BigPond Next G Wireless Broadband Mobile Card

Fancy a 1.3Mbps broadband pipeline direct to your notebook, without a cable in sight? The new BigPond wireless data card makes good on Telstra's lofty promises for its Next G network.


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Telstra's second-gen BigPond Wireless Broadband Mobile Card (yes, we know it's a mouthful) piggybacks onto the fresh-baked Next G network. Next G uses the same 850MHz slice of spectrum as Telstra's EVDO/CDMA system, which will be closed in early 2008, and sits adjacent to the long-standing 900MHz GSM band.

While the frequency allocation puts Next G at odds with the 2100MHz 3G services run by all four local mobile carriers, Next G uses 3G technologies such as HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) to deliver turbo-charged speeds for data and downloads. Telstra claims "average speeds of 550Kbps to 1.5Mbps" - you can check the results of our real-world tests later in this review.

Design
The card itself is a rebadged version of the GlobeTrotter GT Max produced by the Belgium-based Option, one of the leading OEMs for wireless data cards (Option also produces 3G cards for Optus and, overseas, Vodafone).

It's a standard PC Card format which runs under Windows (2000 and XP) and Mac OS X (10.3.9 or higher). However, users of late-model laptops which are equipped with only an ExpressCard slot - and that includes all of Apple's MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks - will need to wait until Next G versions of the BigPond ExpressCard and USB mini-modem arrives early next year.

The design is slightly cleaner than the original EVDO/CDMA card which had a stubby vertically-mounted antenna that, if you were using a small to mid-sized notebook, easily got in the way of your hands unless they stayed dead centre on the keyboard.

The new card is a huge improvement. It sports a unique "Butterfly" antenna which springs out of the card to reveal two small plastic-encased elements (each is around two-thirds the size of an SD memory card) which sit at 45 degree angle to one another for optimum signal capture. When you're done, the wafers snap securely back into the card for safety.

There's also a socket for fitting an external antenna, which Telstra sells for AU$29.95.

Features
While the BigPond Wireless Broadband Mobile Card obviously works best in its native Next G environment, should you find yourself in a low-signal or no-signal area the card will fall back to GSM.

That's not a very appealing thought when you consider GSM's data rate nudges barely 70Kbps on its best days, but as Telstra is co-siting Next G transmitters with its existing GSM and CDMA stations you should expect the Next G footprint to rapidly grow.

The card can also be used overseas, where it roams onto the 850MHz 3G networks of Telstra partners in 33 countries, but the surcharge of AU$15 per MB makes for a significant ouch factor.

Telstra's Next G data card sports a unique pop-up "butterfly" antenna which retracts into the card's shell when not in use. Click to enlarge.

Telstra's BigPond Connection Manager 2 software provides a user friendly front-end with a good degree of control over both card and connection settings, and is a welcome step forward in features and stability compared to the first version of the client.

We were impressed that the post-install routine offered to set up email through Outlook or Outlook Express, but were less enamoured with its background attempt to change our browser's home page to bigpond.com. This was detected and subsequently blocked only because we were running anti-spyware utility, as home page hijacks are a common trait of spyware.

Even so, the software succeeded in rebranding our Web browser as "Telstra BigPond Home Internet Explorer", although Firefox was unsullied. Memo to Team Telstra: offer your customers the choice to adopt bigpond.com as their home page, and don't bother with petty exercises in chest-puffing such as renaming their browser.

On the other hand, the manual blew us away. With 56 pages full of useful information on security, downloading (including warnings about excess usage due to streaming media and file sharing) and managing your account, and all written in plain English, Telstra deserves a pat on the back for providing its customers with a real handbook rather than a fold-out leaflet.

Performance
For wireless broadband, speed is pretty much where the rubber hits the road. That's doubly so for Next G, which Telstra has spruiked as being a turbo-charged HSDPA hare "with average speeds of 550Kbps to 1.5Mbps", compared to 3G's tortoise - and unlike the fable, slow and steady doesn't win this race.

