Neotel’s launch of its NeoGo service last month puts the company into direct competition with the likes of MTN and Vodacom in the mobile data market.
The NeoGo modem, which is about the size of a USB memory stick, plugs into any PC or notebook computer and gives users internet access anywhere where Neotel has coverage.
The company claims the new device is capable of delivering peak download speeds of 3.1Mbps (megabits per second) and peak upload speeds of 1.8Mbps, and is charging R299 for 1.5 gigabits (GB) of data capacity. That is substantially less than the roughly R350 cellular providers such as Vodacom and MTN charge for 1GB of data on a 24-month contract that includes a similar HSDPA device bundled into the equation.
The 1.5GB of data capacity bundled with a 24-month NeoGo contract boils down to a charge of roughly 5c a megabit of data, comparative packages from cellular providers come in at roughly 34c a megabit.
The out-of-bundle rates are also astounding, with Neotel charging 8c a megabit once the bundled data capacity has been exhausted. Cellular providers charge between 30c and 38c for a comparable bundle size.
Installation of the device on either a PC or a Mac is a breeze, as all of the drivers and dialer tools are bundled into a small memory space on the device itself. Users simply plug the device into an open USB port on their notebook or desktop, follow the instructions and after about two to three minutes of set-up time users can connect to the internet.
Stability of the connections established over NeoGo during testing were impressive. Performance is a different story, however — in none of the tests conducted was the performance claimed by Neotel reached.
In fact, www.speedtest.net — one of the most respected tools for testing the capabilities of an internet connection — gave the NeoGo device download/upload speeds of 0.3Mbps and 0.1Mbps respectively.
Interestingly web browsing and email download performance seemed average to good during everyday usage of the device, suggesting that some ‘black magic” bandwidth tinkering is taking place on Neotel’s back-end.
The device’s only downfall seems to be that Neotel is still in the process of rolling out the wireless network on which the NeoGo relies for connectivity, so solid performance relies on the strength of coverage in the area the user is connecting from.
Right now, most metropolitan areas throughout the country have fair to good coverage, but users outside those areas, users will not be able to use the device effectively.
A visit to the coverage map on the Neotel website www.neotel.co.za is recommended for anyone considering this option. All things being equal, this is a good value-for-money mobile broadband option for light internet browsing, a little music or video downloading and email.
But it’s not recommended for power users or those who are used to the kind of performance achieved over 4Mbps ADSL or an HSDPA 7.2Mbps connection from one of the cellular networks.