We find out if the Optus Bridge can make the data divide disappear

While we were checking out the Samsung EX2F in Singapore last week, we decided to kill two birds with one stone and try out the Optus Bridge, a service that aims to provide inexpensive unlimited mobile broadband to Asian countries to Optus post-paid customers.

Announced earlier this year, the Optus Bridge DataRoam pack is an add-on for the Optus post-paid service that can provide unlimited mobile broadband to specific Asian nations while customers are there.

At the moment, the service can be purchased in two bundles, with $27 netting you three days of unlimited service or $40 grabbing five, each offering an all-you-can-eat buffet of data downloads on the a device on a per country basis.

Performance

Designed to bring mobile broadband to a cheaper price for Optus customers, the DataRoam unlimited packs offer just that: unlimited data to Optus post-paid account holders travelling to Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Macau, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand.

What’s happening here is that Optus is connecting to the Bridge Alliance DataRoam connection, a service that also offers similarly unlimited mobile data packs to customers in these countries travelling to Australia.

To use the service, simply pay for a Bridge DataRoam pack before you leave the country, informing Optus when you want the pack activated for. Make sure to tell them what countries you’re heading to and what days the pack (or packs) will need to be applied to.

The Bridge Alliance allows customers to grab unlimited mobile broadband inexpensively by connection to these specific carriers.

With three and five day services, it’s not hard to plan your trip with data accordingly, but it’s worth pointing out that each Optus DataRoam service only works with one country. So if you’re heading to both Singapore and Hong Kong, you’ll need two packs, with one for each country. Sadly, there’s no sharing here.

Once you’re paid and ready to go, the moment you land in the country, provided your APN settings are set to “yesinternet” and you have specifically selected the operator Optus tells you to, you should have net access.

That said, the speeds aren’t amazing, and they certainly aren’t anywhere near the level that current Australian mobile web surfing provides for.

Despite our iPad 2 telling us we were on 3G, our speeds rarely went above 1Mbps. Back at home, we're used to at least five times that.

In our tests around Singapore, we found a top speed of 1.3Mbps with an average of 0.8Mbps, roughly equivalent to 107kB/s, well under the almost megabyte per second 3G speeds we’ve receive at home in Sydney.

That’s not a super fast speed, but should be adequate for checking and sending emails, doing a spot of tweeting or social networking, and a bit of mobile web browsing. Don’t expect it to fly at the same speed as your phone back home, though.

Sadly, it's not the fastest connection you're likely to see, though it is pretty inexpensive.

Conclusion

The Optus DataRoam pack does offer an unlimited burst, but it’s not going to bring you the speeds your phone or tablet is used to having in these places. With a roughly 100kB per second download speed and 50kB upload, this isn’t a fast connection by a long shot.

In fact, not only was our mobile much faster in Australia, but our mobile connection on the same network was faster in Singapore, grabbing a 1.5 megabyte file in five seconds, compared with the 20 it would have taken on the Optus Bridge.

Using our regular mobile connection, we would have normally been charged between $15 and $20 per megabyte, so the Bridge’s DataRoam Unlimited pack makes a lot of sense when it comes to saving money, just don’t expect the same speeds while you’re using it.