For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been tested Vividwireless’ WIMAX-based so-called 4G service. Based on my experience, I can only say this: it’s a complete waste of time for anyone who travels more than a block in Australia’s biggest cities.
My original plan for testing Vividwireless mirrored how I assess other broadband networks: testing connection speeds in a variety of locations. But speed tests are meaningless in this case, because across Sydney and Melbourne, I literally only found a handful of locations where I could even get a connection — and that connection would generally disappear if I moved 10 metres in any direction, despite the coverage maps claiming the relevant areas were included.
At the airports in both cities, I got absolutely nothing; Vivid claims the service works in Sydney, but not in Melbourne. As I’ve already noted earlier this week, airport coverage is pretty crucial for travellers, and that kind of omission alone would probably be enough for me to ditch it from a list of possibilities.
As a working road warrior/worrier, if you can’t even connect in well-populated locations — the CBD and the airport — then there’s no point doing speed measurements, let alone trying other locations. These are the primary locations business travellers will want to use, and they are Australia’s two biggest cities. And if you can’t attract those users, it’s hard to see how you’ll ever build or expand a commercially sustainable mobile broadband network.
Earlier this week, Alex at Gizmodo did some comparison testing between Telstra’s LTE network and Vividwireless in the Sydney CBD. Having faced similar challenges in preliminary testing, in order to ensure a connection, he only used outdoor locations. This is obviously not a helpful strategy if you’re staying in a hotel and want to work on your email or do some research. In-building coverage is a challenge, but if you can’t make a reasonable crack at it as a mobile broadband service, it’s hard to justify charging anything.
Sure, there may be other non-traveller scenarios where Vividwireless makes sense. Its pricing is a lot lower than Telstra’s, and if it happens to work in your house, it’s a potential alternative to a wired connection. (If that’s the case for you, tell us about it in the comments.) But it strikes me that one common reason for going wireless is moving house relatively frequently, and based on my experience, even moving one block from your current location could render it useless.
In the long run, I want my mobile broadband to be mobile. In a fortnight of testing, if I’d been relying on the Vividwireless device, I’d have been disconnected most of the time. You can’t expect 100 per cent coverage from any mobile broadband service, but 5 per cent just doesn’t cut it.