Following suit with its competitors at 3 Mobile and Optus, Vodafone has released a USB drive-shaped mobile broadband modem to replace the old "soap on a rope" style modems we saw last year. This new style modem is now about the size of a tube of lipstick and features a sliding USB connection which can be retracted for safer transportation.
Vodafone has again employed Chinese manufacturer Huweii to deliver the hardware for its modems, the same as all the other network operators; however, this latest Vodafone model has one nifty trick up its sleeve; a microSD memory card reader hidden under the SIM card cover. This means that not only does this USB modem look like a mass storage device it also has the capacity to be one, unlike the same sized modems from the competition.
A new feature of this new modem from Vodafone is that all the necessary software, for either a Mac or PC, is pre-installed on the modem's memory, so it automatically installs all the necessary drivers and interface software the first time you plug the modem into a USB port.
The associated software is very easy to navigate and offers all the information you need including most importantly your remaining data credit for the month. The software also has an SMS feature, common to this kind of service, allowing you to send SMS messages from the interface on your PC to any mobile.
We understand that Vodafone intends to expand its HSDPA network over the coming months, but at the time of writing this review there has been no considerable changes to this network. As such, the comments we made in our Vodafone modem review of 18 months ago still stand true. Performance will vary greatly depending on where you are located, and before signing up to a contract with Vodafone you should carefully consider the Vodafone coverage footprint.
Customers in the major metropolitan areas (excluding Darwin and Hobart) should be able to use the 3G service. We've been testing the modem in and around Sydney's CBD and even then have experienced reduced signal. When testing the speeds of the data as we received it we saw an average of about 500Kbps, which is only slightly faster than fixed-line ADSL connections, and about a third of the estimated 1.5Mbps speeds you should expect if you're in an area of strong coverage.
Pricing has also remained unadjusted with the introduction of this new modem. On its site Vodafone advertises two plans, a 1GB monthly allowance plus the new modem for AU$29.95 per month over 24 months, or an increased 5GB allowance for AU$49.95 a month. This is slightly more expensive than the mobile broadband pricing from competitor 3 Mobile who is offering 6GB for AU$39 per month over a similar contract term.