Review: Mobile JetStream rocks - on choppy Gulf waters

Mobile internet and email access takes a leap forward with Telecom's CDMA-based Mobile JetStream service.

Mobile internet and email access takes a leap forward with Telecom’s CDMA-based Mobile JetStream service.

A fortnight’s — free — use of the wireless network makes being tethered by cables seem an unsatisfactory way of communicating. But free is a key word in this experience: if I – or Computerworld – was paying for the service, it would amount to about $160 a month for my typical usage.

That’s not too far off what you pay for the telco’s fixed-line, DSL-based JetStream. But there the similarities fade. DSL is about 100 times faster and much more generous in the amount of data traffic you get for your money while Mobile JetStream makes up for it in convenience.

How much more connected can you get than being able to check your email from the middle of the choppy America’s Cup race course? I did – once, to make sure it worked. A glance at the Windows 98 utility on my notebook PC said I was connected at 23kbit/s, although the link seemed faster.

Indeed, Telecom wireless solutions specialist Chris van der Wal is sceptical of the accuracy of the utility and prefers to measure throughput at www.pcpitstop.com. Van der Wal, who is based in Wellington, says he routinely connects at about 80kbit/s.

When I checked download speeds on the site while connected from Computerworld’s office in central Auckland, the speed ranged from 45kbit/s to 105kbit/s.

As van der Wal points out, it’s usability that counts.

“In the past cellular technology was so slow it was virtually unusable,” he says.

Mobile JetStream does work, and reliably so. While connection speeds vary according to distance from a cell site, number of users accessing the network and, to some extent, weather conditions, I haven’t had a connection break. The only untoward occurrence was when the GTRAN dialler software switched languages on me, turning into what I guess to be Japanese. A reinstall cured that.

As far as coverage goes, you can expect it in the Hauraki Gulf and, according to the Telecom map last updated online in July, should be able to drive the length of the country (avoiding the South Island’s west coast) with an unbroken connection.

Van der Wal’s advice is, however, that you don’t connect and forget: doing so is a bad idea from a security standpoint and you’ll run up data charges even if not actively transferring files as your PC’s operating system goes about its business in the background.

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