Level 17: Bureau Chief

New 4G/LTE USB Modem Review

[ Just to get it all out of the way up front - Telstra has given me a 4G modem to review and I am a Telstra employee - however, these thoughts are my own and they've asked me to be completely honest with what I have found. Which is the plan... ]


My thoughts on this device appear to mirror other reviewers around here. IMPRESSIVE!!!


The first thing that strikes me these days about new mobile devices is the packaging. Apple changed the way mobile devices are packaged. The small, neat little white box is pretty cool and the new Telstra branding looks good on an actual product.


When opened, as has become the way, the device is right at the top greeting you. Below, you'll find a quick-start manual, a USB extension cord and a rubber clip. The latter are in case access is awkward with your machine and it allows you to place the little rubber clip over the top of your laptop screen and mount the device there. 


The device itself looks pretty cool too. It's a little bigger than most 3G USB dongles. This one is a rectangular wedge about 5cm x 7cm and less than 1cm think. Nice and shiny black with silver text and accents and a nice curved edge. It actually looks like a more advanced piece of technical kit than the white/orange/blue devices of the past. For those who know the BigPond Ultimate USB device, it's the same shape/size but black instead of white.


The USB connector is pretty good too. It swivels out from flush with the device to 180 degrees out and swivels left and right 90 degrees. That should allow it to fit into almost any USB slot arrangement. There will probably be cases where you can't sit it next to a 5cm long USB "thumb drive" but the extension cable can help with that.


SIM installation was straightforward. Slide a cover off one side, slip in the SIM, slide the cover back on. There's also space for a Micro SD card inside.


On first install, the device appears as a USB removable disk and the TRU-Install software runs. It's also nicely badged with the new Telstra branding. The whole thing installed in only a few minutes. Maybe 5 including installing about 10 virtual devices. The Connection Manager (CM) software pops up automatically when you insert the device. My laptop has built-in 3G so when the CM runs, it asks me which one it should use. Which I thought was nice. I was later able to easily use the same CM software with my existing 3G built-in device. 


[ A strange thing that others have reported - once you've installed the drivers, the USB removable drive stops turning up. I have no idea how it's achieving that and what you would do if you had to reinstall the software or drivers. Maybe it'll turn up again if the drivers aren't installed properly. Either way, I understand not wanting the install to pop up every time you insert the device but there must be some way to get the drive back ]


The CM itself is pretty good. Clearly tells you which technology it's using and has content areas for latest BigPond News, quick links to Telstra/Sensis sites and a Sensis Search area. All of these can be minimised to return the CM back to its smaller footprint. 


There are settings in its options screen for controlling whether it should always appear in your system tray or only when the device is installed. The default is for it to appear always. Which is traditional for these kinds of things but could annoy some people. 



Performance - this is obviously the big deal here. Does 4G live up to the hype. OH YES! In fairness, I'm sitting in a Telstra office building trying this out and I'm the only person using 4G (there are some tests below with two of us connected) but, either way, it's impressive.


I did all my testing with I used Optus & Internode servers in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide to test against and got fairly consistent times. So their servers can keep up. My first tests showed the following:


Ping: 42ms   Download: 29Mbps   Upload: 18.5Mbps


WOW! That's faster than my Cable at home. 18 times faster in the case of upload. Playing on the web did not feel like a mobile experience. It felt like being on the LAN. I expected good numbers but these are really cool.


For comparison, I pulled out the 4G/LTE device and tried the same thing with the built in 3G on my laptop. Sitting in exactly the same spot. This will be shared by dozens of smartphones so...


Ping: 72ms (Syd), 90ms (Mel), 102ms (Ade). 5Mbps down, 0.3Mpbs up.


Quite the difference! 


So I tried one of our WiFi hotspots using the Adelaide server. This is a BigPond ADSL2+ service and I got 14.5Mbps down, 0.85Mbps up. I have not had the opportunity to test a physical connection to the ADSL Box.


I also wanted to test what happened with more users. A colleague also has one of these modems which he is running on a Mac laptop. Both in MacOS and Windows. He gets worse performance than me sitting 2 metres away.


When measured at roughly the same time, I got 31/19 (down/up), he got 25/10.


Then we ran tests at the same time as each other. I got 20/15, he got 10/8. A repeat got 16/15 and 14/9. Still quite impressive and not really representative of real life usage. Unless everybody sharing a cell is downloading mega-huge files. For interactive use, email, web browsing. These speeds are great!


My final test was to see how far the coverage got. This was not as good as I would have liked. I jumped on the train at Parliament and things were working pretty well. As soon as we entered the loop, I lost signal, as expected. And never quite got anything decent again. As we emerged from the tunnel in Richmond, 2km from the CBD (I think it's 2.5 to the GPO), I couldn't get any decent signal. It kept on leaping from 4G to 3G and back and each time the current SpeedTest download would drop out. Interactive usage would not have been as badly affected but it wasn't the coverage I was expecting for the distance from the city. That said, it's important to note that I'm sitting in a train at the time and even 3G coverage in a train in Richmond station and out along the Frankston/Cranbourne/Packenham lines has its issues. A lot of the line, from the approach to South Yarra is in a ditch. I managed maybe 0.5Mbps on both my built-in 3G and the 4G/LTE device which had dropped down to 3G.


Overall I'm REALLY impressed with the technology. It really does deliver the speeds promised. The device itself is very good as well. It looks and feels professional and I've had no issues with it at all. The software works well. Switching between 3G & 4G works well too. The only issues I encountered were coverage based as I moved away from town.

[ I am a Telstra Employee however my posts here are done in a personal capacity.]

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Level 21: Augmented

Re: New 4G/LTE USB Modem Review

awesome upload speeds, only wish I was in a coverage area
Statistically, three out of five people are not the other two
Level 1: Cadet

Re: New 4G/LTE USB Modem Review



I am wondering how this device would work in a 2 storey home. i.e. is the range good enought



any thoughts appreciated.






Level 1: Cadet

Re: New 4G/LTE USB Modem Review

I think it works best with an external antenna? i have 1 but the best set-up is with 2 antenna's outside,


Google MIMO to find out more on this?


I currently have only 2 bars & it only changes if not connected to outside antenna to 1 bar. it is very fast with 2 bars.


i have a lot of metal around me so my signal is poor BUT if the antenna is connected its fine. I think it may be the same if you were say in the 1st story trying to use it?


I am not a tech but fiddle to get the best out of it & i am still getting sattelite.....because this is too expensive & i qualify under the NBN scheme because it wont be fitted to my adress....there you are another option?????!!!!!!!!


Man Wink

Level 1: Cadet

Re: New 4G/LTE USB Modem Review

I have a Telstra 4G USB dongle which works well on my laptop. I cannot get it to work on my new Surface Pro. Any suggestions? Also, is there any way for it to connect to both at the same time?

Telstra (Retired)
Telstra (Retired)

Re: New 4G/LTE USB Modem Review

Hi C Sold,


You won't be able to connect both devices at the same time due to it being a USB dongle. There are Wi-Fi units which may better suit your needs to connect both at once.


RE: Surface Pro: Which model USB device do you have? 


-Matt W

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