Andrew Breese

Musings of a professional geek

An interesting Broadband modem with mobile backup

The Telstra Exchange news feed has a good post last week – a new broadband modem product which provides a fast connection with a mobile backup in case the connection drops; called Telstra Gateway Frontier, also hitting the news on via Gizmodo and CNet. Firstly let me state the design of this device is far better than most modem/router devices, and if you want a better look at it’s physical appearance browse through the product designer’s website. Its a nice looking piece of kit. It helps that its not a black and grey box with 6 antennas poking out.

telstragatewaymodemwhitelivingroom

That is the Gateway in the background of this image sitting stylishly on the shelf (never mind that it has no power cable or phone line plugged into it, this is a marketing image), in use there would be a few cables running up from the floor to the unit.

Two statements in the primary article stand out as interesting:

If there is an interruption to the home broadband such as planned network maintenance, the gateway will automatically switch over to the Telstra Mobile Network within minutes.

… and …

Featuring the latest in Wi-Fi technology (Wi-Fi 802.11ac 4X4) to increase in-home Wi-Fi speeds up to four times compared with the previous generation of our gateway technology (when using AC-compatible devices), to significantly boost signal reach as Australians embrace video streaming on smart TVs and mobile screens.

Well damn, that’s actually useful.

Why? Well when I was a techie many years ago one of my proud achievements was cobbling together a “hybrid internet connection” for the company which attenuated two aDSL connections, a load-balancer for them, with one having dial-up backup for email, then plonked a few wifi access points into the network for the IT staff. That might not seem like much these days, but in the early 2000’s there wasn’t the choice in providers or flexibility in hardware we have today. My old solution from 15 years ago used three modems, a load balancer, two wifi points, a dedicated firewall device, a secondary firewall for a secure network, a router, and a server to control the policies and monitor usage. It was complex enough to need diagrams and many pages of configuration notes to run, and still had multiple points of failure. This Gateway product looks like it will have one box and three cables (power, phone, and lan), and so a huge amount of what I needed a patch panel and a rack space to do. I’m happy to see this in the home market, but can also see a huge potential for small businesses who just want to get online and stay online.

I still try to keep my hand-in the technical aspects of products and what new gizmos are being released to market, and this device appeals to me because of that combination of many separate devices into one box. As an end-user one box, and particularly less cables is important. The Gateway Frontier box looks good – its a bit odd that the support for wifi devices is listed as 20 devices by Telstra Exchange and 35 devices by CNet. I’m also a little suss on how capped usage and acceptable usage policies for the mobile service will affect how often and how broad the back-up broadband service is. You’ll have to trust that the usage rates will be considerate, or have plans sympathetic to the emergency periods.

Hybrid gateway frontier from Telstra

I’m also suss that the speed will be enough to stream video as a high resolution (meaning 1024+) as most internet connections in Australia struggle to do that on a bad day. A good day, sure probably fine. If the unit is operating in 4g mobile mode then it certainly won’t be enough, but that is not unreasonable.

Have a hunt through the Whirlpool forum posts (posts A,B,C) on the device too, if you’re interested in reading what the more technical community is thinking – and absolutely read, review, and research before you buy. It’ll be a product that gets a lot of consideration from competitor offerings, probably a slap of critical review if its performance isn’t right, and still likely see adoption for the non-technical crowd who want something in their house as an all in one device. Like most networking toys I’ll wait and see if its worth switching over to because my current setup isn’t perfect but also isn’t broken, but on paper it looks very compelling.

I wonder if Telstra will let a few more technical people test drive one? I’d happily test drive one.

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