Vivid Wireless 4G vs Telstra 4G: 4G Networks Head To Head

Want 4G data right now? Two networks are vying for your mobile broadband dollar. But how fast are they? I hit the streets of Sydney to find out. There’s little doubt that Telstra’s trying to steal a march on its opposition with the recent launch of its ‘4G’ services — even if its 4G isn’t really 4G at all — but it’s not the first to market with what’s being called 4G services. That credit goes to Vivid Wireless, who have for some time been selling WiMAX access in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra and Brisbane as '4G'. Whether you want to quibble about exact 4G specifications, the fact remains that right now Vivid Wireless’ 4G and Telstra’s 4G are the only two consumer-facing data-only wireless networks you can connect to. But how fast are they really? I took a walk through Sydney’s CBD to test out Vividwireless’ ViViFi Wi-Fi hotspot C900W and Telstra’s USB 4G dongle.

A few quick notes before we start. Yes, I know that WiMAX isn’t LTE, and that in any reasonable network test LTE should whip WiMAX as it currently stands into a quivering jelly. This isn’t about giving Telstra a free kick, or for that matter Vivid Wireless a kicking. But both sell themselves as 4G, and both have some interesting unique selling points.

Moreover, for most folk mobile broadband is as much about access as it is about speed. If both networks can keep pace head to head, even if their connection rates are different, there’s an argument for using either, especially as Vividwireless’ product is a WiFi hotspot; Telstra’s noticeably reticent to announce any real plans around an LTE hotspot for now.

Secondly, every single time I’ve ever written about Vivid Wireless, I’ve had readers from Perth complaining that my figures are nothing like theirs; from what I can gather Vivid Wireless’ network in Perth may be better than it is in other capital cities. If anyone’s got a return Sydney to Perth plane ticket burning a hole in their pocket I’ll gladly fly out there to test, but for right now, my testing is Sydney based. Make of that what you will.

First Stop: Central Station, Sydney, Country Platforms

Commuters. Thousands of 'em.

Lots of commuters in transit should mean lots of data usage, but how did the networks compare? I ran the tests on a 2011 MacBook Air, using Speedtest.net via Chrome. Each test was run three times and averaged to give the figures.

Telstra 4G Ping: 33 Download: 11.62Mbps Upload: 9.2Mbps

Vivid Wireless 4G Ping: 68 Download: 2.71Mbps Upload: 1.23Mbps

Both networks connected fairly swiftly and without trouble, although I noted that Vivid’s hotspot has tiny indicator lights that are quite hard to read in near-direct sunlight.

Second Stop: World Square, Sydney

I remember the world being larger than this.

My second stop was as close to an indoors test as I managed. I’d noticed previously that the Vivid hotspot couldn’t get connectivity inside Gizmodo’s offices, so I wanted to test exclusively outdoors to get the best possible figures. World Square is still exposed to the elements, but you’re ringed in by buildings, providing a small level of interference. It showed; both units acted up. Telstra’s USB dongle connected but for some time insisted it didn’t know which network it was connected to; I gave it five minutes before it finally decided it was indeed connected to the 4G LTE Network.

This was better than VividWireless could manage. Despite several reboots and a ten minute wait time, the indicator light on the hotspot remained defiantly red, indicating no WiMAX coverage.

Telstra 4G Ping: 35 Download: 31.60Mbps Upload: 11.86Mbps

Vivid Wireless 4G Did not connect

Third Stop: Pitt Street Mall, Sydney

Shop ‘till you drop. But will wireless broadband drop?

The Pitt Street Mall stop made me nervous, largely because it’s very close to Telstra’s offices where they’d demonstrated LTE only a couple of days prior. With the Vivid Wireless hotspot having died on me earlier, would it even connect?

Telstra 4G Ping: 35 Download: 28.15Mbps Upload: 10.25Mbps

Vivid Wireless 4G Ping: 78 Download: 5.5Mbps Upload: 0.87Mbps

I needn’t have worried; Vivid’s download figures were its best yet, although again it struggled with uploads, and I struggled to read the connection indicator in direct sunlight.

Fourth Stop: Martin Place, Sydney

Does 4G work underwater? I wasn’t about to find out.

In the home stretch now, and with both networks offering acceptable speed. Would Martin Place offer up better speeds, or would the presence of this many data-hungry bankers dip my figures?

