I’m always buying gadgets of some kind or other. Sometimes they are things I will use for work, sometimes it is software. Sometimes it’s just something fun – or that I “always wanted”. But rather than keeping it to myself, I thought I’d share it with you – as part of my Gadget Weekend posts.

At the recent Gathering11 event in Melbourne, Telstra provided excellent wireless network and internet connectivity through their Elite mobile wifi devices. These neat personal routers use prepaid SIMs to connect to the Telstra NextG network and allow up to five people to share the connection at one time. We were even allowed to keep devices (though need to sign up for data plans or prepaid ourselves).

elite But even better than that – multiple devices can be meshed together to support a larger number of connections. Telstra had provided about 50 or so devices for the conference and handed them out to attendees. As they provide about 4-5 hours of solid connectivity on a single charge, we turned the devices on in shifts – delivering plenty of bandwidth and speed for media-rich note taking on Twitter, photo sharing and even video capture for over 100 conference attendees.

So now – all you conference producers out there – there really is no reason not to be providing internet access at your event. Just grab a handful of these MiFis and grid them together. Moreover, with capacity for a a 32Gb MicroSD card, you can also load your conference presentations directly onto the local network for sharing.

The admin interface is pretty straight forward – anyone who has setup a home modem/router should be able to deal with it. When you login to the admin panel you are automatically connected to your Telstra prepaid account as well – so you can see how much bandwidth you have left. This is quite a welcome feature.

glenrowan The speed and throughput of the device depends entirely on the strength of the mobile signal. In driving back from Melbourne to Sydney, I used the device to upload twitpics from my rest breaks – finding surprisingly good coverage and upload speeds throughout rural New South Wales.

There were only a couple of spots where I stopped that I had trouble – and I obviously had no need to upload or download while driving!

So now, I carry this little baby with me everywhere. I have registered the wifi SSID with all my mobile devices so that I can connect wherever and whenever I want. And now that the Telstra data plans are so much more affordable, there’s no reason to be unconnected.