4G’ing it

iphone 6s plus Photo credit: Yanki01 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

I have now been on Three for nearly six months and I am still pleased with the speed of the connection and reliability of the service.

In some areas I am getting nearly 50Mb download speeds.

Download speeds

There are some days when the connection appears to stall, but this is short lived.

I am on an unlimited data contract with Three. This appears to be a full unlimited contract with no “artificial” limits or throttling.

On my previous original T-Mobile (now EE) contract I would usually use less than 2GB. This was partly down to the speed of the 3G connection. On the Three connection I am now using on average 35GB of data. In at least one month I used in excess of 50GB.

As my home broadband is rather slow, I am now using my iPhone connected to the TV via an HDMI adapter for services such as iPlayer, Netflix and other on demand services (well the ones that work through the adapter). As the connection is quite fast, I am able to stream HD video, which probably explains the high data usage!

Nov – 30GB
Dec – 22GB
Jan – 50GB
Feb – 41GB
Mar – 35GB

Checking the bills I used over 7GB on the 7th January, no idea what was happening that day.

There are some aspects that I find frustrating, however these are more down to limitations imposed by others. For example Apple don’t allow you to download software updates, large app updates, movies and TV shows over mobile data, you have to use WiFi. However as my internet contract is much slower compared to the potential speeds I can get on 4G this means that it can be frustrating when I need to download large files.

In terms of signal, one of the reasons I chose Three was the coverage they have for my home address and over Bristol. In other places it has been somewhat sketchy, but was pleased to get a decent signal in Dublin for a conference (and no roaming charges) other places I wasn’t surprised as it was rather rural.

I will say I wasn’t disappointed with the signal of T-Mobile, especially when they merged with Orange. However the lack of an unlimited data contract on 4G meant that I didn’t see it as an option. Though 3G was okay, I do appreciate the faster speeds you get with 4G.

Photo credit: Yanki01 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Dodgy 3G

Nexus One

Earlier this week I was without 3G on my home mobile phone. Trying to use it resulted a “failed to connect to server error”. I certainly had signal and it wasn’t even working in areas where I know it should work.

My initial thought was that the T-Mobile (EE) network had fallen over, but with no one else reporting issues it was only me having the problem.

What I found out later was that I had exceeded my “fair use” limit on my unlimited 3G plan. This has only happened once or twice before and I was, then, able to get a free booster to extend my limit.

This time though the SMS messages I received from EE, the pages I was redirected to on the phone, did not indicate that I had reached my limit. In the end I guessed I must have as it was almost the day my 3G fair use limit resets.

Most of the day I was unable to access the boosters page, but in the evening on the way home, it did (finally) appear on the mobile browser and I was able to get 3G.

I think part of the issue is I have quite an old legacy plan, which isn’t really able to be matched by newer plans, hence my reluctance to upgrade. This probably means that when I run out of 3G, the redirects don’t work as they should, as so few people are using them. I know it has only happened once or twice before for me.

One day I might upgrade, especially when 4G is more prevalent, or even cancel, if FGW get their WiFi act together this year, as I generally use 3G more on the train then anywhere else.

Oops, used too much 3G, but it wasn’t me!

Though I have a legacy “unlimited” 3G contract with T-Mobile (EE who are EE) it would be apparent that I have reached the fair use limit of 3GB this month. Now the reason I have gone over the limit was for a range of reasons, but the main culprits are streaming podcasts, updates for Windows and a system update for my Nexus 7.

With my new commute, I have not had the time to download podcasts and have been using BeyondPod on my Nexus 7 to stream podcasts over the internet. This does work most of the time, but of course would have quite a negative impact on bandwidth.

I also have been using a new laptop, an Acer Windows 7 machine, but of course didn’t check the update settings and as a result it has been downloading updates in the background! Well got that changed pretty sharpish, but too late for reducing the impact on my 3G bandwidth limit.

What T-Mobile do when you reach your limit, is give you a “free” 250MB booster, which I thought would be fine for a few days. What I didn’t take into account was my Nexus 7 downloading the 4.3 Android update, which was 158MB. Now what I don’t get is that my Nexus is already at 4.3 and has downloaded this update a fair few times now!

As a result for the next few days I am probably going to be without 3G… well now I will need to rely on free wifi at stations. I am slightly annoyed (only slightly mind you) as my 3G coverage has been quite poor this month, I do believe that the main reason has been other people sucking up the bandwidth, was quite impressed with 3G speeds when I took a later, quieter train.

Now do I move over to 4G?

Connectivity

Today was one of those days when I needed some decent connectivity and I didn’t get it.

I was at lunch in Worcester discussing various iPhone, iPad and Android apps (as you do). However, maybe because of our location and the building we were in, my connectivity to O2 and T-Mobile were very poor. There was still a connection, but not quite what I would expect from 3G and in some cases dropped connections. This meant that the apps were not working as they should or failed to make a connection to their server.

It made me realise that many apps are very web dependent and do not work unless you have a decent connection. Sometimes with a good connection, they work great, but without it the apps are basically useless.

3G-less areas mapped

So you want to use 3G and you have no idea if it’s going to be worth it.

So in London it is possible with HDSPA to get 7.2Mbps, but in rural areas you generally only get GPRS speeds and that is like a very slow dial-up connection!

Hopefuly Ofcom will be able do something about this.

The BBC News reports:

There are still significant notspots when it comes to 3G mobile coverage in the UK, regulator Ofcom has revealed.

It has pledged to investigate why some places, particularly in rural areas, are still failing to get any coverage.

It also said it will investigate mobile broadband speeds, which vary tremendously in different areas and at different times of day.

Personally I am a great fan of 3G, I was on Vodafone 3G when it first came out in 2004 and since then have used them, T-Mobile and 3.

3G-less areas mapped

Now I know I can’t work or play without a 3G connection, if I am on holiday in an area without 3G I find it very frustrating. It’s not that I want to spend my holiday online, but so much we do these days is dependent on knowing information, opening times, route planners, online reviews, communication; without a decent internet connection you can feel a little lost. Though it has to be said to be totally internet free can be somewhat refreshing.

Hopefully one day there will be greater 3G coverage, or whatever takes over form 3G will have greater coverage.

Picture source.