Just a stone's throw from the North Sydney CBD, and signed up for Telstra's Super G Fast plan (see the end of this review for full details), we clocked the Next G card at an average 1.3Mbps (1,300Kbps) with the uplink channel at a more leisurely 210Kbps. This proved the card and network as good as Telstra's word in matching domestic ADSL speeds.

We also noticed that the card established a network connection in a rapid eight seconds, whereas some 3G notebook cards see you drumming your fingers for a half minute before you can even do anything online.

To test Testra's claim that the lower 850MHz frequency of Next G compared to 3G's 2100MHz would provide superior signal penetration deep into buildings, we camped out in the middle of the business centre floor of the Sydney Hilton Hotel.

Here the card averaged a steady 1.1Mbps flow of data, while the best we could get from any of the 3G networks using their own notebook data cards was 218Kbps.

Of course, reliable coverage is also paramount. We headed down to Bondi Beach, where radio waves are challenged by geography, and found the Next G signal to be sporadic at best. We've little doubt this will change as the network fills out and black holes are filled in, but it should also be noted that our chosen location also failed to serve reliable connections to 3G.

This illustrates why, despite Telstra's promise that Next G covers 98% of the population, you need to test drive any wireless broadband network in your most visited areas before pouring your money into the card and contract.

Telstra offers a 10-day trial of BigPond Wireless Broadband with a refund of the card's cost "if there's no or poor coverage at your preferred location because it's outside the coverage area or in a black spot".

The BigPond Wireless Broadband Mobile Card comes with usage plans based either time or volume, with two speed levels -- G Fast is limited to 256Kbps, while Super G Fast ratchets between 550-1500Kbps.

The entry-level AU$29.95 plan buys you 10 hours of Super G Fast per month. For AU$49.95 per month you can choose between 200MB at G Fast speeds or 20 hours of Super G Fast. Time-based pricing disappears with the AU$79.95 scheme, which delivers 1GB of G Fast or 400MB of Super G Fast. For AU$109.95 you get 1GB of Super G Fast, while AU$199.95 covers 3GB of Super G Fast. Excess usage on either G Fast or Super G Fast is charged at 30c per Mb on usage-based plans and 80c per five minute block on time-based plans.



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damn telstra
2
Rating
 

damn telstra posted a review   

The Good:when it works its great

The Bad:constant drop outs

i live 500 meters from the comms tower and use a 12db yagi antenna so get excellent signal at all times.the only problem is one minute i can be getting 17 Mbps download speeds then a minute later slower then dial up.been in contact with telstra for the 3 months ive been with them and they know its a problem with there network and have said twice now they will send someone out to fix the problem and will give me a call to let me know there findings.Guess what no call from them and still same problems.too costly to get a landline connected here so have to pay the $90 p/m for another of telstras **** products.

 

maxos posted a comment   

The Good:wireless

The Bad:evrything else

Waste of effort, time and money. NEVER, EVER Telstra products again!!

sally
2
Rating
 

sally posted a review   

The Good:no cables and no phone line needed

The Bad:EVERYTHING ELSE

my best friend bought a new notebook and signed up to this plan. she then came over my place as iam a computer whiz so i could show her some things on her notebook.

i live in inner west of sydney. basically 10 minutes by car and 5 minutes by train from SYDNEY CBD.
and i live in a house. not an apartment.

we got connections but the drop outs were unbelievable.

she was at my place for 5 hours and for 5 hours. we left it on the same spot/table and not moved it and it dropped out maybe over 100 times. it got better during the end but at the beginning it dropped out every 30 seconds-1 minute after about 3 hours of dropping out each minute it then got better and finallly stopped dropping out. i then did not get 1 single drop out for the last 2 hours.

we were trying to download and install itunes onto her notebook and this is how bad it is. IT TOOK 3 HOURS TO DOWNLOAD ITUNES because of the constant drop outs.

the speed was also very average. i thought my 3g mobile phone who iam with vodafone with was wayyy faster.
i do not recommend it. considering i live in a house 5-10 minutes away from sydney CBD where it has the most strongest/best coverage of telsta in the whole of australia and i got over 100 drop outs in 3 hours. i would think its pretty bad in other areas not so close to sydney CBD.

would not recommend it. the cheaper normal ones i find are better quality. even dodo which are $10 per month and $80 for their usb modem i found to be wayy better. i mean at least i aint getting drop outs non stop.

not worth the price.

