Telstra Next G
It wasn't long ago that James-Bond-style videophones were the stuff of fantasy - how would we ever manage that? It's now a few years since that kind of technology has been possible but with the launch of the Next G Network in October 2006, Telstra has introduced the largest national 3G network in Australia. In short, it allows voice and data (including e-mails and video imaging) to be carried in "phone" calls, essentially bringing broadband to many people in remote areas for whom satellite was previously the only option.
What is Next G?
There was plenty of fanfare and backslapping as Sol Trujillo proudly announced the launch of Next G, a broadband-speed wonder solution to modern telecommunication needs, available (in theory) to 98 percent of Australians. Across the country, subscribers to Next G's mobile phone packages benefit from a range of services.
As well as standard phone and text messaging, plus broadband speed Internet and video telephoning from Australia and an estimated 40 other countries, Telstra has included GPS technology (satellite-aided location equipment) as well as live streaming Foxtel to handsets or computers.
Can it benefit me?
At its launch, speeds of up to 3.6MB/s (megabytes per second) were available, but a quadrupling in speed in January 2007 means speeds of 14.4MB/s are now possible. One of the big selling points of the network is the true mobility it alows. As with wireless Internet, customers can do whatever they wish online - although computers can be hooked up to the system, the handsets feature everything needed. This is, however, where some of the teething problems come in. In addition, although Telstra claims the network covers 98 percent of the population the coverage is not quite as perfect as Telstra might like.
Performance and costs
An article in The Australian newspaper not long after the launch made claims that many rural customers were not happy with quality of the signal. Patchy reception and so called black spots caused some grumpy customers and disappointed traders in country areas. At least initially there was some work to do getting the network to a higher standard. Tests on the technology have also found that although the quoted speeds were possible in the CBD of Sydney, a few kilometres to the east in Bondi the reception was found wanting. At the same time, however, although launched with a range of 50km, a maximum distance of 200km from 40 regional centres was announced in February 2006.
There have been the inevitable teething problems but one thing is clear: Telstra managed to create a far-reaching network in only ten months. Shortly afterwards, Optus launched a similar service, with some big name collaborators such as Google. It too had it's teething problems but now both are well and truly up and running and between them certainly have a good chunk of the country covered. Optus has focussed its service in metorpolitan areas however, for obvious reasons. As for the price, Next G is not currently the most cost-affective way of getting online. You can pay in different ways - by time spent online or by data downloaded. if you are already a Telstra customer, it can be smarter to sign up to a specific Next G plan rather than paying for the teeth for your "extra" data downloads. Prices change regularly so keep an eye on the websites of the various high-speed data providers. But don't be lulled into a false sense of security if you want to download a heap of content, it's pricey. The set up costs can also make a hole in the bank balance: the handsets are expensive, although many people get them as part of a package, and a Next G wireless USB modem for your computer will usually cost around $300 for an up-to-date model.
So, welcome to a new technological age - and a wider access to technology across the country - but expect a few hiccups and be prepared to pay for it.
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