Price (RRP): $599
The new Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro modem leverages the power of the Qualcomm X55 Gen 2, 3/4/5G modem coupled with a Wi-Fi 6 AX1800 hot-spot. All in a small, battery-powered form factor.
The Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro is a rebadged ZTE MU500 joining a host of other Telstra/ZTE white-labelled products. We only mention that as ZTE has is part of the Huawei/ZTE/China spying debacle which precludes it from supplying any 5G infrastructure in Australia and other five-eyes countries.
That aside, ZTE makes some wonderful gear. GadgetGuy had nothing but praise for its phones before the US Entities List crippled its global sales. It is up to you if you use the modem for sensitive data, but you must expect Telstra has vetted its security.
Review: Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro modem (ZTE MU500)
- Telstra website here
- ZTE website here
- Manual here (it is a PDF so check the downloads folder)
- Size: 133 x 73 x 18.5mm x 230g
- Price: $24.95/16.63 over 24/36 months (total approx. $599) plus a Telstra data plan
- Data Plan: As of June 2020, all 5G access costs $15 extra (over 4G) per month – the prices shown include this: $30/5GB, $40/20GB, $50/60GB, $75/200GB
- 5G Coverage: Map here
- Warranty: ZTE provided 24-months ACL warranty on the device and 12-months on battery and accessories but only if purchased through Telstra. Avoid grey marketers like the plague
- Status: Not locked to Telstra but the LTE bands favour Telstra over other carriers
What can it receive?
- 5G Sub-6GHz – Band n78(3.5GHz used in Australia), n7(2600MHz), and n5(850MHz). In theory, sub-6GHz can transmit a signal a couple of kilometres.
- 5G mmWave Band n258(24.25 – 27.5GHz) but this is only on trial at present and will not be commercially available in Australia until late 2022. It will have limited coverage, and you must be within 100m of a tower to get a good signal
- 4G Bands 28 (700MHz – Telstra 4GX), 1 (2100MHz), 3(1800MHz), 7 (2600MHz), 8 (900MHz) with Cat 20/18 theoretical 2.5Gbps/316Mbps downlink/uplink. In theory, a 4G signal can reach several kilometres from the tower. Our 3/4G/X tower is 1.3km away, and we only get 3-bar reception.
- 3G Bands 850/2100Mhz (not really meant for data)
And at what speed?
I live on the Central Coast of NSW – a lovely spot, and we hope those damned Sydneysiders don’t discover our little piece of paradise. 5G coverage is supposed to be from Woy Woy to Gosford, but we went wardriving and did not get a signal (granted, perhaps because we were in the car).
The Qualcomm SDX55 chip is a Gen 2 modem that offers both Sub-6GHz low-speed and mmWave higher-speed download/upload rates. The theoretical DL/UL on mmWave is 7.5/3Gbps, but there is no mention of Sub-6Ghz speeds. Our take, when we have been able to access 5G on other devices is no more than 2Gbps/500Mbps, and the reality is that it is around 50-400/40Mbps.
OOKLA Speedtest – too variable to call
Three tests each on Telstra 4GX Band 28 in 3-bar -100dBm reception with Telstra provided 5G sims.
|Device||ms||DL Mbps||UL Mbps|
|Surface Pro 7 connected via 5Ghz Wi-Fi Pro||18/19/22||28.9/24/39/56.7||21.58/23.38/24.39|
|Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G|
Exynos 5312 modem
|OPPO Find X2 Pro 5G SD55X modem||18/23/23||43.3/55.2/65.4||23.4/29.6/32.5|
|Surface Pro 7 connected via Ethernet to Wi-Fi Pro||23/27/27*||53.69/43.94/70.98||23.56/25.56/22.61|
* This test was performed about two hours after the Wi-Fi tests, so the ping speeds represent network congestion at that time.
All this proves is that the Telstra Wi-Fi Pro, at least in 4GX is a competent performer, but the OPPO Find X2 Pro using the same X55 modem is a tad faster.
If you get a 4-bar 4GX signal expect a maximum of 150/35Mbps DL/UL.
We will attempt to update the 5G speeds when we find suitable reception. However, as a guide expect somewhere between 50-400Mbps/35Mbps DL/UL.
