Airports are a prime location for using mobile broadband services. In a three-way battle between Optus, Telstra and the free Wi-Fi in the lounge, which comes out on top?
On my way up to the Gold Coast for TechEd Australia 2012 earlier this week, I ran speed tests comparing Optus' recently-released 4G services, Telstra's longer-established options and the free Qantas lounge Wi-Fi (also provided by Optus). I used the respective 4G hotspot models to access the Optus and Telstra services, which minimises the likelihood of driver or software problems. Results are averaged over three tests.
That looks like a thumping victory for Optus, but there's a very important caveat here. While Telstra's 4G network does cover the airport area, in the lounge location where I was my hotspot would only connect to DC-HSPA services. The results were still very usable, but that discrepancy highlights yet again a point we always make about mobile broadband: throughput is not guaranteed. Even with a 4G device, you won't always get 4G service.
Though Optus is by far the fastest, all three options performed well. Under the circumstances using the free lounge Wi-Fi would often be the sensible choice (why use paid-for data if you don't have to?) That said, having 4G available once you arrive is still very welcome!