Telstra 4G Ping: 47 Download: 56.48Mbps Upload: 9.32Mbps

Vivid Wireless 4G Ping: 85 Download: 2.52Mbps Upload: 0.23Mbps

If the bankers are using something, it would seem to be Vivid, which has dropped speed markedly since Pitt Street. Telstra, meanwhile, recorded the best speeds I’ve had out of its 4G USB modem anywhere.

Final Stop: Circular Quay, Sydney

Not a bad view, that. Amidst the tourists, it was less likely that I’d see a lot of data heavy usage, although the Gizmodo offices are just nearby.

Telstra 4G Ping: 38.33 Download: 26.78Mbps Upload: 12.72Mbps

Vivid Wireless 4G Ping: 72 Download: 4.9Mbps Upload: 1.37Mbps

Conclusions: A clean sweep for Telstra LTE, as predicted, right? Yes, but not entirely. There’s little doubt that LTE is faster, and it should be, and that showed; even Vivid Wireless itself is testing out LTE right now, although there’s no timeline for when it’ll launch a consumer LTE product.

Where it gets interesting is in price comparison. Telstra hasn’t raised the prices for its LTE product, which is a nice step, but it’s still premium-priced, the same as its Next-G branded 3G services have always been. Hit your data cap, and you’re slowed to a 64kbps connection, which isn’t broadband at all. Comparatively, Vivid Wireless’ ace in the hole is the inclusion of a $79 all you can eat plan; if you can get access and need lots of data without worrying about usage and can live with the speed, it’s still a decent option to consider.


Comments

    wow 60mbps... wtb

      Telstra FTW! you get waht you pay for

    Ive sold these for quite a while. I know it wasnt the point of the test but it is definitely worth looking at the Home Gateway from Vivid its much faster than the portable units

      Actually Anon, the Gateway has proven no faster and I get remarkably similar speeds in Perth (as Sydney) and personally, I think the speeds are woeful and should be advertised as 4G.

    What a load of shit. Vivid's technology didn't even meet the MINIMUM standard of classification for 4G technologies. They have since been considered 4G because there's nothing else available and they are trying to push the 4g agenda. Telstra are the only carrier in Australia that comes close to being classified as a true 4g network.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4g

      If read the 4G Wiki link you posted in your comment, you'd see that Telstra's LTE is NOT 4G either! Both Telstra and Vivid are falsely advertising that their services are 4 G. Though Vivid is priced more sensibly.

    Agreed. The actual "4G" *standard* is supposed to be 100 Mbit/s. It seriously peeves me that carriers are advertising their products early as 4G when they're technically not.

    I can imagine the advertising & buzzword furore in the future when real 4G speeds are achievable. They'll be advertising "4G HD" or "True4G" or "4G+" to differentiate it from the current not-quite-there-yet 4G.

      This. It's absolutely bullshit how they are able to get away with what is blatantly false advertising. Wimax is not a true 4G technology, Wimax2 however is supposed to be able to meet, if not exceed, the minimum standards of 4G requirement, but it's not due out for a while. Needs moar class action law suit if you ask me.

        What I don't get is when one's download speed became an indicator of what "generation" of mobile services it is.

        For example, 3G is 3G because it uses a different set of technologies to the 2G services that came before. An individual service could max out at 50kbps, wouldn't matter, still 3G.

        The entire 100Mbps spec is purely an arbitrary number for the sake of having one, so they can push for a certain result to market. It is utterly meaningless. How a technical forum came up with it is beyond me.

    Vivid have come a long way from their humble origins as Unwired - providing wireless internet into homes which couldn't even get ADSL. LEt's hope they continue to innovate and push the big players - ala Telstra - to provide a bigger and better service.

      Ahhh... Vivid are Unwired! I had no idea who Vivid are. Interesting that they'd take over a company that had so much brand recognition and change the name so that no one knew what it was (I'm assuming that's what happened?).

    I have just cancelled my vivid wireless for its utter crapness of signal i live in East Perth and hardly get above 1Mbps, i was even in the dick smith store in the city were they have 1 of the interactive displays with speedtest.net on it and that only mustered 0.57Mbps the sales guy quickly stopped trying to sell me it

      Just one question. Why are you relying on a little status light on the device when you're testing signal quality, and not using the admin page? That'll give you tons more info. "Tech" journalists these days...sheesh.

