So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Unwired Australia Wireless Card
- Good download speed, convenient for notebook users
- Network coverage wasn't perfect, BitTorrent traffic is throttled, Unwired's network doesn't yet allow for this PC Card to be used as a mobile broadband connection
While we couldn't get an Unwired connection at our office, we could get a connection at all of our off-site test locations. The connections were good enough for file downloads, streaming video and, of course, Web browsing. Unwired's network isn't perfect, so make sure you organise an in-house demonstration if you wish to purchase this service.
Price$ 249.00 (AUD)
Unwired's network covers most of the Sydney and Melbourne metropolitan areas, but it can be spotty. Even if your location is listed as being covered, in reality, it may be in a crevice that is unable to actually get a usable network signal.
We started off by testing the Unwired Wireless Card from our office in St. Leonards (in Sydney's north) and found that we could not get a signal at all. This is despite our area being within the zone of coverage.
However, we were able to find a good signal from subsequent test locations in Sydney's eastern suburbs, the inner west and from stationary spots in the city centre. YouTube videos could be streamed comfortably from these locations and we could download files at rates between 70KBps and 90KBps. Our trial connection was furnished with an Unleashed plan, which provides a speed of up to 750Kbps (93KB/s), so our download rates did take advantage of most of the bandwidth that was on offer.
While we had success using the card at most of our test locations, if you want to use this service for your home, then organising an in-house demonstration is probably a good idea. Unwired's coverage is currently Sydney and Melbourne-centric. You can find out if your area is covered here: http://www.unwired.com.au/availability/index.php.
The PC Card option that we tested is strictly for notebook users and costs $249. A desktop modem can also be purchased for $189. Unwired's plans are comparable to a traditional ISP's, with the company's Unleashed 750Kbps plan costing $99.95 and offering 12GB of downloads per month. Unwired doesn't charge for excess downloads, but instead throttles the speed of your connection to 32Kbps (4KBps). This speed will make your connection unusable for pretty much any endeavour, so make sure that you monitor downloads closely. Alternatively, Unwired lets you purchase additional gigabytes of download quota that is valid only for your current billing period. The extra quota costs $15 per gigabyte. It does not carry over to the next month if you don't use it all within the billing period that you purchase it.
If you're a heavy downloader, it's worth noting that BitTorrent traffic is throttled by Unwired. Furthermore, we noticed that our entire Internet connection crawled once we launched a BitTorrent client, even though the BitTorrent downloads weren't operating at more than a few KBps.
Overall, we think this service is a good option if you want wireless broadband for your home. Don't be fooled by the PC Card form factor (like I was!) into thinking this card can be used while on the road. Unwired's current network is not designed for mobile broadband access and Unwired makes no claims that it can be used as a mobile broadband solution. Unwired calls it a 'nomadic' connection which means you can use it from any stationary location. Unwired won't have a mobile broadband solution until it upgrades its network to WiMax.
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