Mobile broadband in Australia, but cheap
May 3, 2012 10:24 PM   Subscribe

Seeking mobile broadband on the cheap in SE Queensland, Australia.

Asking for a friend who wants to set up Internet access as cheaply as possible, but she doesn't have access to a landline. She simply wants to connect an iPad (WiFi only) to the Internet. Service must be pre-paid.

Obviously, ADSL is out and a USB dongle or similar is out. As far as I can tell, the only solution is one of the variously-described 3G modems that allow a connection via SIM card and then devices can connect to the modem via WiFi. She does not have a smart phone that can be tethered nor the capacity to get one.

It seems that Vodaphone have the cheapest deal available for prepaid. This modem, plus pre-paid data recharges.

Does anyone have any experience with this device/similar devices or suggestions for alternatives that are as cheap or cheaper? The same device is available for much less via a month-to-month plan, but she is adamant about pre-paid.
posted by dg to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Vodafone is pretty well known for having a sucky service. For my own money, I paid for a Telstra WiFi Hotspot (see this page). Cost $99 and comes with 5GB of data pre-loaded. Once that runs out, I paid $150 for 10GB of data that doesn't expire for 365 days. And in my experience, Telstra have a very reliable service, unlike Vodafone.

Obviously the answer to this question hinges on how much data your friend plans on consuming, but the 15GB (combined) lasted me until right before the 365 days came around, so while your friends mileage may vary, I think that that's probably the way to go.
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:53 PM on May 3, 2012

Oh, and if the only reason she doesn't want ADSL is because she doesn't have access to a landline, Naked ADSL might be something looking into as well.

TPG does Naked ADSL, and they have very good data quotas for very good prices. But I just left them because I kept getting constant drop-outs. Other people swear by them, so YMMV. I have heard Internode are a very reliable service (but I can't confirm this myself, having never been a customer of theirs) and their prices seem decent.

It might also be worth looking at and possibly asking this question on the Whirlpool forums if AskMe doesn't come up with a good answer.
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:00 PM on May 3, 2012

Response by poster: It's hard to work out in advance how much data is going to consume, but I figured that the 2GB pre-paid thing would be more than enough for a month (which is as long as it lasts with Vodaphone).

To be clear, she does not have access to a telephone line at all, so any form of ADSL is out.

Supplementary question - why do these devices all seem to have SD card slots? Would that work as a form of cheap and nasty network storage device?

I will ask on Whirlpool but, you know, I'm at work, it's blocked and AskMe isn't ...
posted by dg at 11:18 PM on May 3, 2012

Does she have a smartphone at all? If 2gb is adequate, tethering may be an option.
posted by pompomtom at 11:24 PM on May 3, 2012

Best answer: Regarding usage, if she downloads a lot of apps (and app updates) and watches a lot of video, she may use a fair bit more than 2GB. The latest updates to Infinity Blade 2, and even iPhoto, we're both close to around 1GB each. If she just plans on doing some web browsing, that's not so much of an issue, obviously. Might be worth discussing with her.

If she's not going to be a heavy data user, I'd definitely reccommend Telstra over Vodafone. Vodafone is cheaper but you get what you pay for. Countless number of people have told me that Vodafone is awful when it comes to 3G reliability. If the 3G connection was my only way of getting Internet, as it will be for her, I'd want something reliable and would be willing to pay extra for that peace of mind. And to that end, I can definitely reccommend the Telstra prepaid wifi.
posted by Effigy2000 at 1:00 AM on May 4, 2012

Best answer: From a slightly different PoV: Compared to most other major centres, all 3 networks (Vodafone, Optus, & Telstra) generally aren't as flaky/congested in Brisbane, but coverage & users/tower varies more. My hands-on knowledge is slowly drifting out of date, but I'm still across it enough that if you can mention a specific part of a specific suburb I can make some educated guesses.

In general network provider terms:
  • Telstra network: generally best coverage & speed everywhere.
  • Optus network: pretty good all-round, but a bit sparse in places (city centre good, inner suburbs good, middling suburbs good to average, outer suburbs average)
  • Vodafone: variable - city good but congested at times, inner suburbs generally quite good but with congested spots, middling suburbs crap to very good, outer suburbs crap to average but with certain very good spots (e.g. very high property value = excellent, merely high property value = average)
Cost-wise, for stand-alone data the best deals are generally from providers on either the Optus or Vodafone networks. Amongst them, it usually comes down to juggling your individual requirements re: unused data rollover, expiry time, etc. Be aware also of minimum data sessions e.g. if you initiate a 3G connection, download a 50kB email, and close the session, Optus will charge you for 1MB. Some modems will hold an idle session open for hours, some will shut it down after a pre-determined time, and some are configurable.

In all that I've seen, the SD card slot is only accessable when you're connected via USB, not wireless (i.e. it works as a USB SD card reader) - the modems don't include the smarts required to be a fileserver.

As to asking Whirlpool - well, it's Australia's biggest tech forum, with a specific leaning to broadband and wireless, and there's some good info there, but my personal opinion is that if you take out the trolls, shills, fanbois, and assorted idiots, you're left with a very small userbase who's collective IQ is still within a stdev or two of 0…
posted by Pinback at 1:10 AM on May 4, 2012

Best answer: Hi. I had no problems with Vodafone's (pre-paid) Pocket WiFi: $29.00/month for 2GB (out of the Gold Coast),

Vodafone's 2 gig is better value because they clock it in smaller base units than other providers. Fair play.

(I found it reliable, no connection or congestion bothers. Was happy.)
posted by de at 2:34 AM on May 4, 2012

Response by poster: She's on the northern Gold Coast, near the M1, so well populated.

It sounds like Telstra is the best technical solution but I think she won't like that due to extremely bad experiences with their customer service. Im also mindful that I'll have to do a degree of technical support and have also had bad experiences with Telstra.

I think it will come down to price in the end and there don't seem to be many choices given the limitations in place.
posted by dg at 2:53 AM on May 4, 2012

Response by poster: She went for a Dodo pre-paid plan in the end. It hadn't even come up in any of my searches, but she saw it on a flyer put in her letterbox. I don't have any idea what the service might be like, but the prices are pretty reasonable and that's at least as important in this particular case, if not more so. Thanks everyone for the suggestions!
posted by dg at 8:54 PM on June 19, 2012

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