SEAN BACHER gives his home instant WiFi access with the NetComm MyZone Mobile 3G WiFi Router.
As more and more devices arrive in South Africa with WiFi connectivity, the need for every home to have its own wireless network is becoming more of a necessity than a nice to have.
Those who have an ADSL connection and router probably do have WiFi built-in, but what happens if you don’t have ADSL, and have to rely on 3G to gain access to the Internet?
Enter the NetComm MyZone 3G WiFi Router.
The screen you will see when you first log into http://my.zone
The router promises an easy and seamless setup and, according to the marketing, is child’s play when it comes to configuration. I put it through the Gadget 5 Question User Test.
Out the box, all you need to do is slip in your SIM card, slide the power switch to the On position and in seconds your home is a wireless hotspot.
There are no configuration settings you need to go through, no access points to be assigned ‚ nothing. It is ready to go, straight out the box. However, for advanced uses, a little setting up is required.
Once on, you can access the settings through any browser on any smartphone or notebook. Simply type http://my.zone into the address bar and you are presented with a screen showing a picture of the device, its battery status and network signal strength. If everything is green, it means the system is working perfectly.
At the bottom of the screen, you will find a small login button. Click this and enter your user name and password, (the default is ‚Admin‚ for both fields) and enter what I like to call ‚power-user‚ mode.
Once logged in, you can control every aspect of the router.
The opening screen under power mode shows you the IP address that the router is using, the cellular signal strength which is measured in dBms and the time the router has been up and running.
At the top of the screen a host of tabs starts with one that allows you to add additional Access Point Names (APNs). This is a handy option should you need to connect to a different cellular network apart from the preconfigured one. For example, Cell C and Vodacom use different APN settings. If you want to connect to the Vodacom network, you would need to insert a Vodacom SIM and input their cellular network’s APN details. The same goes for Cell C. Under this tab you can also change current APN settings.
A second tab lets you access the wireless Local Area Network (LAN) settings. From here you can change the IP address (which I recommend you don’t) and the default password users need to input before they can connect to the router (which I suggest you do, as the default is ‚password’).
You can also change the type of network authentication used by the router. By default it is set to WiFi Protected Access, Pre Shared Key (WPA-PSK), but this can be changed to a more secure authentication or can simply be changed to Open ‚ in which case no password is needed to connect to the router.
Under the services tab, you have the option of checking which devices are currently connected to the router, showing what IP address they have been given and what their Media Access Control (MAC) address is. This is similar to a human’s fingerprint ‚ unique. No two devices have the same MAC address in the world, meaning they can be uniquely identified on a network. You have the option of cloning each of these addresses, but unfortunately no way of booting-off, or blocking a certain device from logging on.
You also have the option of changing the routing paths and types, but I suggest you leave these be unless you know exactly what you are doing.
The last tab, System, is where you will change your admin user name and password. There is also an option to save your current settings to a file for restoration at a later stage. Finally, there is a Reboot option, which lets you reboot the router ‚ something I found myself doing quite often.
With the router supporting HSPA, HSUPA and EDGE, all of the major networks are covered, meaning you will gain Internet access in just about any part of South Africa. Furthermore, the device does not need to be used as a WiFi router as such. Included in the box is a USB cable that lets you connect it straight to a USB port, meaning you can use the router as a standard USB modem ‚ similar to the ones available from MTN, Cell C and Vodacom.
The included battery has a life of around six hours. Although I have left the one I am testing permanently plugged in, the ability and freedom to move it from room to room means you will have the best WiFi access ‚ no matter where.
Going through all the tabs, I was disappointed to find that there was no way to view how much data I have used. I think it is an important feature that NetComm should not have left out, what with many people going the mobile broadband route and getting nailed by the service providers when they exceed their data bundle cap.
Its ease of use and its ‚plug it in and forget about it‚ type configuration really makes it innovative in that sense. However, many similar devices offer the same type of functionality. In addition, many Mac and Windows computers allow you to share a 3G modem connected to them, allowing other devices to wirelessly connect to that computer and ultimately connect to the Internet.
Much like when buying a mobile phone, cellular retail outlets such as Cell C offer various contracts. The unit on its own will cost you around R1 499. However, you can buy a 12-month contract from Cell C that costs R849 and thereafter R149 per month and includes 2GB of data per month. The company also offers a contract that includes 5GB of data a month, costs R200 and a further R300 per month.
You also need to factor in the falling costs of ADSL. For example, Telkom’s 8.ta currently has a deal where you can get ADSL running at 7.2Mbps with a cap of 10GB for R200 over a two-year period.
The NetComm is an easy to use, hassle free device. It is perfect for home or small office use, but not in an environment where large amounts of data need to be downloaded on a regular basis.
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How can i check this?
You can check how strong your signal is by typing the following URL into your browser: http://my.zone
This will bring up the router’s diagnostic page. Under the battery status you will see the signal strength ‚ weak, medium or strong.
If you have a medium or strong signal, you should be ok, if you have a weak signal, I suggest repositioning the router near a window.
The signal will travel through walls, however you must remember that every wall it travels through will weaken the signal more.
I would like your opinion regarding the data options offered by mobile telcos.
Most high end devices offer thethering, which could act as a wifi modem. This means you would not need to have a data bundle added to your voice package or have to carry about the wifi modem to have internet access.
However, the data bundles for voice packages are not on par with sand alone data offerings.
Smartphones are almost completely data dependant but yet the mobile operators do not offer the same access to data on voice packages.
Why should I get a wifi modem when I will be browsing on my IPhone, just give me the data at the same price on my IPhone voice package?
I am definitely interested in this product as I have 5 wifi devices at home but no wifi! I have ADSL which I use for my more “heavy-duty”” web activities, so I would just like the wifi for facebook and light browsing of news sites etc in the comfort of my own room.
So to summarise: 3 smartphones and two notebooks in adjacent rooms, wanting to do some light web surfing (no downloads/youtube). Is this device a good option, and would it be better if I used prepaid data (the max I will need is 500Mb – 1GB)?
The MyZone 3G wireless router will suit you just fine. It is intended for small office environments where no heavy downloads are done.
I would go for pre-paid or with a contract that has a set data cap each month. As mentioned in the review, there is no way to monitor your bandwidth usage and you don’t want to get stuck with a high bill due to exceeding your cap.