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Standard User DanielCoffey67
(regular) Mon 12-Aug-19 14:58:16
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Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


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I have been looking onto moving from my rural landline 5.0 down 1.0 up to 4G Mobile.

Since I currently use around 125Gb per month I have been looking at Unlimited Data deals and the main contender seems to be Three. The catch is that when I use the Three Coverage Checker for 4G I notice that they do not have any cells on the nearest mast to me. Because of this they estimate I will be right on the edge between "No Indoors, Outdoors Possible" and "No Service".

I would assume that without an elevated antenna I would be unlikely to get a decent 4G signal from them.

Their 3G coverage is a little better at "Outdoor good, Indoors variable" but would offer slower internet speeds.

Looking at current offers from other providers such as O2 and EE who do show coverage at my location, their data deals seem to top out at between 30Gb and 50Gb per month which will simply be insufficient.

Any suggestions?
Standard User jchamier
(eat-sleep-adslguide) Mon 12-Aug-19 17:56:53
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: DanielCoffey67] [link to this post]
 
Vodafone. The other physical network with Unlimited offers (2G,3G,4G, or 5G).

£30/month for any speed, cheaper for 10mbps speed cap, or 2mbps speed cap:
https://www.vodafone.co.uk/unlimited-data-plans/

VirginMedia also offer an unlimited plan, but I think only if you have their cable services, and as they are a virtual network on EE you would need to be in EE coverage to use.

plusnet 80/20 (2/jun/14) at 470m - Sync history highest: 64/9 (Sep/17), 54/6 (Jan/19), 51/6 (Mar/19)
20 years of broadband from 1999's ntl:cable modem trial - Live BQM
Standard User DanielCoffey67
(regular) Mon 12-Aug-19 18:02:56
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: jchamier] [link to this post]
 
I am certainly in O2 and EE but not Virgin Media as they don't serve my area. The Vodafone coverage checker shows me as between "Good outdoors, no indoors" and "Limited outdoors".

Looks like I'll have to wait for USO/R100 and then smile while they go through the same checks that I have just done. Ah, the delights of living in the countryside.


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Standard User woodmass14
(committed) Mon 12-Aug-19 20:30:16
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: DanielCoffey67] [link to this post]
 
Your best bet would be to order some free sims from them, top them up and do some speed tests. My three coverage checker says my location is only good when outdoors, yet my speeds are 50+mbps with my 4g router indoors. Certainly worth a shot smile

I should also state that when i walk my dogs, i can get a great 4g signal in locations they say they have no coverage. It's not the most accurate thing in the world.

Edited by woodmass14 (Mon 12-Aug-19 20:33:39)

Standard User DanielCoffey67
(regular) Mon 12-Aug-19 21:29:55
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: woodmass14] [link to this post]
 
Good idea about the temporary SIM, thanks.

Our house is timber construction but the panels between the timbers are covered in a metal foil which is great for blocking radio. Even the glass is that funny metallised stuff for energy efficiency! Indoors on O2 I get zero to 1 bar with frequent dropped calls but 5 bars outside. Thank goodness for wifi-calling!
Standard User andynormancx
(member) Mon 12-Aug-19 23:07:34
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: DanielCoffey67] [link to this post]
 
There are affordable 4G routers that you can mount outside.
Standard User jabuzzard
(committed) Tue 13-Aug-19 09:53:23
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: andynormancx] [link to this post]
 
I would add if Three are spotty inside at a rural location the other networks are likely to be the same.

As you say there are a range of options for outdoor rated 4G modems/routers that can be powered using PoE then a bit of exterior grade Cat5e/6 to an indoor router is likely to give a much more robust solution than trying to get a network that works with a router located indoors.

Sure it's a bit more involved and costly in getting the setup working, but in the end it will pay off handsomely.
Standard User DanielCoffey67
(regular) Tue 13-Aug-19 10:53:40
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: jabuzzard] [link to this post]
 
Thank you for the tips everyone - it is much appreciated.

I have ordered a test Three PAYG SIM so that I can check the indoors and outdoors signal around my area. I will check 3G and 4G on by current mobile which is on O2 then compare with the Three results. Once I have an idea if there is a usable signal in this area, I'll be back to talk about (almost certainly) a professional outdoor antenna/modem.

