Optus 3G Home Zone

Optus 3G Home Zone review: The Optus 3G Home Zone should ensure you have close to full mobile coverage in and around the home, but it does come at a cost

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Optus 3G Home Zone
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Relatively straightforward set-up
  • Works as advertised
  • Free call offer for primary user

Cons

  • Expensive for $49 plans and under
  • Uses ISP data
  • Range varies depending on dwelling

Bottom Line

The Optus 3G Home Zone generally does what it advertises, providing close to full reception for nominated Optus mobiles, and the free call offer for the primary user is a nice enticement. However, we feel it should be cheaper for uses on $49 plans and under.

Would you buy this?

Optus is the first telco in Australia to utilise a femtocell product, and it's called the Optus 3G Home Zone. It's a small base station that plugs into your existing wireless router and uses a fixed-line broadband Internet connection to boost mobile coverage in your home. The Optus 3G Home Zone is relatively straightforward to set up and does what it advertises, but it will use a small portion of your monthly data quota if your ISP is not Optus.

The Optus 3G Home Zone is advertised by Optus as a solution to its customers with poor reception in and around their home. Once connected and set-up, the 3G Home Zone should typically provide full Optus mobile coverage within a 30 metre range for up to four users at a time.

The device is fairly straightforward to set-up, though the 3G Home Zone needs to be registered and activated online before being switched on. This is achieved through a dedicated Optus Web page, whereby you enter your personal and address details, nominate a primary Optus mobile number to use with the device, and set up a username and password to access your account. Once you've completed the setup online, Optus says it can take up to an hour for the 3G Home Zone to become registered, and ready for use. Our review device was ready to go about 40 minutes after registration, though the unit itself did take over 20 minutes after being switched on to register correctly.

You don't need Optus as your ISP to use the 3G Home Zone, but Optus recommends that the device be connected to a broadband service with a minimum download speed of 1Mbps — if the speed is capped at 128kbps or lower, the device will no longer work. Optus says the 3G Home Zone has a typical data usage of around 1GB per month, though this is "highly variable" depending on the home situation, and the number of users connected to the service. Users with Optus broadband will not have the data used by the 3G Home Zone counted towards their monthly quota.

Once up and running, a single Optus 3G Home Zone device can connect four Optus devices (mobile phones and mobile broadband products) simultaneously. You can register up to 12 devices through the Optus Web portal, but only four can be used at a time. You'll know if you are connected to 3G Home Zone when you make a call with an assigned mobile, as three short beeps are sounded just before an outgoing call is connected.

We tested the service with an iPhone 3GS and the 3G Home Zone worked well. Without the device our mobile usually hovered on two bars of reception throughout the home, but this was raised to the full five bars in most areas of the house with the 3G Home Zone in use. We found the 30 metre range a little off though: in most cases, the signal started to deteriorate around 25 metres away from the unit. Obviously the results will vary depending on the design and construction of the home of office in question.

Aside from the boost in coverage, a nice feature is the fact that the allocated primary user of the Optus 3G Home Zone is able to make unlimited standard national voice calls to fixed or mobile numbers for the $5 a month the device costs. Only the primary, allocated user will be able to use the offer, but you can change the primary phone from month to month if you wish.

Optus sells the 3G Home Zone to customers on plans of $59 per month or higher for $5 a month. Consumers on plans of $49 per month or below are charged $15 per month for the device, which in our opinion seems a little overpriced — especially when you consider that users on these lower plans aren't eligible for the unlimited free calls offer.

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