The unit can have two external TS-9 antenna ports for better 3/4G reception only – not for 5G.
Ethernet port – PASS
You can connect a LAN device like a Gigabit Ethernet Hub/Switch or a PC.
USB – charge and data – PASS
You must load Windows or Mac drivers to connect via USB-C. The device presents Setup.exe on the first connection.
Internet Wi-Fi – Interesting – PASS as an access point
It can connect to another Wi-Fi hot-spot like an NBN router. This is a WWAN (mobile) connection – the Ethernet port does not act as a WAN.
As a Wi-Fi hot-spot – PASS
It uses the Qualcomm QCA6391 Wi-Fi 6 AX1800 chip. This is a 2.4/5Ghz dual-band, VHT 80, 2×2 MIMO.
The total aggregated data rate is 1800Mbps, dual-band-simultaneous (DBS), half-duplex (meaning it is about 50% of the speed either way).
Tests (Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G) all line-of-sight – figures are -dBm (lower is better) and Mbps
Tests (OPPO Find X2 Pro)
The tests indicate that the maximum usable distance line-of-sight is 5GHz/20m and 2.4Ghz/30m, although the 2.4Ghz band could stretch a little further.
2 x 2 MIMO means two active streams each on 2.4/5Ghz. Telstra/ZTE claims it supports up to 30 users (15 on each band), but you have 433Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1300Mbps on the 5GHz band. Clearly, this is theoretical. Our tests indicate that 2.4Ghz will support 5 ACTIVE devices and 5GHz about 4 ACTIVE devices. Still, this is what I would expect, given the small size of the antenna.
Battery – PASS
It’s a 4500mAh removable battery charged by the supplied USB-C PD 2.0/QC 3.0, 5V/3A, 9V/2A, 12V/1.5A (15-18W) charger. ZTE warn to use the supplied charger, e.g. no quick chargers. We are not sure why as any USB-C PD enabled charger should work.
We would love to give accurate battery usage times but these varied enormously based on the number of attached devices. The best we can do is say that it uses about 10-15% per hour, which equates to ZTE’s claim of about 8-9 hours of continuous use.
Recharge time is also variable. Using the supplied charger, it fills to about 65% in around an hour, but a full charge takes just over 3 hours. One test using a 5V/1A charger was just under 9-hours.
There is overcharge protection, and if the device reaches 45°, it stops charging.
The battery is a ZTE 4500mAh 17.3Wh Model Li3945T44P4h815174 that you can buy on AliExpress for about US$15 for ten pieces!
2.4″ Touchscreen – PASS but basic
It tells you the days remaining, data used, battery remaining and total data purchased. You can access all settings via the screen, but we really suggest you access it via a PC browser at 192.168.0.1.
Note on initial setup its wise to change the Admin password. There is a Wizard that will remind you to do this.
It has most of the typical router settings like Firewall, NAT etc. – these are disabled by default, and you may wish to enable some if you are using it as a hot-spot.
GadgetGuy’s take – The Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro is a great mobile hot-spot
I have used ZTE/Telstra 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot-spots for many years. They are unfailingly reliable and have gotten me coverage everywhere from Port Douglas to Uluru. They are not generally any good for overseas roaming even though you can easily swap the SIM out as the bands are Telstra focused.
In many ways, I prefer using these instead of LTE modems in notebooks.
The Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro simply builds on this – if you can get a 5G signal.
The big issue is data cost, and the bigger issue is how much you use it. For example, I easily consume about 1GB per day. That is remote working, browsing and no media/audio content. But if I steam a 1-4K movie, I can easily consume 5-20GB in one hit.
With 4G you could get 365-day plan $150/40GB ($3.75/GB) or $300/180GB ($166/GB) which more suits the role of a portable Wi-Fi hot-spot. And a lot of people went to Boost/Woolworths/Aldi and got lower-cost 4G (not 5G) Telstra annual packages.
So Telstra’s 5G month-to-month plans are expensive $30/5GB ($6/GB), $40/20GB ($2/GB), $50/60GB ($0.83 cents per GB), $75/200GB (37.5 cents per GB) especially as there is no roll-over.
My advice: Hardware is 5/5. Data costs – well, that is up to you.
GadgetGuy’s announcement is here