The Telstra Pre-paid Mobile Wi-Fi is obsolete, it does not have 802.11n, but is the only thing on offer from the pirates at Telstra. If Telstra stopped being so painful on the customer service side, buying and using the little Wi-Fi modem would be a nice experience. Here is what actually happened. Do not read further if you believe all people are essentially nice or intelligent.
Telstra sell obsolete products
Telstra do some things that bring to mind terms including unfriendly, stubborn, pigheaded, and marketing. Telstra appear to invent things in secret then present them to the public as a product then ignore the public when the public says
I would buy that if you fixed this and changed that. I know it is almost universally the same with all telephone companies. Unfortunately in Australia Telstra had a monopoly and every time a government introduces an alternative to break the monopoly, the alternative cherry picks a profitable niche and ignores what Australians really need, affordable reliable communications outside of the central business districts and a few rich suburbs.
Telstra manage to rush new products out the door in a few months but it takes years, and sometimes decades, to fix the products. I worked on a Web related project for Telstra indirectly through a supplier. The project included replacing one application with another. The original application fitted the ideal that Telstra had back then for building Web based applications, a big slow bulky difficult Java program to do something relatively simple. The original consumed endless months to develop, never worked, and could not handle more than a few test cases. The replacement used modern technology, was developed in only a few weeks, and worked from day one with everything anyone could throw at it.
So Telstra decide to sell a mobile broadband wifi modem. They have the whole world to supply them. Naturally you would expect a technology company to choose something current including 802.11n. No Telstra chose the ancient 802.11g. Everything with 802.11n is backward compatible with 802.11g. The cost difference between 802.11n and 802.11g is only a few cents because some of the worlds cheapest netbooks have 802.11n. Why did Telstra choose 802.11g?
Apple would choose 802.11g for their first product so they can bring out a new model with 802.11n the next year, helping ensure that every Apple customer has to buy a new device every year. Printer manufacturers use 100MB wired connections instead of GB wired connections because printer manufacturers are a collective of penny pinching pirates who are really only interested in the profits from selling printer cartridges. Is Telstra a penny pinching pirate or even worse, an Apple style company focused purely on marketing?
Apple have an excuse. Apple are not a technology company. Apple are in the fashion industry. Telstra are in the commodity telecommunications industry, not fashion. There is no reason for Telstra to put the delusions of sales and marketing executives ahead of customers, common sense, and service.
Telstra decided to sell the modern Samsung Galaxy S but chose to limit us to the 8 GB model instead of the current 16 GB model that everyone wants.
Lets stop talking about the deliberate selling of obsolete technology. Service is next.
I purchased a modem. It happens to be wireless modem but the wireless is prepaid. I should be able to hand over the cash, walk out with the product, and use it instantly. You can in other countries. Not when you buy from Telstra.
I have not tried a wireless modem purchase from any other supplier in Australia. Optus is the biggest competitor to Telstra in Australia, was set up with government assistance to provide competition to Telstra, but from what I can see, Optus is a Telstra clone focused entirely on the cities where there is other competition and doing nothing in the country where competition is really needed.
Telstra shops make you fill out a big form with all your personal details so they can flood your mailbox with junk and track every second of your life.
The form is completely useless because the modem is useless until you
Activation could be automatic the instant you start using it. No, that would be too 1995, Telstra want to stick with what worked in 1895.
50 seconds on a Web site would do everything that is needed and Telstra shops could provide Web terminals for instant activation. No, that would drag them into 1999.
You have to activate by telephone because Telstra do not understand the Internet. You have to really worry about buying Internet related equipment from a company that has not yet worked out the Internet can be used for Web sites and Web sites can contain forms you fill in.
Activation consists of repeating all your personal details over the telephone, the same details you wrote on the form. Telstra executives should be jailed for breaching Australia's privacy laws. There is absolutely no excuse for requiring any of the details. Using a pre-paid modem does not require any of the information for any use.
Telstra are just a bunch of pirates stealing your privacy. If the Australian privacy laws cannot protect us from the marketing pirates, we need new laws.
There is absolutely no excuse for the other breaches of Australia's privacy laws. The repeating of all you private details over the telephone is to a foreigner in a country where Australia's privacy laws do not apply. Worse, the foreigner has access to your account details on the Telstra system. Clearly Telstra are not protecting your privacy the way we expect under current law.
Surely the current Australian federal government, the people responsible for the maintenance of the privacy laws, is not just a pathetic wimp in the clutches of big business? Why do we have to put up with the creeps at Telstra and similar companies who ship all our jobs, money, and privacy overseas?
Does the modem work?
Does the modem work? Yes in the suburbs. I have not tested it outside the suburbs. The only reason for buying a Telstra product was to get a connection through the Telstra NextG network when travelling in the country.
The first connection
You activate the device first using the procedure in the book. You call a number, give all your identifying information to someone in Asia, then wait
30 minutes and up to 4 hours.
While the activation is happening, you can connect from your computer to the modem. Switch on the modem. There are four lights on the front that switch on one after the other. Wait for the blue blink of the antenna icon.
