Telstra NetComm Turbo 7 Series Wireless Gateway

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NetComm Turbo 7 Series Wireless Gateway provides an easy set-up, good coverage and modest speed. While this system gives you the advantage of portable wireless gateway, wireless services are less reliable and cannot match ADSL2 speeds.

Look mum, no wires! In some parts of the world wireless has been the norm for some time due to inadequate DSL infrastructure. In Australia vast distances have meant that many who were unable to take advantage of ADSL connections were forced to endure satellite with its long delays which make applications like VoIP impractical.

Terrestrial wireless internet provision has recently become mainstream. When Telstra jumped onto the bandwagon with its Next G Network and gave us months of advertising, the concept gained even more recognition.

Wireless networks mean you don't need the home phone connected in order to get internet service and you don't have to wait for services to be transferred when moving home. It also means less cables lying around the house.

Test Procedure
Our performance testing on wireless routers consists of checking wireless throughput speeds over a variety of distances between a notebook and the router. We placed the router at one end of a 55m long hallway and the notebook was tested at a number of locations starting at 5m and moving further away from the wireless router in 5-metre increments until either the 55m point was reached or the test notebook was unable to reliably connect and lost connection with the router.

However, we did include two 25-metre test points as the corridor has a "dog-leg" so the first 25-metre point is line-of-sight while the second 25-metre point, and all subsequent points, are obstructed.

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An application called Qcheck was used to test the throughput of each of the WLAN's and to facilitate testing an "endpoint" for Qcheck to communicate with, called QE, was installed on the test notebook and PC with a wired connection to the AP under test. At each test point a 1MB file was transferred from the test notebook to the test PC using Qcheck software and the resulting throughput recorded, this was repeated at least five times at each point and the five results were averaged to obtain a final throughput result.

Internet connection speeds are assessed with common online speed test applications.

We also take note of the ease with which the device can be configured and the quality of associated documentation.

Design and Features
The Telstra device is housed in a white and Telstra-blue plastic casing liberally sprinkled with the Telstra logo. Your Next G SIM card slots into the back of the router. A total of three aerials are present; a single small antenna serves your Wireless LAN, while two longer antennas (one main and one auxiliary) provide the link to the internet. Four wired LAN ports are also present. Installation software and manuals are supplied on a USB key.

The set-up process for the device was remarkably simple — Telstra can be proud of this. The electronic user manual was unnecessary for installation, but may be of use to advanced users wanting to tweak the settings. By default the WPA network security is enabled (SSID and security key are provided with the device). Too many people fail to secure their home networks, thus allowing others to piggy-back their services. Various other security protocols are also available.

From the browser-based user-interface it is possible to adjust passwords and other settings including NAT traversal, DNS settings, IP filtering and time-based internet restrictions for particular users or computers.

The following graph shows the performance of the machine as a Wireless LAN. The low scores at 5m, 15m and 25m (where there is an obstruction) show that the device is somewhat susceptible to interference from nearby metallic and other solid structures. Performance dropped dramatically after 45m with connection between the router and our notebook being very intermittent at 55m.

Ultimately, the greatest advantage of this type of device is the portability it provides to your network. If you move house or office — or just want to set up a network offsite for a special event — you can easily do so without being concerned about losing your internet service. Telstra's 3G Network covers the vast majority of Australia's populated areas, but is subject to similar limitations as your mobile phone.

In our experience Telstra has provided reliable internet service, though often more expensive than the competition. Hopefully the combination of good internet infrastructure, the quality Gateway (made by NetComm), and easy user interface will ensure you do not need Telstra's customer service line which, experience tells us, is the company's most serious failing.

ISP claims are typically for maximum performance and not necessarily what you expect to get each day. On the box it is claimed that service speeds are up to 7.2Mbps for download and 2Mbps upload. The best we saw was 2.35Mbps download and 475Kbps upload and we averaged about half of this. Note that signal strength was three out of five at our test location and the Telstra website claims that typical download speeds range from 550Kbps to 3Mbps which puts it on a par with ADSL services (but not ADSL2).

LAN performance was unspectacular, in terms of range and speed but more than adequate for a home or small office. Computers almost the length of a house block away from the device can be connected.

The software and electronic manual are very user-friendly and almost foolproof. (Never underestimate the ingenuity of a fool.) The price is AU$299, but this may be "deducted" from the cost of a monthly service plan with Telstra. Technical support is supplied by Telstra for internet issues, but only provides support for Internet Explorer and Safari, but not any other browsers.

The company website provides a range of services including access to media news and games. The BigPond Office service provides users with an online storage area to assist file sharing and availability when you're out of the office (a small fee is associated with premium versions of this service). The warranty period is 12 months.