Internode adds 3G wireless data to its broadband menu

This week sees Internode roll out its anticipated wireless broadband service as an add-on service for the ISP’s existing customers. The NodeMobile Data service to be launched tomorrow uses the Optus 3G network and comes in two plans: 250MB per month for $15 and 3GB for $40.

Optus’ own off-the-shelf plans plans start at 2GB for $40 5GB for $50 and 6GB for $60 but with a $10 per month discount on each plan when bundled with an Optus mobile or landline service.

So while Internode’s 3GB/$40 plan is a better deal (one extra GB of data per month) than you’d get if you aren’t already an Optus subscriber existing Optus customers are better off to the tune of 2GB per month for the same price.

However if you require only small doses of wireless broadband while out and about through the month Internode’s $15 plan provides a cheaper entry point than Optus.

Internode users can also buy data blocks to cover excess usage: these will be charged at  $10 for 250MB $20 for 500MB and $40 for 1GB. It’s worth noting that these all equate to 4c per MB which is a substantial discount over Optus’ excess usage charges of 15c/MB.

So even if you expect to use only an extra 100MB of wireless data towards the end of the month you’re better off paying Internode $10 for a 250MB block than paying Optus $15 for just that 100MB.

As with the Optus plans Internode customers can score a ‘free’ USB 3B modem – which works on both the 2100MHz and 900MHz 3G networks – for signing a 24 month contract.

However if you’re already got a 3G USB or ExpressCard modem Internode can also supply just the Optus SIM card for $25.

The biggest caveat to all of this remains Internode’s choice of the Optus network. While the performance of all wireless networks is often subject to one’s specific location testing by APC magazine has consistently found Optus to be among the worst for latency and speed.

This is most noticeable and most galling in built-up areas such as the Sydney and North Sydney CBD – the exact places where you’d expect the network to be geared up for high demand.

Of course Internode isn’t the only major-league ISP to offer 3G wireless to its broadband customers. iiNet has partnered with 3 to offer wireless broadband deals starting at $29 for 3G. These are basically the same rates as you’d get from 3 if you were an existing 3 customer – the only ‘saving’ is that you don’t pay an extra $5 per month for the USB modem.

It’s worth noting that the modem currently offered by iiNet is the 2100MHz-only MF627 Internet Key not the newer dual-band E160 ‘MEGA 3G’ modem which allows roaming onto the 850MHz Next G network.

iiNet also offers a prepaid 3G bundle of the MF627 key for $99 against 3’s standard retail of $129 with pre-paid packs starting at $15 for 500MB.

While our tests show 3 to deliver consistently higher speeds and lower latency than Optus there’s no denying that the Optus network has far greater coverage.

3’s 3G network remains limited to most (but not all) capital cities plus Wollongong and the Gold Coast. If you want wireless broadband outside those areas you’ll need to roam onto Telstra’s Next G network at a cost of 50c/MB.

And if you don’t have a dual-band 3G modem you can roam onto Telstra’s GSM network and pay $1.65/MB for the equivalent of wireless dial-up…