How good is mobile broadband for regional areas of Australia?
January 19, 2010 12:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning to head to the south coast of NSW (Narooma) for about two weeks or so, to get a bit of work done. However, I do need to access the Internet (mostly google searches). I was thinking of getting a USB mobile broadband dongle from one of the main providers. For instance, I checked with Optus and they say they have good coverage in Narooma.

However, anecdotally, I've heard that quite a few people have had trouble accessing mobile broadband in regional areas. Has anyone had any experiences along these lines? Is it a 'no go'? Or is the service sufficient, but a bit slow? Is the service intermittent, but otherwise okay? Which provider did you use?

If anyone has had positive or negative experiences with mobile broadband in regional areas, I'd be interested to hear.
posted by tomargue to Technology (10 answers total)
I used Optus when I was in Australia last year, and the coverage in rural SE Queensland was good (near Toowoomba/Warwick). It was super expensive, though, because it goes on bytes transferred, and I'm used to unlimited connection, very cheaply (in France). It was pretty fast, though, so if you use it for searches and get what you want quickly and get off, it might be worth it.
posted by bwonder2 at 1:27 AM on January 19, 2010

Whirlpool is the right place to go with this kind of question.

That said: I have no direct experience of Optus's coverage in Narooma, but their coverage in Bruthen (where I live, in East Gippsland, Victoria) is nonexistent. Even in Bairnsdale (the nearest large town), Optus 3G is spotty and unreliable. Bairnsdale's population is 11000; Narooma's is closer to 3000. I'd be surprised if you could get a usable Optus 3G service in Narooma, especially since its colour on the coverage map is more like Bruthen's than Sydney's.

If you do, the cheapest provider I know of on the Optus network is Exetel. I use their ADSL service at home, and it works fine. Tech support is in Sri Lanka, but it mostly works. I have used an Exetel-provided HSPA modem in Melbourne, and got a solid 7Mbit connection out of it.

In the end, though, I expect you'll have no real choice but to pay Telstra's extortionate prices. Their 3G service even works in Bruthen, as long as you've got something approximating line of sight to the big hill on the Jennings farm.

Even Telstra will have trouble bleeding you completely dry in two weeks.
posted by flabdablet at 2:22 AM on January 19, 2010

You would really be best to just go with Telstra - the rates aren't too bad, and they literally have good coverage everywhere via the NextG network. You will be taking a risk with Optus... and Telstra aren't ridiculously expensive... considering you can indeed get coverage everywhere. And unlike some of the other providers, there is no different charging between 3G and non-3G areas.
posted by ryanbryan at 2:32 AM on January 19, 2010

No direct experience of the Narooma area, but in other regional/remote places I've been I had no Optus signal while my fellow travelers had full Telstra service. People I work with go pretty much everywhere in Oz and say the same thing.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 2:45 AM on January 19, 2010

Awesome, thanks for the response. Looks like Telstra is the way to go.

I'll look this up, but does Telstra have the USB dongle thing, or am I going to have to buy a phone etc? And does Telstra have pre-paid options, or am I going to have to sign up to a plan?
posted by tomargue at 7:39 PM on January 19, 2010

Yeah, they have the USB dingus and prepaid options.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 8:01 PM on January 19, 2010

Awesome, thanks duck.

And thanks everyone else, too, much appreciated.
posted by tomargue at 8:25 PM on January 19, 2010

Don't know if you'll read this, but another hint is, you are better off in the long run buying a full $50 credit at once with Telstra rather than $30 and then $20 (for example). They tend to give you bonus MBs when you recharge higher amounts. They doubled my download allowance (which was something like 600MB with $50) so I was much better off...!
posted by ryanbryan at 2:28 AM on January 20, 2010

Yeah, yeah, I was having a look at their rates, and total allowance scales very well with price:
posted by tomargue at 1:23 AM on January 21, 2010

Yeah, that's true... but you only have to prepay $30 with Exetel to drop the per-megabyte rate below what Telstra will charge you $100 to access, plus your prepay is good for 90 days instead of Telstra's 30.

Anybody who uses Telstra when they don't absolutely have to will, in general, be paying more than they need to. This is largely because Telstra, which used to be the taxpayer-funded monopoly telco before it got sold off, is still bound by universal service obligations that don't apply to the other carriers; is therefore forced to put up towers in places like Narooma and Bruthen; and consequently has a higher investment cost to recoup.
posted by flabdablet at 7:42 PM on January 21, 2010

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