Wireless Broadband - Roamer USB

Convenient wireless broadband

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Optus Wireless Broadband - Roamer USB
  • Optus Wireless Broadband - Roamer USB
  • Optus Wireless Broadband - Roamer USB
  • Optus Wireless Broadband - Roamer USB

Pros

  • Plug and play, HSDPA 3.6 enabled, intuitive software

Cons

  • Not all users can achieve quoted speeds, competitors offering HSDPA 7.2 devices, price

Bottom Line

Optus’ Roamer USB Modem is convenient and hassle-free to set up and use, but so are most of its competitors. Price and network coverage are two of the biggest issues.

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The Optus Roamer USB is the latest addition to the growing mobile broadband market. Offering HSDPA speeds of up to 3.6Mbps, the Roamer USB works reasonably well. However, not all Australians will be able to experience the fastest speeds due to Optus' network coverage.

Perhaps the best feature of the Roamer USB is its plug-and-play capabilities. The software required for its use is installed off the USB device itself, meaning greater flexibility when using it on multiple computers. Unfortunately, the software isn't compatible with Mac.

According to Optus, the Roamer USB delivers average speeds of up to 1.5Mbps (megabytes per second). It's important to keep in mind that the actual speed achieved will vary depending on a number of factors such as device capabilities, your location and equipment, as well as network usage at the time. The Optus 3G/HSPDA network only covers 65% of the population at present, so not all users will be able to achieve the quoted speeds. As an example, broadband speeds aren't available in the Northern Territory or Tasmania, but 3G/HSDPA coverage is available in metro areas of Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and Adelaide.

Optus plans to expand its 3G/HSPA network to 96 percent of the population in the future. For more information on Optus' HSDPA coverage, check out their website, http://www.optus.com.au/coverage/.

Optus' Mobile Broadband service supports connectivity in HSDPA, 3G and GSM coverage areas. If the HSDPA signal strength isn't strong enough, the service falls back to standard 3G (a maximum speed of 384Kbps). If no HSDPA or 3G signal can be received, then the modem will revert down to standard GSM (60Kbps maximum), which is barely useable.

During testing, the USB modem performed well in our offices (based in St Leonards, Sydney), receiving a standard HSDPA signal. For consistency we performed a number of tests, sending and receiving small amounts of data, like emails and basic Web browsing, using streaming services, and finally downloading files (ranging from 1MB to 57MB in size).

The Roamer USB works well for basic Web browsing, loading pages without much delay. If you are in a HSDPA or 3G coverage area, streaming media from sites like YouTube is hassle free; this is obviously not possible if the coverage drops down to GSM speeds. Downloading files while in a standard HSDPA coverage area, we were able to achieve speeds of up to 140KBps (kilobytes per second), but fluctuating regularly between 110KBps and 130KBps. As an example, we managed to download a 57MB file in 8min17sec, a transfer rate of 117KBps. This is significantly slower than our experience with 3 Mobile's Broadband Internet Key.

The Optus Wireless Broadband software included on the USB Modem is easy to use. It is compatible with Windows XP, 2000 and Vista, and takes just a few minutes to install. The interface has menus for connection, text, phonebook and statistics ( which is an excellent way of tracking your data usage by providing stats for daily, monthly and yearly downloaded and uploaded data).

Pricing plans for the Roamer USB start at $29.99 for 1GB of data per month and range up to $44.99 (2GB), $49.99 (5GB) and $59.99 (6GB) — all through a 24 month contract. On top of this, the USB modem has an upfront cost of $199. All Optus data plans charge 15 cents per megabyte for any additional usage.

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