update Telstra launched a mobile wireless dongle today that will reach average speeds of 20Mbps in certain areas, but said the service will be no substitute for the National Broadband Network (NBN).
Telstra's Ultimate USB Modem, available in blue. (Credit: Telstra)
The Ultimate USB Modem is built on the same dual-channel HSPA technology as an offering from rival Huawei and runs on Telstra's Next G network.
While both dongles have theoretical maximum speeds of 42Mbps, Telstra claims users will typically achieve 20Mbps speeds within 5km of capital city central business districts, and more than 1.1Mbps from other selected metropolitan hubs and regional centres. (A list of locations can be found in this PDF.)
About half of the Australian population will have coverage to use the modem, and the telco claims users in remote Australia can expect downlink speeds of 3Mbps.
Telstra executive director Mike Wright said further expansion of top-speed coverage areas will be limited by the availability of Ethernet backhaul.
"The heavy lifting will always be done by fibre networks," Wright said, responding to suggestions that the new speeds could challenge the validity of the NBN. "This is about the convenience of mobility."
He said that network congestion will be managed through performance criteria and tweaking, depending on the density of users.
"We tend to manage not on how many users there are but on how the network is used in an area — we adjust [parameters] no differently than the way we managed voice networks for 100 years."
Telstra will continue to sell its 8Mbps Elite USB dongle without lowering its price, and aims to phase-in the new product into its small- to medium-sized businesses and enterprise customers.
The Ultimate USB Modem carries the Elite's upfront no-contract price tag ($299) and two-year plan costs and is only available to customers with an Australian Business Number.
Download limits range from 120GB for $600 to 3GB for $39 (which includes uploads), with speeds between 300Kbps to 3Mbps.
Unlimited deals exist for enterprises with roughly more than 100 staff, which Telstra hopes will be gobbled up by its large government and corporate customers using the Elite units.
The entry-level plan is available today and stock is limited to 2000 devices; however, the higher-capacity plans will be launched on 5 October.
Telstra claims it is still on track to achieve 84Mbps on its mobile network by 2011/12 and said it will continue to invest in High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) technology in the face of superior Long Term Evolution (LTE), but admits it will have to "break out the thesaurus" when it names the successor to its latest modem.
Updated at 5:29pm, 30 August 2010: the theoretical maximum speed is 42Mbps not 45Mbps.