Telstra Prepaid Mobile Broadband Hotspot

It's not as flashy as comparable portable devices, but Telstra's prepaid mobile broadband hotspot delivers speed, at a price.


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Up until now, Telstra's been the one hold-out on a portable MiFi style router product. This portable Wi-Fi router redresses that balance, but curiously Telstra's opted to offer it as a prepaid product offering.

Design

The router itself is a rebadged ZTE MF30 heavy on the Telstra branding. It's nice and light to hold, but that's also because it's made out of very thin plastic indeed. This gives the impression of being rather flimsy, with clicky buttons and a simple light up LED interface. Compared to the competition offered by Virgin and Vodafone particularly, the Telstra product does come off as second best. Like most portable routers, the included buttons are kept to a minimum, with an on/off switch and WPS button separated by a slot for a microSD card. Charging is via mini-USB at the base, and out of our review box, the SIM was already pre-inserted, but oddly the battery wasn't. The rear cover is of a similar cheap and light plastic to the rest of the construction, and we'd be wary of popping it on or off too quickly in any case.

Features

For lovers of technical specifications, the Prepaid Mobile Broadband Hotspot is a 7.2Mbps HSUPA tri-band (850/1900/2100MHz) modem with 802.11b/g WiFi compatibility.

Telstra sells the device on a prepaid basis upfront for AU$149 with 5GB of included data to use within 90 days of activation. The 5GB of data really makes most of the value proposition for the system, as a similar amount of data (technically up to 6GB, depending on other recharge variables that frankly, make our heads hurt) by itself will cost you AU$100. This is, in essence, the razorblades model applied to mobile data, as even a moderate amount of recharge data will quickly outpace the cost of the device itself. It's locked to the Telstra network with an unlocking fee applicable if you want to use it with other networks.

One nice factor with the Prepaid Mobile Broadband Hotspot is that it comes pre-secured with a WPA2 passphrase that's printed on a card for you to keep. If the device is factory reset (by holding down the power and WPA buttons for more than five seconds), it'll default back to these values, so losing the card would be a very bad idea indeed.

Telstra's confirmed to us that if you've got a NextG Mobile Phone SIM with a browsing pack or a Telstra Business Mobile Broadband SIM, you can drop those into the Prepaid Mobile Broadband Hotspot and merrily work away. Those with a post-paid BigPond Mobile Broadband SIM will have to look elsewhere, however. According to Telstra, the post-paid Mobile Broadband SIM simply won't work with the Hotspot at all.

Performance

Most portable Wi-Fi routers are built around simplicity, and in this aspect the Prepaid Mobile Broadband Hotspot is no different. The most complex bit of set-up involves registering the service over the phone. As with registering any mobile service, there's a certain amount of automated phone service and a certain quantity of script-led call centre hoops to leap through before you're done, but it's nothing that's markedly better or worse than any other similar service. We were advised when setting up our review unit that it could take up to four hours to activate the service, but about two minutes after our call concluded, the SIM was working fine.

We've been a bit spoilt when it comes to router web pages for portable routers; both Vodafone's Pocket WiFi and Netcomm's MyZone feature easy to access interfaces that are simple to configure. So the Prepaid Mobile Broadband Hotspot's rather rudimentary interface was something of a shock to encounter. There's not too much you can tweak given it's a locked down system in any case.

The router had few problems accommodating multiple devices without problem, but we did notice it getting increasingly warm when using it over a longer period of time. Most portable routers can be carried in the pocket for on-the-go broadband access, but in the case of the Telstra Wi-Fi, be prepared for extra-warm legs if you do this. That could be nice in winter, we guess.

Data throughput speeds varied, as they always do with mobile broadband devices, but the Prepaid Mobile Broadband Hotspot did hit a high peak of around 5.1Mbps down and 2.145Mbps up working from a single device. Up to five devices are supported, and we had no problems connecting a variety of mobiles, tablets and laptops to the device.

Conclusion

Telstra's late entry into the market isn't hugely helped by bringing a unit that doesn't compare all that favourably to the competition. Vodafone's Pocket WiFi has a better interface, but it's markedly slower and, like the Telstra unit, locked to a single vendor. If we were buying a portable router right now, we'd pick up Netcomm's MyZone, which is available in several outlets for AU$199. It's a touch more than the locked options, but at either prepaid or post-paid data rates you'll burn through the difference quickly anyway, and benefit from an unlocked unit with excellent build quality.

