With a competitive initial outlay cost, no bills or contracts and the ability to recharge the service at your computer, Telstra's Pre-Paid Wireless Broadband service sounds promising. It’s more expensive than offerings from competitors and Telstra's Pre-Paid Wireless Broadband modem (MF626) only has a theoretical maximum download speed of 3.6 megabits per second (Mbps) over the telco's Next G network, but the service we experienced during testing was fast and stable.
It is unfortunate that Telstra's Pre-Paid Wireless Broadband modem (MF626) isn't a 7.2Mbps-capable device, as faster speeds are certainly achievable on the Next G network. For example, Telstra's Turbo 21 Modem supports download speeds of up to 21Mbps. Telstra claims the Pre-Paid Broadband service will provide typical speeds of between 550 kilobits per second (Kbps) and 3.0Mbps. As with all mobile Internet devices, the actual speed achieved will depend on a number of factors such as your location and equipment, and network usage and coverage.
Compared to other USB Internet keys on the market, such as Optus' E1762 USB Modem and 3's E160 Internet Key, the Telstra MF626 USB modem is rather chunky. When we plugged it into our test notebook it prevented access to the USB port located alongside it.
The software required to use the Telstra service is installed on the USB device itself. This means much more flexibility in terms of using the unit on multiple computers. The modem also doubles as a USB flash drive: a microSD card slot is located on the left side, concealed by a plastic flap.
The Telstra Pre-Paid Wireless Broadband service is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS X, and it is simple to set up. Simply plug the modem into a spare USB port on your notebook or PC and install the software. The Telstra Turbo Connection Manager software has a straightforward interface and allows users to recharge the prepaid service from their PC.
During our tests, the Telstra Pre-Paid Wireless Broadband Modem was a stable performer. Using the Broadband Speed Test we managed to achieve download speeds of up to 2Mbps, but it regularly hovered around 1.5Mbps. Upload speeds were stable also at around 340Kbps. In our North Sydney offices, we were able to maintain a full HSDPA signal, and as such had no problems with Web browsing, watching YouTube videos and downloading files. The Telstra Pre-Paid Wireless Broadband modem downloaded a 74 megabyte iTunes installation package in 5min 45sec — an average speed of 219Kbps.
The Telstra Pre-Paid Wireless Broadband pack retails for $149 and includes a USB Modem and $10 credit (equivalent to 75MB). Telstra uses a per kilobyte charging system, and the data rates and allowance are determined by the recharge amount. For example, recharging with $30 gives you a per kilobyte charge of 13.3c (225MB of effective data), while recharging with $100 gives you a per kilobyte charge of 1.65c (6GB of effective data). Unfortunately, all recharges have a 30-day expiry, so any unused credit after this time is lost.
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