Telstra Corporation BigPond Next-G USB Mobile Card
- Solid speeds with excellent coverage, excellent for streaming media and downloads, reliable, ease of set up and documentation
- Full speeds still a rarity, expensive international roaming, expensive plans
The costs are a little high, but Telstra's Next G service is impressive. Excellent coverage, a reliable connection and fast speeds combine to make this one of the best options for anyone looking for wireless broadband.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
Telstra's Next G network has now expanded into the wireless broadband space with the USB Mobile Card. Capable of connecting to the Internet at High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) speeds of up to 3.6Mbps, the Next G USB Mobile card offers an enticing alternative for users without a PCMCIA or ExpressCard slot.
The peak speed of the USB Mobile Card is 3.6Mbps and this speed is supported by the entire network which covers 98% of Australia's population. We were very impressed with the Next G service on the whole, as it has excellent coverage of metropolitan areas and the speeds we achieved 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 USB Mobile Card will revert down to a standard GSM connection. The latter is barely usable, even for the most basic web browsing and email capabilities.
We tested the USB 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. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the USB Mobile Card was its performance on a train from St Leonards to Granville, retaining a constant connection at reasonable speeds throughout the journey. For consistency across all the mobile broadband services, 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 USB 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 two of the most popular sources on the Internet; streaming video from You Tube and streaming music from Pandora. We did experience some slowdown streaming multimedia content in the western suburbs, but this was only 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 HSDPA coverage area (our offices in St Leonards), we were able to achieve speeds of up to 140KB/s but regularly fluctuating between 98KB/s and 125KB/s. A 1MB file took less than a few seconds to complete, while the best we could manage for a 4MB file was a very impressive 20 seconds. Overall, the USB 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.
The USB 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 BigPond software is basic as they come, 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 their 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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