Vodafone has launched its HSDPA (or 3.5G) service in the UK, after trials apparently showed that users preferred it to Wi-Fi.

With a 1.4 Mbit/s download speed, Vodafone is calling this "3G broadband", but HSDPA is also known as 3.5G or Super-3G (read briefing).

From this Thursday, the company will sell data cards, and users can also buy HSDPA laptops from Dell (which has started taking orders), Acer and Lenovo, or share their fast link using a 3G broadband router from Vodafone that lets multiple users connect via 802.11g wireless to the same 3G link.

Rivals T-Mobile, Orange and O2 are still conducting trials with the new technology.

In Vodafone's trials earlier this year, 73 percent of users said they preferred "3G broadband" to Wi-Fi, and 85 percent said they would use it instead of hotel-provided broadband.

The prices will be £25+VAT per month for 250 megabytes, or £45 per month for "unlimited" use - where "unlimited" means Vodafone will probably charge you more if you use more than a "fair use" limit of one Gigabyte per month. Cards cost £99 on the 250 megabytes plan, or £49 on the not-quite-unlimited plan.

The service will be available in the M25 area, as well as Glasgow, Sheffield, Greater Manchester and Tyneside - outside of those areas, laptops will fall back to 3G or GPRS speeds.

All of Vodafone's 3G coverage should have HSDPA by summer 2007, the company promised. Users can also roam to Vodafone's HSDPA network in Austria, France, Germany (where it launched in March), Portugal, Spain and Hong Kong.

Vodafone claims to have 80 percent of the business market for 3G data cards in the UK

"The speeds that HSDPA can deliver under real-life operating conditions will significantly improve the mobile working experience, enabling mobile workers to do things more quickly and easily," said John Delaney, principal analyst with Ovum.

Existing 3G users can upgrade by contacting Vodafone.