I recently used Twitter to post about my journey on public transport from Kilkenny to Dublin. For people outside of Ireland the total Journey distance was about 90 miles.
I used only my iPhone on the O2 network and close to 50% of the time it seemed like I had 3G. This was on a train moving at speed, and YouTube played very well with little to no stutter. It did drop to Edge the other half of the time, with about 30% of time I still got speeds web browsing was acceptable on. So in summary: 80% of the time it was possible to surf the web.
After that Journey I was also on a Dublin Bus, and I had full 3G coverage which comes as little surprise as Dublin Bus only serves densly populated Dublin and it’s environs.
A few days later I went on a road trip to Athlone, and the coverage on the M4/M6 was not as good as I’d hoped. My theory on why the train was better is the fact on the routes I’ve been on a lot more urban areas are visited, thus the rollout has been very good to densely populated towns, but along motorways which are far away from such places: your sadly out of luck.
Hutchinson Whampoa (aka 3 Ireland) have recently got the national broadband contract to supply rural areas with 3G coverage, so most of these areas should be covered in the next few years. I should note wireless broadband is hugely needed for mobiles etc,, but a fiber optic service is really what the government should be sticking money into!
Overall I am very happy to recommend 3G for mobile usage with small devices. People with Laptops should explore their options and try find something else first, like DSL, Cable or fixed point wireless. These can be slightly more expensive then bargain-basement 3G but worth it. As the old adage goes: sometimes you get what you pay for…