If there was one major complaint in our recent review of the Telstra Pre-Paid 3G USB + Wi-Fi wireless broadband device, it was that we were "left fervently wishing it was a 4G device". Telstra has now answered our prayers with the announcement of a 4G USB + Wi-Fi device.
The product design sticks to the same clever formula. It acts as a standard USB wireless broadband dongle for use with your laptop when you need it for that purpose. But with any USB port that can deliver basic USB power, the device springs to life as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to five devices. Multiple devices were a stretch for the 3G version, but with long-term evolution (LTE) speeds, it becomes much more capable of keeping a small group of devices happy all at once.
The new device description suggests other feature improvements, such as a rotating USB connector (which could help improve Wi-Fi performance, depending on orientation) and an included AC adapter to make it easy to power it up anywhere you choose.
Finally, the device actually delivers 4G features at the leading edge of 4G performance. It includes support for Telstra's new 900MHz LTE spectrum (as well as 1800MHz and 2600MHz frequencies), which makes it one of the most versatile 4G devices we've yet seen. 900MHz is expected to give better building penetration amongst other benefits, so this device could be expected to work better than older 4G products within 4G areas. It is also a Category 4 (CAT4) device, which means it supports download speeds of up to 150Mbps and uploads of up to 50Mbps. You're unlikely to ever see that in the real world, but having serious headroom means you will typically be limited only by the network itself rather than the capability of the hardware.
The device will be available as a prepaid device for AU$119, which includes 5GB of data on a 30-day expiry. Telstra's prepaid data recharge rates range from AU$20 for 250MB, with 21-day expiry, to AU$180 for 12GB, with 365-day expiry. Sweet spot prices are around AU$50 for 3GB, with a 30-day expiry, which is more expensive than options from most competitors.
When we had the 3G version of this device in for testing, we showed one way it could be used to simply turn your car into a hotspot on wheels.
Telstra correctly points out that there is no other 4G device like it on the market. We look forward to getting our hands on this one to see whether it makes our Wi-Fi hotspot dreams come true.