even arranging for me to be the first person in the world to activate an iPhone 3GS. They suggested ditching my existing, unlimited-data €30/month tethering option (which allows me to tether my iPhone to my Mac when I’m in Paris and Wifi isn’t available, something that often happens in France) for a separate E5832 3G device, which is their equivalent to the better-known MiFi [i]. I chose a €39/month unlimited data [ii] plan, bought the device itself for €49, and have been using it for the past twenty-four hours. This creates its own, fully-fledged Wifi network, which then appears in your list of available networks on any WiFi-enabled device:

WiFi screen on iPad
Once you've set it up and activated it, the E5832 device appears as a fully-fledged separate WiFi network on your iPad's list of available networks. It's secured by its own WEP password, so that only you can use it.

I have to say I’m very pleased with it:

  • it means a WiFi-only iPad can operate exactly like a 3G iPad, meaning there’s absolutely no point in going for the more expensive of the two;
  • the E5832 key is small and unobtrusive, runs on its own separate SIM card and can provide WiFi, in any area with 3G reception, for any of your devices that need it to run: Macs, iPods (if your still have one!) or iPhones;
  • this leaves my iPhone free to use for calls; it used to be a real nag receiving an important phone call while my iPhone was tethered to my Mac, so I’m glad this is now a thing of the past;
  • it can also be used as a USB modem and even as a USB key;
  • for anyone resident in France, using the E5832 is actually more attractive than going for a 3G iPad with an Orange dataplan, since Orange’s dedicated iPad 3G plans aren’t unlimited, unlike AT&T’s.

Anyone who speaks French might also enjoy this description of the device on Dailymotion by a rather amusing French blogger, M Gonzague Dambricourt:

M Gonzague Dambricourt, an eccentric French blogger, explains exactly how to set up Orange's E5832 3G to WiFi device.

Equipped with this, I can now stop at cafés without fretting beforehand whether they have WiFi or not and use my own WiFi connection.

E5832 in cafés
The E5832 can be used in any location that has a 3G signal. Speed is very acceptable, certainly no lower than for an iPad with inbuilt 3G. It will also work with any of your other WiFi devices (Macs, iPhones or even Eye-Fi -enabled cameras).

One use to which I’m already planning to put the E5832 is photographs. I’d so far not bothered to get an Eye-Fi, the wireless memory card that stores media, fits into cameras just like a regular SDHC card and has built-in Wi-Fi that uses your wireless network to effortlessly transfer photos and videos. This seemed pointless until now, since ninety per cent of the time, I wouldn’t have WiFi in the location where I’d been taking photographs, meaning even if I’d had the card, I’d have had to manually look for the location and tag it when processing the photographs on Aperture afterwards. Now I’ll be able to use the Eye-Fi card in conjunction with the E5832.

The best thing about this, too, is that I am no longer impacted by France’s absurdly restrictive laws on public Internet access: in France, because of the government’s control-freak approach to the Internet, the rare public locations that even offer an Internet connection are legally obliged to make you log in and identify yourself before using it, and connection time is usually limited to twenty minutes. If only for that reason, I’d definitely recommend getting a WiFi-only iPad and using it in conjunction with Orange’s E5832 3G to WiFi device if you live in France and haven’t bought your iPad yet. Not sure Apple will be very pleased about this, actually, but that needn’t concern us: anything that benefits the consumer is always a good thing.

  1. Pricing in France seems much more attractive than in the US: Verizon's two-year MiFi contract is priced at $39.99 per month for 250 MB of data or $59.99 per month for 5 GB of data, significantly higher that AT&T's contract-free iPad-only data plans priced at $14.99/250 MB or $29.99/unlimited per month.
  2. The data speed is supposedly slower after you hit 1GB, though.