In the mean time I have a couple of questions...

1. Three Mast Location - is there a usable Mast Locator so that I can get an idea of which direction the masts are located? I have looked at MastData.com but cannot filter it for 3 masts.

2. Assuming I was using my own equipment, is there any important technical difference between the SIMs offered with the Unlimited Mobile SIM on the 6mth at £10 then £20/mth for 24 months and the HomeFi Broadband 6mth at £11.50 then £23/mth for 24 months offers?
Standard User gary333
(member) Tue 13-Aug-19 10:57:36
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: DanielCoffey67] [link to this post]
 
Hi Daniel,

You might have already done this, but if not, use this link and get a free sim with 200mb per month each month for no cost.

https://www.three.co.uk/Free_SIM_MBB/Order?manufactu...
Standard User DanielCoffey67
(regular) Tue 13-Aug-19 10:59:58
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: gary333] [link to this post]
 
I have ordered their £10 PAYG 2Gb doubled to 4Gb because I am likely to be doing numerous speed tests at locations around the property but thanks for the tip.
Standard User Rolandrat
(committed) Tue 13-Aug-19 11:12:33
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: DanielCoffey67] [link to this post]
 
Use cellmapper.net website to see if you can see where your masts are, website isnt great and its not very intuitive but the info is there if you get the hang of it.
Also bear in mind that a few cm's can make all the difference in positioning the router, sometimes logic has to be thrown out the window.
Look at the Mikrotik external 4G kit, they fairly inexpensive and poe (they come with poe injectors)
Good Luck.
Standard User jabuzzard
(committed) Tue 13-Aug-19 12:44:27
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: Rolandrat] [link to this post]
 
Indeed, the Mikrotik SXT 4G kit is a good default choice.

https://mikrotik.com/product/sxt_4g_kit

That has a directional 10.5dBi antenna so will turn a weak signal on a mobile in to a good signal. There is also the LHG 4G kit which has a 40cm diameter dish giving 21dB of gain.

https://mikrotik.com/product/lhg_4g_kit

The trick is to find your mast and check if you have line of sight to it. If you do have line of sight and it is enabled for 4G then you will be able to get a signal using the LHG 4G kit in a worst case scenario. They are not cheap at ~£170 but that's not terrible either and the SXT is ~£130 anyway. Sometimes you have to pay for a nice view.

Both of these can be put into bridge mode and you can use whatever "indoor" solution works for you. I think an Edgerouter X SFP to power the 4G modem via PoE eliminating the injector and one or more UniFi AC LR access points as needed makes for a top notch system, but there are other options too.
Standard User DanielCoffey67
(regular) Tue 13-Aug-19 12:55:25
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: jabuzzard] [link to this post]
 
For indoor use I have my nearly new ASUS AC86U and Netgear 16-port switch so will probably keep using that. First I have to find where the dratted masts are - certainly not in direct line of sight however as there are hills all around.

Out of interest, when properly set up how do these external antennas compare with the speed results shown by modern smartphones? I stood outside looking for the 4G signal from my O2 SIM and got 10mbps down 1mbps up without moving away from the property. That was on an iPhone X showing two bars of 4G (though it also returned 5 bars of 3G). I would be interested to know if the MikroTek was similar in performance or in a different ballpark.
Standard User gary333
(member) Tue 13-Aug-19 13:27:56
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: jabuzzard] [link to this post]
 
Do you know if the Mkrotik 4g kit happens to support carrier aggregation?
Standard User DanielCoffey67
(regular) Tue 13-Aug-19 13:35:07
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: gary333] [link to this post]
 
It doesn't appear to be mentioned.

I have also noticed that even though the SXT 4G model allows 150/50 comms, it is only fitted with 10/100 Ethernet. Wouldn't that prevent full use of the 150mbps down?
Standard User gary333
(member) Tue 13-Aug-19 14:06:43
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: DanielCoffey67] [link to this post]
 
Yeah the network port would certainly limit performance, but if it hasn't got aggregation it won't be able to hit over 100mbps anyway smile
Standard User jabuzzard
(committed) Tue 13-Aug-19 16:45:17
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: DanielCoffey67] [link to this post]
 
Indeed I have always thought that a bit odd that it does not have a 1Gbps port. On the other hand I imagine that most people buying one of these would be chuffed to bits to have a 100/50 internet connection.
Standard User DanielCoffey67
(regular) Tue 13-Aug-19 17:02:17
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: jabuzzard] [link to this post]
 
Looking at the specs and the reviews, I think it is certainly fit for purpose and it is affordable.

