Telstra Corporation Turbo 21 Modem

Telstra's Next G gets a boost to 21Mbps, but is the cost worth it? We put the Telstra Turbo 21 Modem through its paces.

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Telstra Corporation Turbo 21 Modem
  • Telstra Corporation Turbo 21 Modem
  • Telstra Corporation Turbo 21 Modem
  • Telstra Corporation Turbo 21 Modem

Pros

  • Theoretical maximum speed of 21Mbps, microSD card slot, included accessories, good performance

Cons

  • Software isn't Mac compatible, not plug and play, not all regions have been upgraded to 21Mbps capabilities, upload speeds limited to 1Mbps, expensive

Bottom Line

The Telstra Turbo 21 Modem is the fastest mobile broadband offering on the market, but not everyone will be able to take advantage of the increased speeds. It will also cost you a small fortune, with a substantial initial outlay and ongoing monthly costs.

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As announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Telstra's Next G network has recently been upgraded to support download speeds of up to 21 megabits per second (Mbps), making it the fastest mobile broadband network in the world. To take advantage of these new speeds, Telstra has released the Turbo 21 Modem — a mobile broadband modem that connects via a USB port.

The Telstra Turbo 21 Modem is about the same size as most mobile broadband devices, though it’s a little chunkier than some of the recent USB modems from 3 Mobile and Vodafone.

The Turbo 21 Modem includes a SIM card slot and a microSD card slot to allow the device to double as a USB flash drive. Unfortunately, and unlike many other USB modems on the market, the Turbo 21 Modem isn't plug and play and requires the included software to be installed on your PC. This is particularly annoying for netbook users, as most of them don't come with optical drives. Mac users are also out of luck — the Turbo 21 Modem is only compatible with computers running Windows XP and Vista, though Telstra promises to remedy this in the near future.

A Next G SIM card is used as a form of user identification. In addition, a PIN must be entered each time the device is plugged in. The sales package includes a lanyard, a belt clip and a satin bag; there is also an antenna to boost reception.

Though the device has a potential maximum download speed of 21Mbps, according to Telstra the Turbo 21 Modem should provide "typical" speeds of between 550 kilobits per second (Kbps) and 8Mbps. Due to varying factors, including coverage, network congestion and signal strength, the speeds we encountered were around 2Mbps — an excellent speed when compared to competitors, but still a far cry from 8Mbps.

For this reason the "21" marketing appears slightly misleading. The theoretical maximum of 21Mbps currently only applies to major metropolitan cities and select regional areas.

During testing, the Turbo 21 Modem performed well and we were able to achieve speeds of up to 2.8Mbps, though speed regularly fluctuated between 900kbps and 1.4Mbps. Despite the 21Mbps downlink, upload speeds are currently limited to 1Mbps. Telstra claims this will be upgraded to a peak of 5.8Mbps before the end of 2009.

Telstra's Turbo Connection Manager is a simple but effective program that allows you to access session information, including sent and received data, 3G/HSDPA indicators and signal strength.

Like most of Telstra's products, the Turbo 21 Modem doesn't come cheap. It is available on two 24-month plans: $39 per month for a 400MB data allowance, or $59 per month with a 1GB data allowance. Both plans come with a $299 up-front cost; the Turbo 21 Modem will cost $499 if you decide to purchase it outright.

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