For those who do not know what coverage is: it’s the distance covered by a wireless signal. The mobile broadband signals are transmitted from the provider’s tower in a certain frequency. Only based on the coverage, the signal strength of a mobile broadband modem will be higher or lower. Since the mobile network in UK is available in more than 95% of the country, mobile broadband coverage will not be an issue. Users can now check the coverage of a certain area by using the coverage checker offered by different mobile broadband providers.
3 Mobile has been one of the largest mobile network not just in UK but in many parts of the world. Orange mobile is one of the largest mobile network provider in UK with a customer base of more than 17 million in UK.
Integration of the two types of networks is good in terms of coverage while the speed limits vary between them. Vodafone being the largest player in mobile communication in the world has offered better coverage across UK as well.
Even with the weather beginning to improve in Melbourne, the days are still regularly threatening rain which means, for iBrothers at least, when we find a nice day arrive with some time up our sleeve, it’s all about motorbikes and the Victorian country side.
As previously reviewed, the Telstra Bigpond Ultimate Broadband Wi-Fi is Telstra’s latest offering for mobile broadband. While iBrothers uses Telstra as their mobile phone provider, in our line of business it’s nice to have another carrier as backup for mobile broadband.
We also left the units running for the entire trip to see what battery life to expect from them. We decided that our first step should involve a quick coffee fix and speedtest around our local area.
As noted in our previous review of the Telstra Ultimate WiFi, it blasted along in the DC area. Having a look at tower locations in the area, we decided to take a quick trip to the eastern entrance to Melton. A noticeable increase from Telstra, a moderate increase from Vodafone and a barely acceptable increase from Optus.
With the initial issues we had with our Pocket WiFi 2, we elected to do a little bit of tweaking to the wifi settings on each unit, placing them on channels which ensured they were separated. After a brief discussion with a local about DSLR photography, we took note of our signal strength – Telstra showed full signal strength and Vodafone and Optus both hovered between 3-4 bars. From here we would be skirting around Mt Macedon through Woodend and past Hanging Rock towards Lancefield. Located between Woodend and Kilmore, Lancefield was selected for a speedtest primarily because it is a small town. While Vodafone managed to achieve no network coverage, Optus was able to pull through the same download speeds we were seeing in Tullamarine even if upload speeds were somewhat appalling. Broadford is a popular stop for many and we noticed at least two groups of motorcyclists here putting the good weather to good use.

From here we made a right turn over the highway and towards Flowerdale into another one of our favourite riding areas. Nestled in a gully next to a creek, Hazeldene is one of those places you would rarely stop. We ran the test several times not really believing what we were seeing and ended up doing some general internet surfing while enjoying what was quite a nice coffee and yes, it was fast under Telstra.
We turned on our mobile hotspots at 10:20am that morning and finished our tests around 4pm. If mobile internet is important to you for work or play and you find yourself occasionally travelling, holidaying or living in the country, it would appear that Telstra pretty much is the leader in terms of what is available. There is of course a price point to consider both in terms of the cost of the mobile hotspot as well as data (Telstra is definitely pricier than Vodafone and Optus) however, if you are paying for something you can’t use there is little point in having it in the first place. As indicated in our Melton tests, distance to tower location is quite important in getting the best results however, we would argue that it is not good enough to have to travel outside of the main shopping area of a town to achieve a usable connection. As a last aside, it’s also worth noting that distance to towers and network speeds mean little if your network is congested. I am with Vodaphone on my mobile and have found much better internet coverage with it than with wifi. We tend to be around Broadford more often than not as it encompasses one of our favourite rides. It provides the details about the coverage or the signal strength of a certain area using the postal code or the name of the place. They maintain the largest 2G and 3G integrated network and provide the coverage for almost 95% of the country. Some cities are in the trial of receiving a speed of 14.4Mbps, while many places have to still wait for the completion of the upgrade. Vodafone has been rolling out their new 850Mhz network (the same frequency that Telstra operates their nextG network on) and have been repeatedly crowing about it (well our inbox receives frequent updates) so it would be interesting to see if we experienced any differences on our trip. We already had a Vodafone sim on a broadband plan so it was with some excitement (and trepidation) that we splurged on the current offer of $99 for a Mini WiFi Modem Starter Kit + 8GB data (with 6 months to use) prepaid. We decided to stop at Melton considering it’s size and population density thinking that there should be some fairly decent mobile coverage here. We were situated in the middle of town so we would have expected that this position should have proven to have adequate coverage. It’s a great place to grab some food and coffee and we settled in for our next set of tests. At first, we parked ourselves at a local bakery indoors but our Pocket WiFi 2 couldn’t get any reception.
Optus also did much better than we expected and we were most surprised to see the speed it achieved.
This part of Victoria has to be one of iBrother’s favourites being both beautiful and inspiring. Most importantly though was the discovery of Telstra’s DC network all the way out here. Optus was present here but not showing anything particularly special and Vodafone, well, despite some unusual spike at the end of the tests (we ran it few times) with upload was generally putting in a fairly poor show.

It has one general store which also sells fuel, a creek, an outside toilet and that is pretty much it. While Optus was generally available and at times, proved very capable, when using it near any town that would provide congestion, it appeared to take a major performance hit. Let’s hope that each of the carriers continues to improve not only speed but throughput and accessibility too.
Although I do get poor reception in Kilmore, In broadford at home, I get full strength anywhere in the area, and being with the CFA here, I need good reception.
We found reception to appear ok in some parts (high bars) which may be fine for calls but in the actual speedtests covering the broadband speeds, it often didn’t look great for Vodafone. O2 mobile broadband coverage is available in 80% of the country with the southern part of the country holds a larger ratio. Now since the network is shared with 3 mobiles they also take the pride of being the largest HSDPA network provider in UK. The hotspots from Vodafone and Optus have the option to set the wifi to go to sleep with the default set to 30 mins.
McDonald’s Tullamarine was the choice for convenience, not for their unremarkable coffee.
Pulling up in a carpark in the middle of the shopping district we did run into some initial complications with Vodafone’s Pocket WiFi 2, having to reset the unit several times before we would complete a speedtest. Quite honestly we weren’t expecting great thing here so what we discovered was quite astounding.
Finding it present in a small town such as Lancefield is most unexpected and as you can see, once again pulled ahead as the fastest provider. We remember coming past here years ago (pre 3G) and not having any Optus network for mobile calls. It may have been due to improvements to the area since the fire damage and new equipment supplied to the area, but even still, our Telstra hotspot was not showing a DC connection yet here we were seeing DC like speeds. While reception appears strong enough to make a call most anywhere in a populated town, in the modern day of internet connectivity where Australians are one of the fastest adopters of smartphones, we can’t help wondering why Vodafone and Optus are falling so far behind. It could be a backhaul issue between the towers which would explain a high signal but low throughput.
Whatsoever, the coverage is limited to certain distance after which a new transmitter or booster is required. This is one of the reasons why we experience variation in the speed of the same network while we travel between different destinations. Due to few technical reasons, there are chances that a connection cannot be offered to a certain area even if the map shows availability. We also remember the first time we had access to Telstra’s nextG network and finding coverage here. While the bridge across the creek has been upgraded since the Black Saturday fires, we weren’t really expecting much from any of the carriers.

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