        Also whoops, replied to dan. Was gonna rant at him, but decided to rant at Alex instead :p

          Rant away. I can take it!

          Yes, you can get better figures out of the admin page, but the point of the status light is that it indicates status at a glance -- except in the hotspot's case, it doesn't in direct sunlight, because it's too hard to see.

      Original rage point, decided to post it anyway lol.
      I work in East Perth, have my device setup all day while I'm at work. It stays around ~1.2MBps pretty constantly (that's bytes not bits), so I don't see how you could only be getting 1mbps in the same area.

    Vivid is using 4G to deliver *cheaper' data, as opposed to speedy (despite their marketing). It is no surprise Telstra LTE is faster.

    Anyway, I believe the current set of CPE's from Vivid only go up to 15mbps max in any case. I've seen all the way up to 12mbps on my vivid USB.

    Vivid is crap in West Perth, don't bother.
    I wish you'd created your own version of the speedtest sites, do you think that ISPs priorities traffic to (or replicate) such sites to make their speeds look better than other sites that pass through their usual servers?

    I think reporters often accidently or purposely avoid the fact that Telstra pledge & announced that it is rolling out LTE as 4G & then in a year will roll out upgrades to make it LTE-A which is a true 4G variant.

    One thing to consider is coverage... In Perth, Telstra has only announced "4G" coverage in the Perth CBD and at the airport. Vivid wireless covers almost all of the metropolitan area, which is quite a feat considering our urban sprawl...

      Yes, but on the same note, outside of the primary LTE coverage area Telstra roams to the national HSPA+ service - also a pre-4G technology - which, in reality, provides not dissimilar real-world performance to LTE.

      So Telstra is a no-brainer for coverage, really. The only coverage advantage from Vivid would be if you require a low-latency fixed-wireless service.

    Interesting to note that Telstra download speeds were as fast as the 12/1Mbps NBN plan and the upload speed was significantly faster. With NBNCo predicting that 50% will connect at 12/1Mbps (page 118 of the NBNCo Corporate Plan) it is no wonder they are trying to prevent Telstra and Optus from marketing wireless as a competitor. Sure wireless isn't suitable for the really fast speeds or large quotas, however NBNCo are already predicting that 13% of premises passed by fibre will opt to be wireless only. The question is can the wireless operators push the 13% higher and reduce NBNCo revenues pushing up the price of NBN plans?

      One thing you fail to realise about wireless is the contention ratio take 200 people out at the same time and redo the above tests with sustained downloads and I suspect you will see quite the variance in speed.

    Friggin East Perth, I struggle to get >100kbps out of my HSDPA in the middle of Rockingham, and as for 1.2 mbps, I'm lucky to get that out of my wired connection.

    In Artarmon I am finding Optus 3G to be around twice the speed of Vivid Wireless. I cancelled my Vivid Wireless service after the speeds dropped to 2 - 3 mbps for several weeks, it used to be great but the speeds dropped too much.

    Through the speed test find out how is Telstra's 4G connection, is it better than Vivid Wireless 4G or even Telstra's own 3G speeds - http://liveoncampus.com/wire/show/3114162?utm_source=Blog&utm_medium=Seeding&utm_campaign=Ritu

    Bear in mind Vivid wireless has been around a while and will have plenty of customers accessing it at any one time, id dare say telstra's current users would be lucky to be even 10% of vivid's

    How much data usage do you get with Telstra 4G? I've seen some of the advertisements in Sydney CBD, and they seem to promote downloading movies as the main activity to do over 4G.

    telstra's 4g may offer considerable speed over Vivid, however you will pay thru the nose to get any decent data quota with Telstra. Whereas Vivid offers unlimited data consumption for those who are in a reasonable area and can take advantage of it.

    In the Adelaide CBD I usually get around 5 - 6 Mbps using Vivid, often over 10 Mbps. Similar in the suburbs.

    I haven't seen any Vivid advertising in Adelaide since the network went live early in 2011 (or was it late 2010?). I therefore suspect that Vivid's Adelaide network is under-utilised whereas in East Perth it is likely under some stress. Presumably Vivid's marketing activities in Perth are significant.

