Telstra Wi-Fi 4GX Advanced III review: Six weeks with the world's first 600Mbps wireless hotspot
Plan pricing for the Advanced III starts at $32 a month
- Excellent real-world Internet speeds
- Multi-platform dashboards
- Long lasting battery life
- Doubles as a portable battery pack
- Small data allowance
- 4GX network is still growing
Telstra’s Advanced III is a small mobile hotspot that shares Telstra’s high speed network with your favourite devices, and then when they run low on juice, it doubles as a portable battery.
The wireless modem is manufactured by Netgear and goes by the moniker ‘AirCard 810S’ in overseas markets. Telstra is offering it on postpaid data plans in place of the older Wi-Fi 4G Advanced II.
The Advanced III represents an evolutionary step forward in terms of its design and its performance. A combination of a 2.4-inch touchscreen and two capacitive buttons are still used to navigate its simplistic menu. There’s a power button on its base, twin ports designated for external antennas and a microUSB 3.0 port for charging.
The main improvement over last year’s model has to do with optimised Internet speeds. Telstra’s network has evolved to support Cat11 download speeds of 600 Megabits per second (Mbps). These speeds are achieved by combining three spectrums — 2600MHz, 1800MHz and 700MHz — in a technology known as carrier aggregation. Marketing gurus have branded this sophisticated technology as '4GX’.
Telstra’s 4GX network is present in the major capital cities spanning Australia’s east coast, including Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane. It is concentrated to a handful of stretches in these metropolitan areas, which is why most people will experience dual-band carrier aggregation speeds around 15Mbps, until further upgrades to Telstra’s network take place.
Sharing the Advanced III’s Internet connection requires little learning and effort. Turn it on, search for the wireless network on your device and enter the network's password. And just like that, your smartphone, tablet, notebook and more is surfing the world wide web.
Cellular data will be transferred from the Advanced III to up to 15 devices over the Wi-Fi 802.11ac standard. This standard can share an Internet connection over both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. The later 5GHz band is optimised for streaming larger media files, such as music and movies, and will only work with contemporary products compatible with dual-band Wi-Fi standards, such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 or the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.
People with single-band devices can set the Advanced III to operate solely on the 2.4GHz band in a move that will prolong its battery life. Netgear claims the modem’s 2930 milliamp-hour battery will power it for 11 hours straight when in use or for 260 hours in standby. Our six weeks of testing supports these claims as the portable hotspot would hold battery life across a number of days with intermittent use.
Settings can be easily managed from the modem’s own menu. There’s options for Wi-Fi signal strength, to set up guest access, to change the hotspot’s credentials and, to increase or decrease its range.
These settings can also be accessed from the companion Netgear AirCard application for Android and iOS devices, while more advanced settings can be managed by entering either “http://10.0.0.138” or “http://m.home” into a computer’s browser. Either method will return an interface that provides an overview of the Advanced III’s status, eliminating the need to whisk it out of a backpack, for instance. Information on your monthly data usage, reception, wireless strength, battery life and more is made available at a glance across a wide variety of device types.
Hitting the quoted 600Mbps download speed is unlikely. Nearing it would require a ‘perfect storm’ scenario that most people won’t encounter. But even achieving a fraction of the speed, say one-tenth, will easily be fast enough to meet most needs.
Our real world testing yielded varied results in locations across Sydney and Melbourne. All of our tests were performed using our Ookla-powered speedtest three times, with the best result being cited. We encountered disparate download speeds, however upload speeds were far more consistent.
The lowest speed on record was taken in Bankstown, west of Sydney, NSW, with the modem achieving download speeds of 31Mbps and upload speeds of 21.7Mbps. Downloading a 1-gigabyte file at this speed would take 4-and-a-half minutes.
Performance in Sydney’s North Shore faired well. Top download speeds of 89.5Mbps and 91.2Mbps were respectively achieved in North Sydney and St Leonards, along with upload speeds of 26.7Mbps and 32.7Mbps.
Our fastest results were recorded in Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport with download speeds of 116.9Mbps and upload speeds of 34.48Mbps. Downloading a 1-gigabyte file at this speed would take 1 minute and 11 seconds.
All of these speeds eclipse the performance of Telstra’s older 4G Wi-Fi Advanced II.
There is a caveat associated with having access to Internet speeds this fast. The ability to download large files quickly results in more data being consumed in less time. This can prove costly for people on insufficient data plans.
Data plans for mobile hotspots come with significantly lower limits than fixed line alternatives. The plans offered with Telstra’s Advanced III start at $32 a month for 1-gigabyte of data. The carrier’s hero plan offers 8-gigabytes of data for $55 a month. It is best to keep an eye fixed on data usage; otherwise excess usage will be charged at $10 for every gigabyte block.
The combination of the Netgear-manufactured Advanced III and Telstra’s broadband network is a winning one. The wireless hotspot is easy-to-use, hits fast Internet speeds and has long-lasting battery life. Limp data inclusions remain a concern, and so a firm eye should be kept on your monthly usage. That's no more challenging than glancing at the Advanced III’s screen.
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