Telstra's Ultimate USB Modem is claimed to be the world's first dual channel HSPA USB modem, promising typical download speeds of up to 20 megabits per second (Mbps) and a theoretical maximum download speed of 42Mbps. Targeted at companies with a mobile workforce who require speedy mobile broadband, the Ultimate USB Modem is definitely fast, but the speed comes at a hefty premium compared to rival offerings.
The Telstra Ultimate USB Modem is larger than regular mobile broadband devices, including Telstra's own Turbo 21 Modem but its connector doesn't hinder access to nearby USB ports. The device is slim, with two antenna ports available on top and LED lights denoting power and data traffic. The USB connector can rotate and swivel, so it can be positioned at the side of your notebook in a variety of ways.
As well as a SIM card slot the Telstra Ultimate USB Modem includes a microSD card slot to allow the device to double as a flash drive. The software required to run the modem is included on the modem itself; for Windows users, the installer will automatically open, while Mac users simply double-click the file that appears on the desktop the first time the modem is plugged in. At this stage, Telstra says the Ultimate USB Modem does not support Linux. Telstra's Connection Manager software allows you to access session information, including sent and received data, 3G/HSDPA indicators and signal strength — it's minimalist and easy to use.
Though the device has a potential maximum download speed of 42Mbps, Telstra says the Ultimate USB Modem should provide "typical" speeds of between 1.1Mbps and 20Mbps. The speed will depend on a number of factors including time, location, network coverage, signal strength and congestion.
The speeds we encountered in an office environment in North Sydney were around 13Mbps — an excellent speed when compared to competitors, and very impressive for a wireless device. Keep in mind, though, that these faster speeds are only are available within five kilometres of all major metropolitan cities, and in 100 regional areas across Australia. Telstra estimates that 50 per cent of the Australian population has access to the faster dual channel speeds provided by the Ultimate USB Modem.
During testing, we were able to achieve speeds of up to 18Mbps, though speed regularly fluctuated between 5Mbps and 14Mbps. Despite the theoretical maximum 42Mbps downlink, typical upload speeds are between 300 kilobits per second (kbps) and 3Mbps. It took us just 4min 22sec to download a 101.8MB iTunes file, and using PC World's Broadband speed test, we achieved results as low as 6.2Mbps and as high as 18Mbps. We even managed to achieve speeds of up to 150 kilobytes per second when downloading files using BitTorrent.
The Telstra Ultimate USB Modem will initially be sold to enterprise and government users, but will be available for regular business customers through Telstra retail outlets from 5 October; a consumer launch will follow "later this year." The USB modem is available for $0 upfront for $69 per month over 24 months, providing 6GB of data for month. The device will also sell for $299 outright.