Telstra already has a pre-paid wireless broadband package available, but its latest offering promises better speeds. Aptly dubbed the Turbo USB modem, this Telstra service has excellent coverage and speed but is once again let down by a 30-day recharge expiry.
The Telstra Turbo Pre-Paid Wireless Broadband USB modem looks like most other mobile broadband devices, but its size is an issue. When we plugged it into a USB port on our test notebook (HP's Envy13 laptop) it prevented access to the second port located alongside it. Two LEDs on the modem notify you of power and data status and lifting a small flap on the left side allows the connection of an external antenna for better reception.
The software required to use the Telstra service is installed on the modem itself, which makes it easy to use on multiple computers. The modem also doubles as a USB flash drive: a microSD card slot is located just above the SIM card slot, alongside the USB connector.
The Telstra Turbo Pre-Paid Wireless Broadband modem is rated at a maximum download speed of 7.2 megabits per second (Mbps) and an upload speed of 5.8Mbps. Telstra claims the service will provide typical real world speeds of between 550 kilobits per second (Kbps) and 3Mbps. As with all mobile Broadband devices, the actual speed achieved will depend on a number of factors such as your location and equipment, network usage and coverage, and network congestion at the time. Telstra's Next G network supports download speeds of up to 21Mbps, but only the much more expensive Turbo 21 Modem can take advantage of this.
The Telstra Turbo Pre-Paid Wireless Broadband service is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS X, and installing the software required takes just a few minutes. Simply plug the modem into a spare USB port on your notebook or PC and the software should automatically run. The Telstra Turbo Connection Manager has an easy and straightforward interface and comes with two extra pieces of software as part of TelstraOne Experience — My Place has quick links to a range of Telstra services and content including Whereis maps, Yellow Pages and Weather information, while there is also an option to install a BigPond news application. This news ticker scrolls RSS feeds across the screen allowing you to quickly view and read the latest news stories. Personally, we found both of these extras rather uninspiring though some may see them as a worthwhile addition.
Using our Broadband Speed Test, the Telstra Turbo Pre-Paid Wireless broadband modem managed to achieve download speeds of up to 2Mbps, but it regularly hovered around 1.5-1.6Mbps. Upload speeds were stable at around 700Kbps, but did hover over 1.2Mbps on occasions.
Using the Telstra Turbo Pre-Paid Wireless Broadband modem we were able to download an 89.9 megabyte iTunes installation package in 6min 49sec — an average speed of 225 kilobytes per second.
Telstra sells the Turbo Pre-Paid Wireless Broadband pack for $179 up-front and includes $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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