Laptop Connect offers short-term wireless broadband hire and is the first service of its kind in Australia. It's a quick and easy solution for anyone who needs short-term mobile Internet access and isn't willing to sign up to a lengthy contract. However, it’s a little expensive for our liking.
There are no contracts to sign and the service uses Telstra's Next G network, which is the fastest (and the most expensive) network for mobile broadband in Australia.
You order online and Laptop Connect will post you a USB modem in a reusable package. Once your hire period is over, you simply return the modem via the reusable package. Postage both ways is included in the hire cost.
The software required to use the Laptop Connect service is installed on the USB device itself. This makes it easy to use 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 service is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS X.
Performance was adequate during our testing, though speeds will depend on your location. In our North Sydney office we managed to achieve download speeds of up to megabits per second, but it regularly hovered around 1.5Mbps. We tested using the Broadband Speed Test. Upload speeds were stable at just under 600 kilobits per second.
The minimum rental period is three days, and this costs $10.95 per day. This price decreases if you're using the service for a longer period, down to $4.95 per day for a month-long loan. Using the service for longer than five days will cost you less than $10 per day. On the whole the service is a little expensive. For example, $15 per month will get you 1GB of data from 3 Mobile. The Laptop Connect service comes with a daily combined upload and download data allowance of 143MB and any excess usage will be charged at Telstra's standard rate of $0.25 per megabyte.
The Laptop Connect service competes with Internet cafes and hotel Internet. It is likely to be significantly more cost effective than most of these services, and it is much more convenient. With the price of mobile broadband continually dropping, though, we're not sure how useful the Laptop Connect service will remain.
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