The Telstra Pre-Paid 4G My Pocket Wi-Fi Ultimate hotspot brings future-proofed 700Mhz LTE to the prepaid crowd, but the cost of Telstra’s mobile data should still be your key concern.
For a number of years now, Telstra’s run the same pattern when it comes to their WiFi hotspot devices. The first wave with a new technology will run out to the business customers at a price premium, because those customers can and will pay top dollar for their services. Not that you can’t buy them as a consumer, but they’re always offered to business first.
The second wave will be the consumer-facing hotspot with the prepaid data plan. That’s the space that the Telstra device fits into, following up on the business version hotspot, which has been available for some time.
Telstra sent me a review kit of the Telstra Pre-Paid 4G My Pocket Wi-Fi Ultimate Hotspot and a home router solution that the hotspot plugs into. It says something — not an entirely good thing — that mobile broadband with its attendant higher costs is something that’s desirable due to the lack of good broadband infrastructure across the country, but that’s an argument for a different type of article.
One interesting note with the Telstra Pre-Paid 4G My Pocket Wi-Fi Ultimate Hotspot is that it’s a Netgear branded product. Telstra’s previous offerings in this space have tended to go with what was Sierra Wireless (bought out by Netgear) in the business space, but with the prepaid version often being a cheaper brand product, typically from an OEMs such as ZTE.
You’re certainly not going to mistake the Telstra Pre-Paid 4G My Pocket Wi-Fi Ultimate Hotspot for a high end bit of kit. Frankly, it rather looks like it fell off the set of a Peter Davison-era episode of Doctor Who with lots of angular lines and a cheap plastic feel.
You’ve only got two buttons to contend with on the hotspot. There’s a power button, also used for menu changes, and a selection button that cycles between the primary display, band selection (2.4GHz only, 2.4/5GZHz or Guest Network), WPS setup and device info. The display screen is small and grainy, but it’s certainly adequate for the task at hand. Telstra rates the battery life at around 10 hours, and while that’s obviously going to depend on your precise usage scenario, I’d happily say that’s a fair figure, albeit one you won’t reach if you’re using multiple devices.
What about the quality of the network? That’s always going to be a variable matter, because network strain on any wireless network can make results vary widely. My testing with the Hotspot and Ookla’s Speedtest app (something I’ve noted as not exactly the be all and end all of tests previously, but nonetheless handy) certainly suggests that Telstra’s 4G network might just be getting a bit on the crowded side.
It’s true that 4G connections can crack quite surprising speeds, but in dozens of tests I only once cracked a 20Mbps download rate from a single location. Ranges from 2-10Mbps were far more common, although for a lot of purposes that’ll be entirely sufficient for basic online work.
Telstra’s always charged a bit more for access to its networks, and this is the other sting with the Telstra Pre-Paid 4G My Pocket Wi-Fi Ultimate Hotspot. When you first set it up you’re greeted with a healthy 5GB of data to use in the first 30 days, but after that you’re paying Telstra’s prepaid data rates.
At the time of writing, the lowest tier in Telstra’s recharge plans runs to $15/GB, but that’s with a tiny 10 day expiry period. $30 buys you 30 days and 2GB, $50 buys you 4GB and 60 days, $100 gets you 10GB and 90 days and $200 nets you 12GB and 365 days. Which means, amongst other things, that you could spend $200 for 12GB and a year to use it, or $200 for 20GB and six months to use it. Whichever way you slice it, it’s expensive data by fixed line terms, and certainly at a price premium to Telstra’s competitors.
So is it worth it? At the time of writing, Telstra’s still offering the previous pre-paid model, the 4G My Pocket Wi-Fi Plus for $129 with 3GB of data for 30 days, compared to the $149 for the Telstra Pre-Paid 4G My Pocket Wi-Fi Ultimate Hotspot with 5GB of data. There are some key differentiators between the two models, mostly to do with battery life (10 hours claimed versus 8 hours), and the fact that the Telstra Pre-Paid 4G My Pocket Wi-Fi Ultimate Hotspot is 700Mhz compatible, giving it some future proofing as well.
There’s an even cheaper tier, with the much cheaper 4G Wi-Fi hotspot still available at $99, but that (at a guess) is a run-out product that won’t be around much longer.
Telstra’s still a touch on the punitive side when it comes to data costs, and that’s really the crux on which the value of a prepaid data product lies. I can’t entirely fault the hardware on the Telstra Pre-Paid 4G My Pocket Wi-Fi Ultimate Hotspot, and it’s undeniable that there are areas in Australia where only Telstra offers coverage, so if you’re a heavy roaming mobile broadband user with a prepaid disposition it might be your only choice.
Within the metropolitan space, however, both Optus and Vodafone have done a lot to improve their networks, and they’re both cheaper to actually use. The Telstra Pre-Paid 4G My Pocket Wi-Fi Ultimate Hotspot is a reasonable bit of kit, but Telstra’s data prices are still sitting in rather rich territory.