HLO Day 18: When Broadband Software Sucks, Part 2

HLO Day 18: When Broadband Software Sucks, Part 2

My recent roundup of the many and varied trials of 3G broadband software established pretty clearly that every piece of client software I’ve tried has major issues, but didn’t cover one crucial player in the market: Optus.

Coincidentally, the same day I wrote that piece Optus arranged to send me a 3G modem so I could trial its network coverage in some of the more remote locations I’m visiting during Hand Luggage Only. Optus sells the same Huawei E169 modem as 3, and that’s evident also in the client software, which is exactly the same package with Optus visuals glued on. There was one small difference: when I installed the modem and tested it in Sydney, it worked straight away. That may not sound important, but I think it’s the first time it’s ever happened with an HSDPA modem.

That gave Optus a promising start. When I hit Cairns on Sunday, I decided to see if 3G coverage was available in my hotel via Optus, and it was. Or at least, it was sometimes. Firstly, I started getting random dropouts, accompanied by blibk-and-you’ll-miss-it confirmations. Then, when I tried to reconnect my machine after a meeting, I got the same poorly phrased “You can’t reconnect before register an available network” message (so Huawei’s definitely to blame for that one).

The worst thing, however, was the network variability. This morning, working from my hotel room, Optus happily gave me a 3G connection. In exactly the same position a few hours later, it resolutely refused to believe that anything other than GPRS was available. At that point, I gave up on Optus and switched back to my Vodafone modem. Vodafone’s planned 3G extensionto Cairns seems operational, so I’m sticking to that until I hit the next town. (Though it still also suffers from its own peculiar range of bugs.)

Int the end, the Optus problem doesn’t make it any easier to choose between mobile broadband providers: it turns out they all have lousy software, so those old basics of coverage, price and usage patterns come into play. And yet again it seems we’ll have to pray that Windows 7 might finally offer some relief on the stability front. Of course, that’s not much chop for Mac or Linux users, though to judge from reader comments the latter are actually doing better with generic clients than I am with the official commercial software.

Throughout May 2009, Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman will be travelling throughout Australia with just one carry-on bag for the Hand Luggage Only project.


  • Recall that the PPPoE software that shipped with Bigpond ADSL or the Bigpond Cable Heartbeat Software, when it was first introduced was pure rot. Tried the software that comes with a netgear usb wifi? *shudder*

    Windows will catch up with Linux sooner or later, and do it neatly and in a standard way.

    • Oh god yes, I remember.

      I actually made the mistake of running the Optus setup CD when I first got ADSL, and it promptly filled my PC with bloatware and bookmarks that it didn’t need, not to mention telling me that Internet Explorer (Yes…it was that long ago) was supplied to me by Yes Optus.

      If anything it taught me how to set up the modem directly and not to run another ADSL provider’s setup disc ever again.

  • I have windows 7, the E160G modem I am using for wireless “three” broadband, will not let me upload photographs to face book.
    As for coverage between 6:00pm and 9:00pm it “really” sucks.
    I am in Adelaide and yes the software installed “instantly” without fuss.
    Is it “three” or the modem… well I will answer that in a couple of weeks, because Internode will supply me with a sim… then we will see.
    I hope it is the end of the message ” you do not have sufficint credit”…especially since I have 9 gig still available…

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