If you're researching the best wireless broadband to buy, make sure you get hold of a copy of the May 2010 issue of PC Authority magazine (it's the one still onsale). We've done our speed test and comparison of the five major wireless broadband providers on the market.
In the magazine you'll get the full reviews of Telstra, Virgin, Optus, Three, Vodafone, plus a table comparing plans and prices, how to speed up your wireless, and our verdict on whether you should buy wireless as part of a laptop bundle. If you are shopping around, or like us, you have friends who are, get this issue into their hands before they plonk down money on a sub-standard 24 month contract.
Here is the Vodafone review from the issue:
While Vodafone offers the same modem hardware provider as the other non-Telstra carriers, it at least mixes matters up with its own rather lush interface instead of the generic Huawei one that every other carrier just slaps a logo onto.
We tested with a 7.2Mbits/sec capable K3715, which differs from the other Huawei modems in that the USB plug retracts into the body of the modem when not in use.
This is something of a mixed blessing; it does mean the cap can't be lost and the plug's unlikely to be accidentally snapped off, but we found after some testing that the plug felt loose and sometimes resisted plugging into a USB port, retracting instead.
Vodafone's software might look slicker and offer slightly more features than the default Huawei application, but we also found it a little less responsive and more keen to crash.
Vodafone's speed test results put it generally in a third place position, slightly behind Optus and lagging Telstra significantly.
Vodafone's claim is that it "covers 92% of the places you live and work in Australia", which is a nice way of saying its coverage maps provide 2100MHz 3G predominantly around metropolitan centres, and 900Mhz elsewhere, but not necessarily over the entire breadth of the land.
Compared to fixed line solutions, no mobile broadband carrier can really be seen as "cheap", but we'd argue that Vodafone's post- and pre-paid plans offer the closest thing to "value" that we'd care to name.
Its $29 pre-paid plan gives 2GB of data, double that of Virgin and without Optus' nasty 10MB per login sting, and its 12GB/365 day expiry plan is excellent.
Post-paid customers get the second cheapest per GB price, with a reasonable excess data charge and without the horrible speeds of Three.
Vodafone's $29.95 plan hits the sweet spot of speed and affordability. While it never hit the heights of Telstra's speed, it's not charged at anywhere near the same rates. It ran second to Optus in speed terms, but by a short margin only, and Vodafone's pricing plans for post-paid don't cut your data in half in the second year.
A marginal speed victory over Virgin, combined with more data at the $29.95 price point, makes this the value broadband bundle to buy.
Also see why Telstra BigPond is our new overall winner for the best wireless broadband.