In most of the more marginal 4G areas of the UK, the Cat4 modem at 150/50 is more than enough for the job and the cheap 10/100 ethernet will be able the handle the best the marginal 4G will throw at it.

What concerns me is the casing it is in. The mounting location is all plastic and one review mentioned the waterproofing was marginal and should be supplemented with tape. I wonder if it is a consumer 4G modem in a plastic box with a reasonable antenna with short cable in close proximity rather than a "designed for outdoor" CA IP65 unit.
Standard User Rolandrat
(committed) Tue 13-Aug-19 17:14:10
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: DanielCoffey67] [link to this post]
 
Ive had one outside now since middle of December last year, its on a North facing wall, with some slight protection with the eves of the house, no problems yet (famous last words!).
If its mounted correctly, ie access ports down then it should be ok i'd say.
I havent looked inside since so cant say if there is any corrosion of any parts.

I have an electric joint box, the standard ones with two screws on the cover and a thin rubber seal and thats been on my shed for 16 years fully exposed to the elements and I looked at that the other week out of curiosity and its all fine inside, so im hopeful this will be fine.

I have another one inside the house with another sim in as failover/load balance, so if it ever goes belly up ill swap.
TBH the relief of not trying to divvy up 4Mb ADSL anymore is worth it even if it only lasts a year. Cityfibre is starting rollout in the Autumn so fingers crossed they will come to us sooner rather than later.
Standard User RobertoS
(elder) Tue 13-Aug-19 21:59:56
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: DanielCoffey67] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by DanielCoffey67:
... is there any important technical difference between the SIMs offered with the Unlimited Mobile SIM on the 6mth at £10 then £20/mth for 24 months and the HomeFi Broadband 6mth at £11.50 then £23/mth for 24 months offers?
The mobile one is sold as a "phone" SIM with unlimited everything.

The one included with the router is the one sold in the 100GB data package, which after a couple of days automatically gets a free add-on to unlimited data.

My phone one defaults to 3ireland.ie APN. My HomeFi one (with the B311 router) defaults to APN three.co.uk

My broadband basic info/help site - www.robertos.me.uk. Domains, site and mail hosting - Tsohost.
Connection - Three 4G, tbb tests normally 35-45Mpbs down, 65Mbps off-peak, 9-24 up.
==================================================
If you never think of anything off the wall, you'll never think of anything original.

Edited by RobertoS (Tue 13-Aug-19 22:00:41)

Standard User DanielCoffey67
(regular) Tue 13-Aug-19 22:18:34
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: RobertoS] [link to this post]
 
Cheers. That is useful to know.

So there is no technical difference that would make me choose one over the other for broadband-only purposes if I am using all my own kit. I assume latency and broadband speed would be the same regardless of which APN was configured, I hope?
Standard User RobertoS
(elder) Tue 13-Aug-19 23:13:53
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: DanielCoffey67] [link to this post]
 
Hard to say.

I haven't yet had chance to delve deeply into the two APNs, but I suspect there is a difference. Only shown up by speed of rendering of web pages. Speed tests and latency figures that come with them don't seem to be much different however.

I think you need to see what others think on that, as it's my subjective view from a few things happening here. I won't describe them until I see some other opinions, as I don't want to create a bias right at the start.

Having said that, if you are worrying about latency, for instance if you do a lot of latency-sensitive gaming, then forget mobile broadband. I find it very variable on both APNs. But I don't do any gaming at all.

