'

Vividwireless: fast, but on a leash

Channel Seven-owned internet service provider vividwireless launched its Perth WiMax network today, showing off real-world speeds of 14Mbps, as well as tempting prices, but it won't have the coverage of a national mobile network.

Channel Seven-owned internet service provider vividwireless launched its Perth WiMax network today, showing off real-world speeds of 14Mbps, as well as tempting prices, but it won't have the coverage of a national mobile network.

Vividwireless gave technology media in Sydney a test run of its WiMax network that was launched in Perth today, showing off impressive speeds at what might be considered decent challenger prices to mobile networks. The network is due to be launched in targeted areas around Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide in June this year.

But there's a catch. The city "extensions" will be bound to a 5-kilometre radius around select university campuses, leaving the roll-out more of a toe-dip than a full dive. For Sydney this means the University of Sydney, the University of Technology Sydney and the University of New South Wales; Melbourne's deployment will centre on Melbourne University and RMIT; Canberra's will cover the Australian National University; while Adelaide's will cover the University of Adelaide.

Vividwireless's chief executive Martin Mercer is keeping a lid on its agenda beyond this.

USB dongle

Vividwireless USB dongle
(Credit: Liam Tung/ZDNet Australia)

The download and upload speeds on vividwireless' network shown to media today were 14Mbps on the download and 4.3Mbps on the up. However, it was tested in Sydney on a network that had one user. Real-world speeds won't be certain until the network is loaded up with users, and the internet service provider (ISP) is remaining cautious about speed claims following its brush last year with Telstra over the issue.

The test it ran today used a base station located in Balmain, around 3 kilometres away from vividwireless' Sydney CBD headquarters. The ISP tested the speed of the link between Speedtest.net's server and its own, which delivered the 14Mbps down and 4.3Mbps upload results.

It was compared against USB-dongle-connected devices from its competitors' networks: Telstra's Next G network, Optus and 3 Mobile (Vodafone Hutchison Australia). Optus delivered the highest speed under the test at 17Mbps down and 852Kbps upload; followed by Telstra's near-symmetrical 874Kbps down and 812Kbps upload; and 3 Mobile, which delivered 527Kbps down and 209Kbps upload speeds.

The cost

Vividwireless' USB modem costs $179, which is more expensive than most USB or dongle alternatives, but its prepaid data plans trump its competitors. With vividwireless you would pay $20 for 1GB of data, $35 for 3GB, $55 for 5GB and $75 for 10GB. The data allowance must be used within 30 days. It's also offering contract packages, which are not covered here.

Its home gateway product, which also acts as a wireless modem, costs $299 upfront. Specifications can be found here. Prepaid options range from $20 for 1GB of data to $99 per month for 20GB of data.

Home Gateway

The home gateway and wireless modem
(Credit: Liam Tung/ZDNet Australia)

Vividwireless has also prepared a booster for users on the fringe of its network or where there is poor reception. Its "USB modem booster" is being sold for $79. As shown below a user would plug the USB dongle into the booster to deal with poor coverage.

Vivid-booster

The booster, for areas with poor coverage
(Credit: Liam Tung)

In contrast, Telstra's USB modem goes for $99 while its prepay Turbo modem costs $149. Its data allowances at the low end offer 225MB for $20 per month, 2GB for $50 and 4GB for $80. Of course, Telstra does offer national coverage, whereas vividwireless for the time being will be limited to urban centres.

Vodafone Hutchison Australia offers the USB modem and 1GB of data for $79 after which a customer can top up data allowances at variable rates, starting at $19 for 500MB, $29 for 2GB, $49 for 4GB, $100 for 6GB and $150 for 12GB.