King of cheap tech gadgetry Ruslan Kogan is now selling USB modems for his Kogan Mobile service — or indeed any network (sort of), as it’s an unlocked modem. Kogan’s stuff usually sells itself on “cheap”, but I’m not totally sold on the value of this particular deal.
What could be wrong with an unlocked $29 USB modem that can (according to the marketing blurb) “Take advantage of speedy 3G networks with download speeds of up to 7.2Mbps and uploads of up to 384Kbps!”?
From a straight usability sense, there’s nothing inherently wrong there — but there’s also a few catches to this unlocked modem, some of which might not be immediately apparent. It’s obviously a play for Kogan Mobile customers who don’t want the phone part of a data service, and that’s OK. However, it’s also only an 850/2100Mhz 3G device, which means while it’s unlocked for all networks, you’re not going to get connections on any Optus network if that was what you were after — although it should be fine for Vodafone’s 850Mhz service and Telstra’s 850Mhz offerings, which is understandable given that Kogan’s “own” network is resold parts of the Telstra network. As with most mobile services, you’ll never actually see that 7.2Mbps speed in real world tests.
The other challenge here, though, is that 3G USB modems aren’t exactly cutting edge technology, and as such they’re the fodder of supermarket catalogs en masse. It’s not uncommon to see modem bundles go for a bit less than $29 with included data as well, sometimes as cheap as $10 a throw. Yes, those are network locked devices (although there can be hacks around that if you’re particularly geeky), but they’re also a factor cheaper than Kogan… which isn’t something that I end up typing a whole lot.