On the back on building Australia's first 4G network – one which, alas, Apple's new 4G-capable iPad doesn't recognise – Telstra now offers a mobile wi-fi box to turn a super-fast 4G signals into a high-speed personal wireless hotspot.
It's a next-gen version of Telstra's Ultimate Portable Wi-Fi modem – a predecessor that clearly should have been named the 'penultimate' because the 4G version goes one step better. And it's a big step.
By tapping into the new 4G network, Telstra's Mobile Wi-Fi 4G can split a 4G signal with download speeds as high as 40Mbps – we've personally experienced more than 30Mbps on the edge of the Sydney CBD – into a fast 802.11n wireless signal.
That personal hotspot, which is password-protected to keep freeloaders on the other side of the fence, can handle up to five laptops, tablets or smartphones connected at the same time.
And even after splitting 40Mbps five ways there's still 8Mbps per device, which is true broadband, compared to what you'd get on a regular 3G network. 4G upload speeds are also higher than the norm, maxing out at 10Mbps.
Telstra's 4G network – which runs on an entirely separate radio band to its Next G service and the 3G networks of Vodafone and Optus – currently casts its footprint in the CBD of each capital city.
It's officially within a 5km radius of the GPO, but you'll likely enjoy an extra km or two in some directions.
4G base stations also dot more than 80 'metropolitan' areas – built-up zones, such as Sydney's western suburbs centred on Parramatta and the outer-west around Penrith – as well as regional towns, with a slightly reduced 3km span. Telstra says another 20 regions will get 4G this year.
You can check out Telstra's Australia-wide network coverage map at www.telstra.com/mobilebbcoverage.
But if you're outside one of those areas you won't be left high and dry.
In the absence of a 4G signal the modem falls back onto the Next G band and uses turbo-charged 'dual channel' technology – essentially using two Next G mobile phone data channels to download data instead of just one channel – for speeds up to 20Mbps, equivalent to Telstra's fastest Next G smartphone or USB mobile broadband dongle
Even further afield, regular Next G coverage still yields a reliable 2-4Mbps with peaks to 8Mbps.
The battery-powered modem runs for up to four hours between recharges.
A consumer BigPond-branded model of the Mobile Wi-Fi 4G is now available on a range of 24 month plans, including $49 upfront and $60 per month (with 8GB of data per month) for 24 months.
The Telstra-branded Mobile Wi-Fi 4G for business customers lists on a range of plans, including $0 upfront on the $50 Telstra Mobile Broadband Standard Plan over 24 months with 8GB/month.
For more information visit www.telstra.com/business/mobilewifi4G.
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.