Design and features
Standard networking equipment and wireless broadband modems rarely share the same design or feature set. Wireless modems tend to be tiny, like USB flash drives, but the Bigpond Elite Wireless BroadBand Network Gateway (a mouthful of a title) is almost unrecognisable as a wireless modem, short of the prominent Telstra branding, with a large form Wi-Fi router appearance.
This change in appearance indicates the main difference between the BigPond Gateway and almost every other broadband wireless modem available; this modem is made for sharing. Its larger size accommodates a range of features we don't usually see in 3G broadband modems, namely the Gateway's four Ethernet ports and two USB ports. This allows for four wired PC connections while saving the two USB ports for connecting an external harddrive or a shared printer. The Gateway also has Wi-Fi so even more PCs can be added to the network to share the user's Telstra BigPond monthly data allowance.
The Gateway is a rebranded NetComm 3G21WG wireless modem/router, and as such it comes with the same security features you'd expect in an ADSL modem/router. It sports NAT/PAT port filtering, MAC address and IP filtering and WEP/WPA/WPA2 wireless password protection. The 3G radio supports dual-band 850/2100MHz frequencies and boasts HSPA speed maximums of 21Mbps downlink and 5.8Mbps uplink, though Telstra only guarantee speeds of between 550kbps and 3Mbps.
In terms of sheer connection speeds, the BigPond Gateway met Telstra's promised downlink speeds with an average of just over 2Mbps link speed and an average download speed of about 300kbps. Latency during our tests was consistently between 200 and 250m/s, which isn't the sort of performance you'd want for internet gaming, but is more than sufficient for everyday web browsing, including video downloads, streaming audio and photo browsing.
The range of the wireless signal is decent, thanks to the Wireless Gateway supporting the 802.11n wireless networking protocol (along with 802.11b/g of course). We tested the Gateway in the CNET offices, amongst other places, and found we could set the router up at one end and connect with a laptop at the other, with numerous physical obstacles between. This isn't the same as connecting across a multi-storey home with brick or concrete walls, but it does suggest the BigPond gateway should provide connectivity in a standard home for several members of your family.
The Wireless Gateway itself will set you back AU$399, though you may be eligible for an AU$299 rebate if you are new to BigPond wireless broadband. After that, you'll need to choose a plan. They start at an exorbidant AU$29.95 per month for 400MB and runs the gamut up to AU$119.95 for 10GB per month. The sweet spots are the 3GB plan for AU$49.95 and the 6GB plan for AU$79.95 per month.
If you compare this pricing to fixed-line ADSL broadband pricing, you definitely get far less data for your money each month, but you also save on the obligatory AU$30 line rental fee you have to pay Telstra on top of the monthly expense you fork out to the ISP you choose. This sort of service would definitely suit families or share-houses who don't require huge amounts of data each month.
It looks like a router and it certainly works like a router, and if you can get decent Next G speeds where you live and your house isn't some enormous mansion, then the Wireless Gateway could offer a decent home internet solution compared to the cost of ADSL 2.