Telstra NBN customers are getting an upgrade, with a new Smart Modem 3 now available for new customers.

The new Telstra Smart Modem Gen 3 includes Wifi 6 as the latest update, putting it ahead of the competition when it comes to network throughput speeds. I

The new Gen 3 modem also includes all the features of the older model including 4G backup so you can keep surfing the web without skipping a beat. It also includes SmartFix to proactively and intelligently fix network problems in the background, with Telstra saying it proactively fixes 15,000 services a month.

I’ve been annoying my long suffering parents in-law for a couple of weeks now, peppering their Telstra connection with speed tests and playing around with the service and here’s how it went.

Hardware

To put it simply, the hardware is remarkably similar to the Gen 2 Smart Modem – though it’s slightly taller and wider. It’s also got a matte finish so it’s easier to hold….if you need to hold your router. It also looks much cooler in black – and the embossed Telstra logo is subtle yet looks rather distinguished and understated in black.

The new look and feel isn’t just about branding though, with the new modem made from 80 percent recycled materials with 100 per cent recycled packaging – helping Telstra to keep on track for their commitment to reduce scope 3 emissions to 50 percent by 2030.

There’s slightly improved venting on the base of the unit for improved cooling, though the parents in-law have never reported issues with their current modem on that front.

Turning to the business end of the Gen 3 Smart Modem – or the rear ;). The back is fairly similar to the older model with a 4-port Gigbit switch, as well as uplink port. You again get a USB 2.0 port, and DSL input. Where Telstra has bolstered the new model is the inclusion of dual FXS (Foreign Exchange Subscriber) ports, basically the analogue ports you can connect a phone to.

There’s also external antenna connections again after Telstra dropped them from the Gen 2 router – win!

You do of course see a SIM card slot, which is now easier to get to than the Gen 2 model which hid the slot behind a rubber panel which was finicky to remove and then replace.

There’s still WiFi and WPS buttons on the rear to sync your WPS compatible printers, etc. and to kill the wifi if you need to in a real hurry.

Setup and Installation

Customers getting a hold of their new Telstra Smart Modem Gen 3 will be pleased that the install process is simple. Plug the line from your NBN connection into the WAN port, or your DSL connection into the DSL port and then add power and you’re done.

There’s a magnet in the box which includes the Access Point Name and the WIfi Password, and a new handy addition, a QR Code. Simply pointing a camera at the QR Code and tapping the AccessPoint name, lets the users connect to your wifi easily.

I changed the Wifi Access Point Name and Wifi Password (WPA3 for the Win!) to match their previous AP name and was able to transition them onto the new router almost seamlessly. There was a couple of hiccups, but overall it was mostly smooth sailing all round.

If you want to check out the network features on the new router, you can get access to the Modem settings by using the Gateway IP (Generally it’s https://192.168.0.1) for the Smart Modem 3.

The password is your wifi password, and just leave Admin in the username to access the settings. You can change your password once you log in, which is always worthwhile but it’s a pretty decently strong 16-character password to start with.

There’s options for basic network settings within the interface. You can change Wifi settings, including the channel, whether you use 2.4GHz or 5GHz and Black/Whitelists for MAC addresses. The local network settings allow you to set the modem to bridge mode if you need to and turn the DHCP server on/off or assign static leases.

You can also configure DLNA and content sharing if you decide to add a hard drive to the USB port on the rear, or printer sharing if you want that.

For parents you can choose to set up the Parental Controls, letting you block URLs for a specific device, or for all users connected. Or, you can also get a bit more creative with Time of Day controls to restrict access when it’s homework time, or maybe time for bed.

In Use

The big benefit of the Telstra Smart Modem Gen 3 is the inclusion of Wifi 6 which, to be honest is still a bit limited in benefit for some users…..BUT Wifi 6 is definitely here and some users will find they already have devices which can take advantage of it.

While my 3 year old laptop wasn’t much chop, the iPhone SE my mother in-law uses, and the Galaxy Tab S7 my father in-law uses also has it, which immediately gave them some benefits.

The inclusion of WiFi 6 with it’s additional speed benefits is a big win for Telstra as they’re one of the first Broadband providers in Australia to offer it as part of the package for new users.

The reach of their previous Gen 2 smart modem was hard to top in their 4 bedroom house, which received decent wifi signal most places. The shed however was always a little bit of a black spot, but with the new Gen 3 modem that isn’t an issue any more – especially for uploads.

I have to admit I was disappointed not to try the 4G backup – until I realised I could just unplug the modem and it flawlessly switched over to mobile backup. It’s a pretty nifty system, because while the NBN is good, it’s not foolproof and this offers a great little backup option.

Should you buy it?

The Telstra Smart Modem Gen 3 is an inclusion with new Telstra NBN plans for anyone signing onto a 24-month plan, so it’s tied to a service for 2-years. On that front, if you’re signing up to Telstra, it’s a great benefit simply from having Telstra broadband.

You can of course head out and purchase a WiFi 6 compatible router for yourself, but you are adding costs on. The Telstra Smart Modem Gen 3 offers a decent amount of basic network settings for the basic to intermediate user, but anyone looking for advanced configs will probably benefit from purchasing their own router.

I look at the Telstra Smart Modem Gen 3 as perfect for my parents in-law. It slots easily into their existing setup, or can be setup very easily from scratch. It’s an almost immediate speed and reception boost if they have the devices and allows for a fast, and fairly straightforward interface that they could navigate if they need to.

If you’re looking for a Wifi 6 compatible modem with your NBN connection, maybe it’s time to check out Telstra.