Brisdave
2
Rating
 

Brisdave posted a review   

The Good:Can sometimes get email

The Bad:Everything really.

Terrible intermittent and slow signal. I live in the Brisbane CBD on the 6th floor of an apartment building in Fortitude Valley and despite having 5 bars consistently I usually lose connectivity after about 15 minutes and have to reboot. Have rebuilt the laptop, removed all apps except Bigpond, tried every browser under the sun but no improvement! Intend breaking my contract under "Product not fit for purpose" as soon as I can get ADSL - Avoid, avoid, avoid!!

stung
2
Rating
 

stung posted a review   

Used it for the first few months and got over billed twice!! Each was over $400. How absolutely ridiculous!! The card was not even in my laptop the second time I was overbilled. Fortunately both issues have been settled. Don't know where their glitch was, but obviously a very significant one. Stopped using it all together after that. Will cancel when contract runs out.

mit
3
Rating
 

mit posted a review   

The Good:The product is good, works pretty much everywhere i've ever needed, nice speeds and easy to install.

The Bad:It's over expensive for what it is, 118 for 3g then not being able to use full 3g as their meter is crap and you end up getting stung for big dollars, which means your paying too much and not able to get your full amount, plus trying to get any assistance on the phone is usless.

have been using bigpond for past twelve months, first month was over billed by 700 dollars, apparently a glitch, over the next year i was able to monitor my usage very well, on my last month ive been stung for another 200 with i am also contesting and have now been threatened with disconnection even though the relavent paperwork has been
sent.

crf250
7
Rating
 

crf250 posted a review   

The Good:good card an reception excellent

The Bad:**** customer service and plan structure.

To everyone who is having trouble with vista and this card here are several solutions depning on the problem becase there are several.
If you have already tried to load the software that comes with this card you have into device manager go through all the fllowing modems, pcmia adaptors, usb etc and get rid of all the globetrotter and globe trotter interface and remove the program from control panel install and remove.
Then make sure you have the latest cd or driver because this is the problem.
install the cd and do not put card in untill promt in the cd, if you have the latest cd you will get on line to down load the 2.7 version fot this card. if you dont have the latest cd you have to download 2.0 or 2.7 and update the driver. This did take a while for me to work out but like someone said before relax and do correclty once. in saying that this card is excellent technology is just telstra offer **** service and expensive plans. Telstra needed further trial and eror before asking $300 a card and $118 a month

fred
2
Rating
 

fred posted a review   

Cant get any conection at all 2kms from Wollongong

maca888
9
Rating
 

maca888 posted a review   

The Good:Good Signal Coverage
Good Speeds (and latency)

The Bad:Somewhat Expensive

My job sees me travel out to remote aboriginal communities. I was able to connect (and play World of Warcraft) in some of the most remote areas of Australia without skipping a beat.

Darwin guy
5
Rating
 

Darwin guy posted a review   

The Good:Is faster, well it seems to be

The Bad:Huge drop outs and are in a capital city, but guess is darwin so maybe not that much of a service up here

Is faster and tends to work better but huge drop outs with the new wireless card


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User Reviews / Comments  BigPond Next G Wireless Broadband Mobile Card

  • damn telstra

    damn telstra

    Rating2

    "i live 500 meters from the comms tower and use a 12db yagi antenna so get excellent signal at all times.the only problem is one minute i can be getting 17 Mbps download speeds then a minute later s..."

  • maxos

    maxos

    "Waste of effort, time and money. NEVER, EVER Telstra products again!!"

  • sally

    sally

    Rating2

    "my best friend bought a new notebook and signed up to this plan. she then came over my place as iam a computer whiz so i could show her some things on her notebook.

    i live in inner w..."

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