Telstra offers its BigPond Wireless Broadband service with either a fixed desktop modem or a PC Card roaming modem for notebook users. The notebook option is the more expensive option, both in upfront cost (AU$199 for desktop, AU$299 for PC card) and in the plan cost, which varies depending on the usage plan you select. We tested with the notebook variant, and given Telstra's claimed coverage map for the actual broadband part of the service, it's fair to suggest that most of the users will do likewise; within most of the coverage areas there's an embarrassment of riches when it comes to broadband choice.
Installation of the service involves a relatively pain-free installation - we tested with the Windows software, but it's also available for Mac OS X 10.2.8 and better users -- and then insertion of the PC Card Modem. The PC Card modem for the service is a standard Type II card with a very slender antennae that works best in an upright position. There's only one problem here, and it's particularly pressing for a product that's intended to be mobile. The antenna is fixed on with a very slender little antennae that's somewhat reminiscent of the type of antennae you'd find on mobile phones about eight years ago. This is hardly surprising, as the broadband service does use Telstra's mobile network for operation -- but it's also somewhat worrying, as it feels extremely fragile. We used very light fingers and lots of caution during our testing, but could easily imagine the antennae snapping, at which point you'd be out a further AU$299 for a replacement.
Telstra offers the wireless broadband service on two platforms. Within a coverage area, you'll connect to its 1xEV-DO service, which offers broadband speeds of up to 512kbps, although that's only for downloads -- uploads run at a far more sedate 64kbps. Outside the coverage area, you'll connect to the significantly slower CDMA service. Telstra calls this "high speed" in its marketing material, but also notes that while it's capable of bursts of up to 144kpbs, an average speed of 80-100kbps is more realistic.
Speeds vary by plan as well. On the cheapest desktop modem plan (AU$34.95/month with 200MB allowance) you'll get only a 256/64kbps connection, whereas the highest rate mobile card plan will set you back AU$129.95/month for a 512/64kbps plan and 1GB of download allowances. The desktop plans offer significantly cheaper rates for usage over plan allowance at 15c/MB, while the mobile card plans cost twice that.