Telstra Corporation BigPond Next-G Mobile Card
- Solid speeds with excellent coverage, Good for streaming media and downloads, Reliable, ease of set up and documentation
- Peak speed of 1.8Mbps, expensive international roaming, expensive plans, needs a PCMCIA slot
The costs are a little high, but Telstra's Next G service is impressive. Excellent coverage, a reliable connection and good speeds combine to make this one of the better options for wireless broadband. Keep in mind though, that users with a newer ExpressCard slot aren't catered for with the Mobile Card.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
Claiming average speeds of between 550Kbps and 1.5Mbps with a peak speed of 1.8Mbps, Telstra's BigPond Next G Mobile Card is ideal for users with a PCMCIA slot on their notebook. Connecting to the Internet via High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) coverage, the Mobile Card hooks into Telstra's comprehensive Next G network, claiming to cover 98% of Australia.
Unfortunately, the Mobile Card isn't able to achieve full 3.6Mbps speeds like its BigPond Next-G USB Mobile Card counterpart. The good news is, the Next G service still has excellent coverage of metropolitan areas. The speeds we achieved, although not as fast as the BigPond Next-G USB Mobile Card, were some of the best of any mobile broadband service we've reviewed.
The Next G service supports connectivity in HSDPA, 3G and standard GSM coverage areas. If the HSDPA signal isn't strong enough, the service will fall back to a standard 3G connection. If neither a HSDPA nor 3G signal can be received, then the Mobile Card will revert down to a standard GSM connection but GSM is barely usable, even for the most basic web browsing and email capabilities. We tested the Mobile card in both our offices (based in St Leonards) and in the western suburbs of Sydney, using the top of the line Super G Fast 3GB plan. We also used it in and around the Sydney and North Sydney CBD zones.
Like the BigPond Next-G USB Mobile Card, we received a HSDPA signal in our offices. We had no signal drop outs on a trip between St Leonards and Granville but instead retained a constant, reliable connection at reasonable speeds. As with all our mobile broadband reviews, we performed a number of tests, ranging from small amounts of data like emails and Web browsing, to streaming services and then the downloading of files ranging from 1MB to 4MB in size.
For basic Web browsing, the Mobile Card performs well, loading common sites like The Sydney Morning Herald and News.com.au, while it also had no problem streaming content from You Tube and Pandora. We did experience some slowdown streaming multimedia content in the western suburbs, but this was only at times when the service was struggling to maintain a signal. This was a rarity though, and for most part we were able to achieve solid speeds in all testing areas.
Downloading small files while in a standard HSDPA coverage area (our offices in St Leonards), we were able to achieve speeds of up to 97Kb/s but regularly fluctuating between 89Kb/s and 93Kb/s. A 1MB file took less than ten seconds to complete, while the best we could manage for a 4MB file was a very impressive 30 seconds. Overall, the Mobile Card is ideal for most users, as it is capable of streaming multimedia, while also performing well for basic business needs, such as web browsing and email.
Like the BigPond Next-G USB Mobile Card, the Mobile Card features international roaming, meaning the service can be used in a number of countries overseas. Unfortunately, what could have been an excellent feature is let down by exuberant costs. Users have to activate international roaming at least 24 hours before they intend to use it overseas and are charged a whopping $15 per MB and an additional 15 cent flag fall just to connect.
The card itself is the standard PC Card format (PCMCIA) which runs under Windows (2000 and XP) and Mac OS X (10.3.9 or higher). Unfortunately, users with a newer ExpressCard slot aren't catered for, and are therefore better off with the BigPond Next-G USB Mobile Card. The Mobile Card has an antenna which pops out of the end and reveals two small, plastic pieces. These fold back into place neatly when the antenna is pushed back into the card. If you are struggling for a signal, there is also an antenna socket, but an antenna isn't included in the sales package.
The BigPond software is basic but effective. We really appreciated the step-by-step installation guide, and the user manual was clear and concise with plenty of important and useful information. First time users will be extremely pleased. Telstra offers a 10-day trial of the Next G service and promises a refund of the card cost if users are unable to receive coverage at your home or work place. For plans, two speeds are offered and these are based on either time or volume. G Fast has a maximum speed of 256Kbps, while Super G Fast is rated at up to 550-1500Kbps.
The lowest priced plan is the $29.95 Super G Fast plan, which gives users 10 hours of use per month. The next step up is the $49.95 per month plan, which means users can choose between 200MB at G Fast speeds or 20 hours of Super G Fast. For $79.95, you'll get 1GB of G Fast or 400MB of Super G Fast and for $109.95 you'll receive 1GB of Super G Fast. The top of the line plan costs $199.95 and offers 3GB of Super G Fast. Additional usage on G Fast or Super G Fast is charged at 30c per Mb on use-based plans and 80c per five minute block on time-based plans.
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