Telstra's latest prepaid mobile broadband modem sports a slimmer profile than the telco's previous prepaid offering and has a rotating USB connector. The Telstra Turbo Pre-Paid Mobile Broadband modem also includes new software that is compatible with both Windows PCs and Macs.
Telstra is touting the "slim profile" of the new Turbo modem as a key feature. While it is slimmer than many other USB modems on the market, it still prevented access to the second USB port on our 13in MacBook Pro. On larger notebooks this shouldn't be a problem. Once plugged in, the Telstra Turbo Pre-Paid Mobile Broadband modem can rotate to sit upright alongside a notebook, reducing the risk of bumping it when connected. Four LEDs on the modem notify you of power and data status, and lifting a small flap on the right side allows the connection of an external antenna for better reception.
The software required to use the Telstra service is stored on the modem itself and is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS X. The modem also doubles as a USB flash drive: a microSD card slot is located next to the SIM card slot and is accessible via a slide off plastic panel. The software is unobtrusive and easy to install and allows you to quickly access your prepaid account details, see total of sent and received data and access a range of Telstra services including news, sport weather, WhereIs maps and Sensis search.
Like its predecessor, the Telstra Turbo Pre-Paid Mobile Broadband modem has a maximum download speed of 7.2 megabits per second (Mbps) and a maximum upload speed of 5.8Mbps. Telstra claims the service will provide typical real-world speeds of between 550 kilobits per second (Kbps) and 3Mbps. As with all mobile broadband devices, the actual speed achieved will depend on a number of factors such as your location and equipment, network usage and coverage, and network congestion at the time. Telstra's Next G network theoretically supports download speeds of up to 42Mbps in certain locations around Australia, but only the much more expensive Ultimate USB modem can take advantage of this.
Using our Broadband Speed Test, the modem managed to achieve download speeds of up to 3.2Mbps, but it regularly hovered around 2Mbps. Upload speeds were stable at around 700Kbps, but did occasionally rise over 1Mbps.
Telstra sells the Turbo prepaid mobile Broadband modem for $89 upfront and includes 2GB data in the starter pack. Telstra uses a per kilobyte charging system, and the data rates and allowance are determined by the recharge amount. For example, recharging with $30 gives you a per kilobyte charge of 7.5c (400MB of effective data), while recharging with $100 gives you a per kilobyte charge of 1.6c (6GB of effective data). All recharges have a 30-day expiry (so any unused credit after this time is lost) — with the exception of $130 and $150 recharges, which give you a 90-day and 180-day expiry period respectively.