3 is boasting that its new wireless broadband service is bigger, better and faster than that of its competitors.
The PC card has been developed by Lucent Technologies and Novatel Wire-less. When you are within one of 3’s ‘video zones’ (available in most state metro and some regional areas), the card operates in default WCDMA mode, but when you go out of range it switches to the (more expensive) GPRS mode. The card supports Internet and SMS data in both modes. Within a ‘video zone’, the service offers theo-retical download and upload speeds of 384Kbps and 64Kbps, respectively. You pay only for data transferred, not connection time.
At one end of the pricing plans is a cost of 0.4 cents per kilobyte on the Casual Use plan, with no monthly fee; at the other is 3’s most expensive plan, with a monthly fee of $150 and a download limit of 100MB per month (after the limit is reached, pricing will revert to 0.4 cents per kilobyte). The card can be purchased for an up-front fee of $588 or paid over 12 monthly instalments of $49, and there is a connection fee of $50. A 12-month contract with 3 is strictly enforced. Take note that the service is offered only to people who reside and work within 3’s video coverage areas.
We tested the service in various locations in and around the Sydney metropolitan area and in a moving train and car. We found that the service was sometimes susceptible to ‘black spots’ and dropouts, similar to mobile phones, but was still more reliable than iBurst or Vodafone services. This and minor reconnection teething problems aside, the card is ideal for on-the-road professionals, and comes with its own software. Although it’s the fastest mobile broadband we’ve seen yet, pricing is still likely to be a little prohibitive for everyday Internet browsing for the masses.
In brief: 3G NetConnect CardIdeal for mobile users and road warriors, but some people may cringe at the expensive pricing plans.
Price: $588 or 12 monthly instalments of $49. Contact 3 for full pricing plans
Vendor: Hutchison 3G Australia
Phone: 13 3320