iBurst USB Modem

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iBurst USB Modem
  • iBurst USB Modem
  • iBurst USB Modem
  • iBurst USB Modem

Pros

  • USB means flexibility, works with both Windows and Mac, solid coverage in Sydney CBD and North Sydney areas, ease of use and setup

Cons

  • Limited metropolitan coverage, not as fast as other alternatives, expensive plans

Bottom Line

iBurst is a solid service ideal for business users, and the USB Modem can be used on both desktops and notebooks. However, the plans are expensive, speeds achieved aren't up to par with the latest HSDPA mobile offerings and coverage isn't comprehensive.

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The iBurst USB Modem connects easily to both desktop PCs and notebooks and offers wireless broadband with speeds up to 1Mbps. Compatible with both Windows and Mac, the iBurst network is ultimately let down by limited coverage and falls behind new High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) offerings from both Telstra and Vodafone.

iBurst claims data rates of up to 1061Kbps for downloads and 346Kbps for uploads. In theory, this means the Wireless Modem is capable of basic Internet browsing and email, but may struggle with streaming media and heavy downloads.

The biggest let down is the iBurst coverage, which simply can't match mobile networks, such as Telstra's Next G and Vodafone's Mobile Connect. Although iBurst has steady coverage in Sydney's CBD, Chatswood, Hurstville, Strathfield and parts of Parramatta, there are plenty of areas, such as the Sutherland Shire, Mona Vale and Liverpool that are still off limits. Once the network rollout has been completed, iBurst claims it will provide coverage to over 75% of the Australian population and to over 90% of businesses. Coverage also includes Wollongong, Newcastle, Central Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Melbourne and Canberra. See here for more details.

We tested the USB Modem in our offices (based in St Leonards, Sydney), and also used it in and around the Sydney city and North Sydney CBD zones. For consistency across all the mobile broadband services, we performed a number of tests, ranging from small amounts of data like emails and Web browsing, to streaming services and then downloaded files ranging from 1MB to 4MB in size.

In our offices, we received an excellent and stable connection. This meant basic web browsing was a breeze, the iBurst service loading common sites like The Sydney Morning Herald and News.com.au, with a minimal of fuss. We also didn't have too many issues streaming content from two of the most popular sources on the Internet; streaming video from You Tube and streaming music from Pandora. For most part we were able to achieve solid speeds, although if the signal dropped below 80% the speeds suffered a little.

When downloading small files we achieved speeds of up to 68Kb/s, but regularly fluctuated between 55Kb/s and 64Kb/s. A 1MB file took less than 20 seconds to complete, while the best we could manage for a 4MB file was just over a minute. These speeds are decisively slower than the Telstra and Vodafone Mobile Broadband offerings, so if you are after the highest speeds possible, it's best to look elsewhere. From its performances in our test, the USB Modem is ideal for users wanting basic web browsing, email and some streaming multimedia. Those wanting to download large files would best be advised to give this a miss.

We were impressed with the simplicity of ease and set up. The included iBurst Terminal software takes less than five minutes to install and doesn't require a restart. It isn't the best looking program we've seen, but does it job with a minimal amount of fuss and also supports both Windows and Mac. The unit itself is also fairly bland. It's finished in a black, matte plastic and uses a standard mini-USB cable (included in the sales package) to connect to a PC. Two LED status lights let you know signal status and power, while an aerial can be attached to the top of the modem if you are experiencing difficulties receiving coverage. Unfortunately, an aerial isn't included in the sales package, so this will have to be purchased separately.

Unlike most other wireless broadband providers, iBurst doesn't sell directly to end-users. Instead it supplies the service through a selection of iBurst service providers and retail distributors. Access doesn't come cheap, so iBurst should appeal to business people rather than home users. Plans vary from as little as $30 per month for low-end users, up to $199.95 per month, which gives you 10GB of data at full speeds. Exceeding any monthly data allocation will cost an extra 20c per megabyte.

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