Telstra is quoting "typical" downstream bandwidths in the range 1.Mbps to 20Mbps. A Telstra video showed the modem delivering around 10Mbps in a number of locations in the Melbourne CBD and iTWire was able to obtain 10Mbps from our office in the inner Sydney suburb of Enmore.
(This was achieved using speedtest.net and a server in Canberra operated by AussieHQ Interestingly the other two available nearby servers, operated by Optus in Melbourne and Sydney, delivered less than half this speed).
The service is being offered at the same price as current Next G broadband services (the modem is available at $0 on a $69 per month 6GB contract, or can be bought for $299). However because of a shortage of supply of the modems, they are being offered initially only to Telstra Enterprise And Government and Telstra Business customers with account managers.
Mike Wright, Telstra's executive director of networks and access technologies, said Telstra had at present only 2000 of the modems, dubbed the Telstra Ultimate USB Modem, but was expecting more shortly. "There is another shipment coming in late September and from then and after that we will have the supply to meet demand forecasts."
He added that, like previous HSPA services launched on Next G, the new service and delivery of the new modem had been made possible only through close co-operation between Telstra, network supplier Ericsson, chipmaker Qualcomm and modem manufacturer, Sierra Wireless.
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Upstream bandwidths are the same as on the present HSPA+ service, for which Telstra quotes "typically 300kbps - 3Mbps." The new service does not have dedicated network capacity: it achieves its throughput by bonding two channels of the existing HSPA+ service. Wright said that, in doing so it achieves greater efficiencies. "Statistically is able to spread the load over the two channels." He was unable to quantify the gain, but said, "We will be measuring this as we deploy more of these devices."
Installation of the software and configuration of the modem is fairly straightforward. The Connection Manager application is stored on the USB modem and installation commences automatically when the modem is plugged in. However there is a trap for the unwary.
However iTWire's Mac had the Sierra Wireless 3G Watcher for an earlier ExpressCard USB modem installed and it had to be removed before the installation process would commence.
The modem has two optional external antennas. These provide path diversity and improved bandwidth, as distinct from the dual antennas that will come with the next generation of HSPA+ which will use two antennas each carrying a separate signal to achieve theoretical downstream bandwidths up to 84Mbps.
Wright said Telstra planned to start trials of that technology in late 2011 and to have it available in its network in early 2012. "We are yet to make any detailed plans for the extent of that rollout."