Switch on your wireless device in your netbook or notebook. Wait a few seconds. Look in the wireless network list and select the wireless network with the SSID printed on the blue card packed with the modem.
The wireless connection should default to WPA and ask for a password (passphrase). Type in the one from the blue card. Ten seconds later you are connected.
Easy connection after the first time
Switch on the modem. Eventually the little antenna icon blinks blue. You then switch on the wireless in your netbook or notebook and connect. Done.
There is more work to do for the first connection and the modem works with up to 5 computers at the same time, giving you the option to set up your partner's computer to share the connection. When you walk long distances, you could carry the little light modem and let your partner carry his/her big heavy notebook. You then borrow the notebook and browse the Web.
The train test
The WiFi modem works on a train when you are not in a tunnel and not in some stations. You get a weak signal in some locations and you might get dropouts in a continuous video stream. For regular page by page Web browsing and content editing there was no dropout large enough to interrupt my work.
A Web browser has an inbuilt timeout of 20 or 30 seconds. The large steel frames used on stations is enough to cause a few seconds of interruption but did not hit the 20 second timeout in my browser. My train went through three tunnels and all were longer than 30 seconds. I continued typing in the tunnels and did not hit enter until we were 5 seconds out of a tunnel.
The 5 seconds included a 2 or 3 seconds when the WiFi modem lights blinked as if the connection was dropped out. There is a signal strength light that is marked with 4 strength bars and appears to indicate only full strength, half strength or nothing.
When the device drops out, it does not immediately report the loss to my netebook. My netbook will try for a couple of seconds before reporting a disconnection. Overall a wait of 5 seconds from a potential blockage to pressing enter is enough to see the blockage pass by or to see the signal drop out and return.
Trains are metal, which blocks wireless, with glass windows to let the wireless in. I sat next to a glass window. I started with the modem at the bottom of a bag against the metal wall and reception was spotty. I then moved the modem to the top of the bag at about window height and the wireless strength hit full power for most of the journey.
There is a USB connection to charge the modem. The modem is supposed to last 4 to 5 hours with
normal use. In remote country areas the transmitter will work on high power and drain the battery faster. You could leave the modem on the USB cable full time to keep the modem working until your notebook runs dry.
The USB connection also gives you access to a memory card slot in the modem but telephone companies insist on using MicroSD cards instead of real SD cards, which means you cannot use the slot for the SD card from your camera.
Telephones used to read SD cards. Years before Apple produced their clone of the HTC smartphone, the HTC smartphone had an SD card slot to read SD cards from cameras. Some creepy cartel of telephone company cretins decided to switch all telephones to MicroSD. To make your telephone compatible with your camera you have to use thin flimsy slow MicroSD cards in an SD adaptor in your camera. When you use the same card with the same adaptor to copy everything to your computer, assuming the card does not break, you have to put up with the slow speed of the MicroSD cards.
Should you be satisfied with the junk thinking of the telephone companies and be lucky enough to live so long that copying forever is acceptable, you will be limited to low quality video.
What happened to lateral thinking? To competition? Why is it impossible for a telephone company to ask a customer
how can we help you
, impossible to produce a product that is not an exact clone of the 150 telephone products already on sale?
The WiFi modem has limited battery life and I have so many battery operated devices to charge up that I started forgetting to plug them all in. To save my few remaining brain cells from stress, I put all the chargers next to each other on one shelf. I now know that an unused charger means I forgot something.
My netbook has better battery life than most of the notebooks I use so I forgot to plug it in this afternoon. I used it for a couple of hours in the morning then an hour over lunch and now an hour in the train, leaving just enough power for the return trip. The problem is I will be using the netbook for a few extra hours between the trip out and the trip back.
The netbook battery might last 6 hours with the display power turned down and wireless off. I switched the brightness to maximum brightness for use outdoors then left it that way for hours indoors, reducing battery life to 5 hours. The wireless transmitter was on all that time because I was testing the wireless connection. Wireless use can trim the netbook back close to 4 hours.
The WiFi modem documentation suggests 5 hours use with good reception and 4 hours use in a poor reception situation, a train for example. I could charge the WiFi modem from my netbook using a USB cable but I forgot to charge the netbook. Two stupid decisions by me about not needing to charge stuff this afternoon for tonight.
Telstra also sell two conventional USB connected modems for use with one computer. I decided to not use them because they install Telstra software on your computer. Based on past experience, I assume the software will be bloated disasterware of absolutely no use.
If you do choose a USB modem, the slightly more expensive one works on NextG, giving you a better chance in the country, plus the slightly more expensive one accepts an external antenna. I do not know if Telstra or anyone sells an antenna that fits the modem.
If you are so lucky that you do get a choice of modem, a half metre long modem should give you about four times the sensitivity for reception but may require too much power from the transmitter chip. Telstra shops in the city are completely hopeless when you ask them about country reception. Visit a Telstra shop in a remote location to find out what combination really works.
The wireless modem is my choice because I can use it with my netbook back at the accommodation at the end of the day and anyone travelling with me can also connect to check their email. If I was walking for a week and wanted a connection from within a remote area, I would use the USB modem with an external antenna.