NetComm MyZone

NetComm's MyZone router is a portable Wi-Fi hotspot that lets you connect multiple devices to the internet through a single SIM card.

NameMobile 3G WiFi Router: NetComm MyZone Portal
At a glance:Have to buy in stores or on a plan,Good network speeds on Telecom,Excellent range for a portable hotspot,Lax security straight from the box
Summary:A good choice for the technically-minded, but if you want both freedom and security, there are better options available.
RRP:$199 (device only)

NetComm’s MyZone router, available through Telecom, is very similar to the Huawei E5 3G Wi-Fi router that we reviewed in February’s issue. It performs the exact same function – it’s a portable Wi-Fi hotspot so you can connect multiple devices to the internet on the go – but it does things a little differently. Different can be good. This time, I’m not so sure it is.

But let’s start with the positives – Telecom’s 3G network is a lot faster than 2degrees’ network, or at least it was when I tested the Wi-Fi speed on 5.10Mbit/s down and 1.69Mbit/s up ain’t bad at 8pm on a weekday. The device advertises top speeds of 7.2Mbit/s down and 5.76Mbit/s up.

The range on the Wi-Fi signal is also very good – I connected to it via my smartphone and put it on my kitchen table, then walked out of my apartment and away. I must’ve gotten 8–10 metres away before the signal dropped, even with a wall between me and the router. Not bad at all for a credit-card-sized hotspot.

The MyZone has a 4-6 hour battery life. I still haven’t managed to wear it down, and I’ve been turning it on and off again fairly often for four days as of writing. Unless you’re using this device as your primary router at home, work and on the go, you’re always going to be able to find time to recharge it before the battery dies.

You’re not locked to a Telecom SIM with the MyZone, so you’d think you’d be able to use a pre-pay SIM if you want. Well, you could, but if you buy online you’re still going to have to sign up for a data plan – you can’t buy the device on Telecom’s website unless you sign up for a plan along with it. You can buy the device outright in stores, though, without the need to also purchase a plan.

It might sound like this hotspot is all sunshine and butterflies, but it has some serious downsides. It’s much easier to set up than Huawei’s router – all you have to do is plug it in and it installs some drivers, no software included. The reason it’s so easy is that it’s worryingly insecure – the SSID is ‘NetComm MyZone’ and the password is ‘password’. NetComm expects you to go and change the SSID and password yourself by logging into the router, which is relatively easy to do, but there’s a catch – the router’s username and password is ‘admin/admin’ and is not so easily changed. You have to use the advanced settings of the router to do it, and even then they’re a bit hidden. Of course, techie readers will be perfectly capable of doing so, but I’m not so sure about the average person.

Without a changed admin password, anyone who’s ever used the product could see the ‘NetComm MyZone’ SSID, log into the router through their web browser and change your SSID and password, then the router’s own username and password. That would render your device useless, except to the clever person who took it over. Goodbye, $200.

For the technically-minded user that remembers to change the default security settings, the MyZone is a reasonable alternative to Huawei’s E5 at a substantially lower price.

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Tags netcomm; mobile; 3g; wi-fi; router; 3g router; myzone

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Siobhan Keogh

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