None of the offerings from Telstra or Vodafone were even worth considering given that they were overpriced and had a low usage quota, but Three and Optus had plans that were worth looking at.
Optus had plans beginning at $39 a month bundled with a phone for 400mb quota or 2gb for $49 a month. Or if you didn’t want it bundled with a phone the USB modem was an additional $5 a month on 24 month contracts or $10 a month on 12 month contracts.
Three’s plans were more to my liking starting at $29 for 1gb and $49 for 2gb. Both plans came with the USB modem for free on the 24 month contracts, or for $10 a month on the 12 month $29 contract or $5 a month on the 12 month $49 contract.
The thing that had me reluctant to go with Three though is that they allow 2mb of data for roaming usage and then you are charged at $1.65 per mb. That is way too expensive since I will be using it in other places then just Brisbane and I won’t know if there is Three 3G coverage or not, and chances are, there won’t be since their coverage is predominately in the capital cities and other major cities.
So Vodafone and Telstra were too expensive, Optus was a tad bit more expensive then I wanted to spend at this stage, and Three didn’t offer suitable roaming options, so this is why I had not yet done something along these lines.
I noticed this morning though, when my connection was working briefly, that Three had a new offer that bundled a Nokia 6120 with $550 worth of calls and so on with a USB modem and 1gb of bandwidth for $69 a month on a 24 month contract. Of course the phone can be had for $29 a month and the modem and data usage for another $29 a month, but the real selling point is the $550 worth of calls on the phone thats with it. So I was seriously considering going with something like this, then I discovered that on the 3rd of December Vodafone had begun a limited time offer until the 31st of December with 5gb of bandwidth and the USB modem included for $39 a month on a 24 month contract.
I haven’t liked the idea of a 24 month contract at all, but the exit fee is only $25 for each month remaining on the contract, so even for a year, thats only $300 which while its effectively dead money, isn’t that bad. So with this higher available quota than any other provider for a cheaper price prompted me into it so I off I went to Garden City to the nearest Vodafone store.
Upon arriving there and pulling out all the details I could think of at the time that I needed to check. For anyone else interested, the main points are:
While you only get 3G speeds in Vodafone’s coverage area’s, which are predominately capital and major cities, it will automatically switch to GPRS anywhere else using Vodafone’s GSM network and you will not be charged any extra for it, you will just be on GPRS speeds which are similar to dialup, from memory, a tad faster.
The Vodafone GSM network covers the majority of the country, so I have 3G speeds while I’m in Brisbane, and then GSM most of the other places I would be using, so this works out quite well, not as ideally as 3G everywhere, but Telstra are the only ones offering that on their NextG network, which is far too expensive for my needs.
The USB modem and software is meant to be compatible with Windows XP and Vista as well as Mac OS X Panther 10.3 and above. This is important for me as I need it for my Mac laptop as well as my Windows desktop.
Excess data usage is charged at 10c per mb, which is higher then I would like, but is not too bad really.
There is also no option for a 12 month contract, it’s 24 months only and it has to be paid by direct debit.
That’s about it really.
So I went ahead and agreed to get it only to discover they did not have any USB modem’s in stock, nor did any other Vodafone store in Brisbane! How can a company, 1 day after the beginning of a promotion have none of the product?!
So I went around all the other phone stores, double checked that Optus weren’t doing any deals I hadn’t heard of yet, they weren’t. Connectone didn’t have any USB modems. Soul Mobile it turned out don’t do Vodafone, nor do Strathfield, so they were out of the question. Finally I found Crazy Johns who lo and behold had heaps of the USB modems in stock as they had pre-ordered in anticipation of the offer, so I was in luck, or so I thought.
Everything was going well, until they went to do a credit check and they wanted me to ask my employer to lie for the credit check. How is this legal? Anyway, 2 hours later, I ended up getting the lady that was serving me to forget altogether about my sub-contracting and just use my store-based job for the application, so half an hour later once she sorted that out, I passed the credit check and off I go with my new USB modem and Vodafone Red SIM.
Out of the box it comes and first up you have to install the software. This takes a couple of minutes so I popped the SIM card in while I was waiting. It’s fairly simple, it just slips into a little slide out tray then goes back into the modem.
The manual says that it prompts you when it wants you to plug in the modem, but no big surprise, it doesn’t.
I got it all setup on Windows with no problems and as you can see in the photo to the right, it has a strong resemblance to the photo on the case!
Installing it on the Mac was a slightly different story. The software installs fine and it detects the modem, but it does not seem to behave exactly as it should. I’m not sure if this is a clash that has something to do with my using Leopard or what, but I plan on tinkering with it soon and seeing if I can figure it out.
The modem itself as you can see is quite small and portable. It comes with a single, short USB cable as I am using in the photo, and a second longer cable with two plugs on the end in case a single connection does not provide enough power.
The flashing light you can vaguely see on the front in the photo changes depending on the activity. It’s off when there is no activity, green when the computer is communication with it without the internet being connected, dark blue when it is connected to the net but there is no activity, and teal when it’s connected to the net and there is activity.
The Vodafone software for Windows is quite straight forward and simple to use. It shows how much bandwidth you’ve used per month, how much per session, and how far you are away from your quota. It also allows you to send SMS’s from your computer. I don’t know if these cost, and if so how much, but I shall attempt to find out soon.
The Mac version of the software appears to be just as simple, but as I mentioned earlier I haven’t really fiddled around with it yet. I do know though that it doesn’t have the SMS feature that the Windows version has.
The speed’s are nothing spectacular, though they are far better then dialup, and far better then dealing with the poor landline connection here, even if it is far faster for the 20 second intervals that it works for.
I shall hopefully sort out whatever the problem is on the Mac soon and see how it goes. For now though, I highly recommend this as it has been very stable and consistent in the connection, even with things like video streaming, though I don’t intend on doing this too much since it’s only 5gb.
One thing I forgot to find out is whether uploads count towards the quota as well, so this is something I will have to chase up ASAP.
Anyway, chances are, unless I’m at work, uni, or visiting the family in Lismore, you’ll be hearing from me via my shiny new 3G connection.
Have a good one guys and girls.