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Why 4G broadband just isn’t good enough

By Chris Dawson August 19, 2013 - 9:17 am

No mobile signal lgI’ve been away for the last week, I took a weeks holiday and spent it with friends wandering around Dorset, Somerset and Devon. The weather was heavenly with a few showers on one day. The company was of course amazing, but there was one real bug bear the whole week.

Mobile broadband is shockingly bad!

One day it took over two hours to download 40 emails because two of them had modest attachments (about 1gig) and the signal kept getting lost. GPRS or Edge was the best I could get most of the week and half the time I couldn’t even get that. 3G was only available in the larger towns might as well have not existed as far as I was concerned.

Now I admit I was in some of the most beautiful parts of the countryside (or on the beach!), but the government and all the mobile phone companies have been shouting about 4G. Everything Everywhere would have you believe that all you need is to sign up with them and you’ll have blisteringly fast mobile broadband, but after a year it’s still only available in 95 UK cities. Vodafone and O2 are only just about to launch 4G in 10 cities.

I don’t want or need 4G (although I do of course have a 4G handset ready for the day it might be available). 3G would do me just fine. The trouble is that outside towns and cities 3G appears to be generally unavailable.

If the government really want to help small businesses they should be focused on getting 3G networks to cover the entire country. Plenty of Tamebay readers have complained in the past that there’s little point getting a smartphone as there’s no coverage where they live and work. Even travelling south from Newbury to Winchester on the A34 there’s a black spot with no coverage, as there is going north to Oxford.

What is your mobile signal like? Mine’s great at home or most of the places I work, but that’s not where I need it. I’ll have WiFi or broadband available. I want a mobile signal in the places I don’t have WiFi or broadband and 4G in a few conurbations really isn’t going to make any difference.

  • davelovesebay
    4 years ago

    The problem is capacity.

    Blackberrys for instance ran the best and greatest encryption and compression technology. Which blackberry received 1 USD per user per month.

    Now governments tried to crack this network and couldnt. The compression was so good it could run over a normal non 3g or 4g network properly and a user would struggle to use over 50meg a month even with 100os of emails and loading of webpages.

    The phone was optimised its internet use as a phone.

    The the iphone came out…….. No compression. No push mail. Technically a weaker offering but took other the market and it demanded high amount of bandwidth and data consumption and now the non compressed standard direct your own server connection is what all phones have started to use. A shame as its a far inferior method.

    The problem is not that 4g sucks. Its that the capacity sucks. Causing everything to slow down at peak times. Like a traffic jam.

    When blackberries where everywhere it didn’t make a difference as they were so optimised. A iphone or s4 whatever these days is completely unoptimized for mobile data use. Its the same as having a laptop on the phone network

  • Gerry007
    4 years ago

    .

    4G is mess for sure…… But try Talktalk land broadband, that’s a disaster.

    The sign ‘This website is not available’ is a regular appearance on our screen.

  • 4 years ago

    I have a 4GEE contract and while it is usually fine inner city the moment you step inside a building, or go outside of the M60 it is unavailable and reverts to whatever stone age tech it can muster, I don’t particularly expect blisteringly high speeds in the sticks and trying to download a gig of anything via mobile 4G or not fills me with dread however I do expect web pages etc to actually load which with any network (in my experience) seems to be a bit hit and miss.

    My experience of 4G so far is that it is good when it is available but the availability of it is shocking.

    It is not always a bad thing though, I am away for 4 days next weekend and from past experience will be completely without mobile signal, it’s a nice break 🙂

    • 4 years ago

      Being away for a 4 day weekend is a nice break, but when you actually want to check emails (or maybe just to use Google maps on your smartphone!) it’s a nightmare.

      I really do think that it’s not too much to ask the networks to provide at least a steady GPRS signal (a paltry 35Kbps to 171kbps max) across the whole country before they worry about 4G 🙁

    • 4 years ago

      I wholeheartedly agree as a consumer, my business sense does tell me that installing mobile networks in the sticks is probably a loss making exercise hence the slow uptake by networks.

  • 4 years ago

    No mobile signal at all at home, on any network. At the moment I can use the Orange Signal Boost service to run my phone through my broadband, but it looks like Orange is trying to phase it out, as they now only offer 2 phones with the facility as opposed to the 15 or so I had to choose from when I bought the handset 2 years ago. We have patchy GPRS between here and Thurso and parts of Thurso can get 3G, but essentially a mobile is useless here.

  • davelovesebay
    4 years ago

    Buy a cheap blackberry the ones running the BB6 and BB7 can browse and deliver emails in real time over a standard phone network.

    Its why so many people cling onto them as 2nd phones.

    For example giffgaff its 7.50 for all the blackberry you could ever use.

  • Rob
    4 years ago

    3G is generally pants in buildings. It won’t work in the house, and if I go to Morrisons, it’s extremely patchy. Take it to my parents house in rural North Wales and you have no chance.I don’t do much on my S2 by way of streaming films, downloading e-mails or general web browsing compared to some, but I’d expect it to work when I need it to.

  • Mike Jones
    4 years ago

    I agree with the general sentiment that mobile internet is not yet reliable enough across the country. However I think you are incorrect to argue that the solution is to fix this before rolling out 4G.

    Why? Because 4G will fix this, at least to some extent. The reason is that 4G on most networks is partially being rolled out on the frequency band previously used by Analog TV transmitters. These frequencies are generally lower than those used by current mobile data networks which means the range is further and the signal will penetrate buildings better. So as well as higher data speeds 4G is set to help with coverage (and capacity) problems.

    Further evidence that this will happen? Ofcom has required the networks that bought some 800 MHz spectrum to commit to 98% indoor 4G network coverage by 2017. Outdoor coverage should be significantly higher than this and O2 have committed to meeting this goal by 2015.

    • 4 years ago

      I love your optimism, but percentages mean absolutely nothing. 98% of indoor 4G network coverage will mean 98% of the population, NOT 98% of the United Kingdom.

      The same old crap will be spouted out about how all the networks have excellent 98+% coverage (“of the population”) with the result that most of the countryside will still have no mobile signal at all.

  • Mike Jones
    4 years ago

    Yep it does mean 98% of the population but that is a much higher percentage than was required for 3G coverage (I believe this was 80%) so it will be an improvement. And there are technical reasons why it will be easier to provide broad coverage with 4G than it was with 3G. Percentages have to be treated with caution but don’t mean nothing.

    This is not blind optimism. Basic science clearly tells us why the approach you suggest in your article (improve coverage before rolling out 4G) would not be sensible.

  • In Devon we also have the broadband that matches the lack of mobile signal. I am not sure what the UK Government actually want when it comes to communications. Very little and patchy networks appears to be the norm. Less for GCHQ to ease drop on?

  • JJroger
    4 years ago

    Try to make a simple phone during summer weekend down here in Bournemouth, will take 10-20 attempt if you are lucky. You can just forget 4/3/2 even 1G.

    • 4 years ago

      That’s where I was today and it was nigh on impossible to get a signal to browse the web – at best emails trickled in on GPRS but that was about it.

    • northumbrian
      4 years ago

      must be your phones or your service provider because sitting on the prom at Eastcliff taking in the view of the isle of wight last week I could have streamed a video using o2 and an i phone

  • northumbrian
    4 years ago

    plus you have so many wifi hot spots from the hotels and cafes etc in and around the bournemouth area you don’t need the sun to get tanned

  • northumbrian
    4 years ago

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