In a week where Telecom was roasted by the Commerce Commission for ripping off hundreds of thousands of customers for the greater part of the last decade, its worth noting one of the few things the company does well – mobile broadband.

telecom tstickJust before Chritmas, Telecom did something most people thought it had become incapable of – offered a pretty good deal. For $30, Telecom broadband customers could buy a Telecom T-Stick, which is a tiny modem that plugs into your computer and lets you surf the internet at a decent speed via Telecoms’ XT mobile phone network.

The T-Stick comes with 500MB of data allowance which isn’t much for a even a moderate internet user, but certainly allows a good deal of internet surfing and email traffic, as long as you stay away from big downloads and chunky email attachments. The innovative part of the deal is that you don’t have to commit to a monthly mobile data plan, but pay on a use-as-you-go basis.

I’ve been a mobile broadband subscriber before, using a Vodafone data card for much of last year to try and stay connected on the road. But it was a frustrating experience. Not only was the service pretty patchy, I’d often go weeks without needing mobile broadband, but still having to pay the $49.99 per-month subscription fee.

I should note that Vodafone also offers a pre-aid mobile broadband package with pretty much the same deal – though you do have to pay $99 upfront for the device. It appears you don’t have to be an existing Vodafone customer to sign up for this, so its perfect for visitors to the country who want to stay connected reasonably cheaply during their travels here.

Better than wifi, hotel broadband

I’ve just spent a few days out of the office and the T-Stick has been fantastic – the network reliability has been great, the transfer feeds similar to what I get on DSL in the office. The T-Stick has the software for Macs and PCs built into it, so installs itself automatically – no drama with Windows 7 either.

Normally when I go to a hotel I search out the closest wifi hotspot (hopefully an Esquires that offers free wifi access through Tomizone when you buy a coffee or something). But finding a good wifi connection and a quiet spot within coverage can be tricky. Premium wifi access can cost up to $10 a day, so its not really an affordable option if you want access over the course of a few days. Hotel broadband in New Zealand is expensive – to to $30 a day. We don’t seem to have embraced the free broadband offers US, Asian and European hotels commonly offer.

So prepaid mobile broadband is a good option for casual internet use on the road. If you have a mobile phone or smartphone that can act as a modem, you should also look into the options for tethering your computer to your phone for internet access. Both Telecom and Vodafone now have  reasonable casual mobile data access rates, so this could save you the need to pick up a T-Stick or Vodem.