Telstra’s Elite Mobile Wi-Fi is the latest in a series of pre-paid wireless modems that turn a 3G mobile broadband into a personal Wi-Fi hotspot.
This second-gen dongle ups the ante on Telstra’s original Mobile Wi-Fi model by potentially doubling download speeds with the added niceties of a tiny OLED screen, on-the-go battery charging via USB and an external antenna socket.
But download speed, and the extensive reach of Telstra’s Next G network is where the $129 Elite gallops ahead of the pack - which includes the $99 offerings from Vodafone, Optus and Virgin Mobile.
We clocked an average of 7.9Mbps in the Sydney CBD, with a reliable 6Mbps in surrounding inner-city suburbs. Heading further out into the suburbs saw the signal drop to a still solid 4.5Mbps.
Connecting more than one device to the wireless hotspot saw a MacBook, iPad 1 and iPad 2 and iPhone 4 each draw around 2Mbps in ideal conditions, although the iPhone 4 seemed more prone to dropping the download speed under load.
The fastest upload speed we could manage was 3.3Mbps with a single device connected, and we had no trouble exceeding 3.5 hours of solid use before the battery needed a recharge.
The Elite Mobile Wi-Fi comes locked down and there’s no facility to change the device’s SSID or WPA2 password. These are thoughtfully supplied on a wallet-sized card, and thankfully duplicated under the modem’s battery slot in case you lose the card.
The kicker is the cost of topping up the modem’s data allowance. Out of the box you get 5GB to gobble within 90 days. The cheapest recharge option is 250MB for $20 with a 21 day expiry period, but the more useful 6GB/90 day recharge costs $100 – almost as much as the modem itself.
The best value option is to put down $150 for 10GB that’ll last you a whole year.
At the time of writing only business customers can buy the Elite Mobile Wi-Fi on a month-by-month plan but a Telstra spokesman said the company was “currently considering a Post-Paid (consumer) option”.
If you want to travel overseas and drop a local SIM card into the device you’ll also be up for $100 fee to unlock it from Telstra’s network.