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beetle posted a comment   

is there any difference between using a usb modem and a pocket wifi?

 

BCK posted a comment   

The Good:Fastest mi-fi available.

The Bad:Poor battery life, gets uncomfortably hot, long recharge times, POOR battery life.

I have one, works fine with my post paid next g sim?

Jonny Poindexter
9
Rating
 

Jonny Poindexter posted a review   

The Good:Easy to use, on Telstra network, can be charged and used at same time, comes with 5 GB included data

The Bad:Feels flimsy, on costly Telstra network

Since returning from UK where I used a 3 network USB key for mobile internet, I didn't think that there would be much difference between the Australian mobile broadband providers in terms of speed, coverage and reliability and so bought another 3 mobile broadband USB key when I touched down in Australia. How wrong I was!!!

Have just bought the Telstra Prepaid Mobile Broadband hotspot reviewed here and have found a massive difference between the Telstra network and what I became used to on 3. OK Telstra is generally much more expensive for mobile broadband but I'm very happy to pay the extra cost if it means that I always have a fast, reliable internet connection wherever I go. The WIFI device is 100% more useful than the old USB key I used as well, enabling me to connect laptops, Ipods, mobile phones and Playstations, often at the same time.

I'm very happy with it.

Pippa
7
Rating
 

Pippa posted a review   

The Good:works out the box

The Bad:None yet

Seems to work easily and speedily, as advertized - unlike the Virgin Mobile piece of junk which constantly dropped connections. A relief!

paulie
9
Rating
 

paulie posted a review   

good for online ps3 came such as call od duty black ops.. works well

 

Rakka posted a comment   

Will i be able to use this for TiVo? if not, any recommendations on something i can use... i do not have a phone line connected at home.

 

brad posted a reply   

yes it works 4 tivo

 

PAR posted a comment   

The Good:Easy to setup, 3G coverage is by far the best with Telstra

The Bad:Gets a little warm after prolong usage

Picked this up after my mobile was having trouble picking a single in the country, a big draw point was Telstra by far have the best coverage for mobile but at a cost. In this case the modem is one of the more pricey ones but well worth the extra $$$. Used to have a mobile USB modem and would encounter the blue screen of death alot of the time on my laptop due to conflicts with other applications installed. This is much easy get up and running nothing to install on my PC. Battery life is pretty good at just over 3 hours of use. Unlike some of the other modems you can charge and use it at the same time. Speed was clocked at around the 5mbs mark although this was in the city.
Data costs are similar to other providers although Telstra is as good as some of the other provides and its still up there. I would recommend getting the 10GB's which is valid for 12 months, its always a pain not having any data when you need it!
Overall a nice wifi modem with little setup and pretty good on reception and speed.

 

cassie73 posted a comment   

The Good:nice and easy

The Bad:nothing

Hi acradelt, how do u change the ssid and pasword to ur own personalised one??? cant find out how anywhere..

arcadelt
8
Rating
 

arcadelt posted a review   

The Good:Rock solid, fast, small and light

The Bad:None really with the device, but this is still an expensive way to connect

I got this device just a few weeks ago, and have not really tested it in earnest, but so far it has been very good - in fact I am using it now to write this review. The configuration was very easy, and I have now changed it to my own SSID name and own password, and it all works well with my Windows 7 netbook - this is a vastly improved experience from that I had with the equivalent Virgin device and network (see my review for that product). I am not certain why the cnet reviewer thinks this is flimsy, as I have not found that to be the case; although I do agree that you do not want to open this or any other device in a hurry. I will be using this device OS over Christmas, so I hope the roaming goes well. Finally, I am glad that Telstra have finally started offering a pre-paid option where the data can by used over 12 months ($150 for 10GB). I used a Telstra USB device previously, and credit running out between trips (I use ADSL at home) was always the biggest issue for me.




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User Reviews / Comments  Telstra Prepaid Mobile Broadband Hotspot

  • beetle

    beetle

    "is there any difference between using a usb modem and a pocket wifi?"

  • BCK

    BCK

    "I have one, works fine with my post paid next g sim?"

  • Jonny Poindexter

    Jonny Poindexter

    Rating9

    "Since returning from UK where I used a 3 network USB key for mobile internet, I didn't think that there would be much difference between the Australian mobile broadband providers in terms of speed,..."

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