    I've been playing with the 4g card for a couple of weeks, mainly upstairs from where you are in Circular quay.

    Lower ground area, perhaps, but above the ground my results were:
    Ping 37ms
    Download 25.28mbps
    Upload 20.01mbps

      I should mention it's a Telstra 4g.

    I've used Vivid for around 6 months in the Melbourne cbd and have found the connection to be stable with acceptable download speeds. A vast improvement on Unwired. The big plus for me was the unlimited data allowance. Telsta may offer Rolls Royce broadband but frankly I don't need lightening speed, I especially don't need their inflated price point.

    I live in a spot that sadly is not serviced by adsl, but close to the sydney cbd (thanks heaps ACCC for fucking that up with your "nanny competition" that gave Telstra no incentive to fix blackspots!). I have vivid and Telstra usb and wifi (non-lte, multiple devices). To get my vivid to work well at home (admittedly on the edge of thier coverage) I need to use a home made directional mini-dish. That gets me 5mbps max, usually 2-3.5 mbps. Uplink is 100k - 300k. Telstra 3G ("extreme usb") gives me up 12mbps from the same location (generally >5) with uplink up to 4 mbps (generally > 1) with the standard antenna, with somewhat more consistent speeds with careful external antenna placement (but not by much). Telstra seems more impacted by rain, sometimes failing to connect at all. Vivid has periods when it disconnects and will not reconnect, not related to weather as far as I can tell, but it does slow. Vivid's speed per http connection is odd - speedtest results and single downloads do not correspond at all, with maybe 1/5 of link capacity available per download. Telsta does not seem to suffer from this to the same extent - a sign of shaping in the vivid network perhaps? On balence I think Telstra is the best overall, even thier "cheapy" wifi prepaid device is a good performer (have one of those too for out and about). If you have a home phone or telstra mobile the service is quite a bit cheaper. Vivid is pants for media unless you are on unlimited, sadly, with no useful unmetering arrangements. I have vivid mostly as cheaper unlimited backfill that I can use at work when needed.

    Who cares what the label is...4G/ LTE/ nextG+/Wifi MAX/10G/TREX Next etc ... if you want the stated speeds buy it.. if not... stop whinging and wait for the name to match the speed cause that seems more important to some???? Ahh now that the service hits 100mb/s I will buy it cause thats TRUE 4G - whereas 30-50mb/s didnt meet my naming needs.... sooks!!!!

      You have a valid point, however the average person does not know how to make an informed decision on things of such technical nature, they rely on companies to tell them what the product is, how to use it, when and where it can be used, etc. The very fact that telstra had to lobby for ages to be ALLOWED to advertise their network as 4G when it actually isnt, says enough.

      Regardless of the advertised speeds, Telstra's 4G network isnt a 4G network, so it shouldnt be able to call it that, market it as such, charge lots of extra money, make 4G handsets for it and dazzle people with advertising rubbish, when it cant even be used at home anyway unless you live in highrise city apartments.

      Having said that, alot of early tests on Telstra's 4G network show speeds higher than the maximum advertised speeds, however this is on an empty network with nobody using it, and once again, regardless of speed, its just not 4G

    Hi, could anyone tell me what frequency/spectrum that the Telstra LTE 4G is running? Would like to know if the HTC sensation could operate the LTE technology in the future, but not sure since in Australia, we mainly use UMTS(WCDMA) where as LTE might possibly use OFDM or perhaps the CDMA technologies in it's own spectrum possibly?

      LTE runs on 1800mhz

    Ive been on the fastest plan UNWIRED has for grabs, and to download a 680+ MB iphone IOS update, it takes a killing 6-7hrs !!
    Just got offered the vivid gateway as a free alternative to unwired
    Don't care as long as its faster than unwired! 0.27 general speed,..

    hi, i'd like to point out that you're not comparing apples with apples. if a device isn't LTE, then why are you comparing it to a device that IS? plus, the Vivid device is obviously wifi, so it's speeds aren;t going to be great anyway because there would be an impact of receiving a signal and sending it "over the air" as opposed to a physical connection. cmon man. how is this a review when you're not reviewing the same things. reports like this damage companies and products reputations because you're passing on incorrect information. it's people like you that make retail staff want to kill themselves over idiotic and severly incorrectly-educated customers..

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