My broadband basic info/help site - www.robertos.me.uk. Domains, site and mail hosting - Tsohost.
Connection - Three 4G, tbb tests normally 35-45Mpbs down, 65Mbps off-peak, 9-24 up.
==================================================
If you never think of anything off the wall, you'll never think of anything original.
Standard User gary333
(member) Tue 13-Aug-19 23:29:03
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: DanielCoffey67] [link to this post]
 
Phones use the APN: three.co.uk and mobile routers should use the APN 3internet however you can use either/or regardless of which sim type you have purchased. Phones usually come pre-programmed to recognise three.co.uk as the correct APN (not sure why Robert's phone is trying Ireland) however this tallys with what I have seen when fiddling that three's system doesn't pay any attention to the APN and whatever you put just goes through as if a mobile device. It's only when the name or APN states 3internet do you get routed by different means.

I use 3internet APN with my Smarty sim and it works exactly the same as if I was connecting via a landline connection i.e. no adult content is blocked, you can use a VPN and all websites appear correctly and do not display the mobile versions.

Edited by gary333 (Tue 13-Aug-19 23:33:37)

Standard User RobertoS
(elder) Wed 14-Aug-19 00:42:01
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: gary333] [link to this post]
 
I did not buy a ďThreeĒ phone with the relevant SIM. Mine is a few years old now Huawei P10 Lite and previously had an EE SIM. it would not be connecting to the 3ireland.ie then wink.

I did have a clerical error in my previous post however. On the router GUI the other APN seems to be named 3internet. I was only looking at what the two names were on the phone, as it was in my hand where it is easy to look at the relevant menu. This time Iím using my iPad so can only look at the router GUI.

I donít understand what you are talking about in a lot of your post, but I am sure that although Smarty uses the Three network there will be configuration differences between the two. As with any MVNO. It wonít be relevant to the question.

As for the adult content bit, that a totally different question if you are on Smarty not 3 direct.

My broadband basic info/help site - www.robertos.me.uk. Domains, site and mail hosting - Tsohost.
Connection - Three 4G, tbb tests normally 35-45Mpbs down, 65Mbps off-peak, 9-24 up.
==================================================
If you never think of anything off the wall, you'll never think of anything original.

Edited by RobertoS (Wed 14-Aug-19 00:43:42)

Standard User gary333
(member) Wed 14-Aug-19 09:22:34
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: RobertoS] [link to this post]
 
My point was that you can type whatever you want in the APN field whilst on three (or Smarty) and it will work. Thus why even with a 3 Ireland APN in there it will still work fine. Whatever you type in the field you get the equivalent access/service as you would by typing three.co.uk in to the APN field.

The APN field has no bearing on the access unless the APN field states 3internet. Then you are routed differently within their internal network and as a result of this you get a slightly lower ping time, no adult blocking filter, no messing with traffic (well at least to the extent of the standard service) and crucially for some you appear to get a public IP address.

Edited by gary333 (Wed 14-Aug-19 09:24:14)

Standard User jabuzzard
(committed) Wed 14-Aug-19 10:00:10
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: DanielCoffey67] [link to this post]
 
It actually occurs to me that the SXT is a router all in itself, running a full RouterOS. You just need a switch and some WiFi access points.
Standard User chriscdotcodotuk
(learned) Wed 14-Aug-19 10:05:47
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: gary333] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by gary333:
My point was that you can type whatever you want in the APN field whilst on three (or Smarty) and it will work. Thus why even with a 3 Ireland APN in there it will still work fine. Whatever you type in the field you get the equivalent access/service as you would by typing three.co.uk in to the APN field.

The APN field has no bearing on the access unless the APN field states 3internet. Then you are routed differently within their internal network and as a result of this you get a slightly lower ping time, no adult blocking filter, no messing with traffic (well at least to the extent of the standard service) and crucially for some you appear to get a public IP address.


I have the same routing to all sites I've tried and the same level of filtering on "adult" or questionable sites
Standard User gary333
(member) Wed 14-Aug-19 10:25:14
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: chriscdotcodotuk] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by chriscdotcodotuk:
In reply to a post by gary333:
My point was that you can type whatever you want in the APN field whilst on three (or Smarty) and it will work. Thus why even with a 3 Ireland APN in there it will still work fine. Whatever you type in the field you get the equivalent access/service as you would by typing three.co.uk in to the APN field.

The APN field has no bearing on the access unless the APN field states 3internet. Then you are routed differently within their internal network and as a result of this you get a slightly lower ping time, no adult blocking filter, no messing with traffic (well at least to the extent of the standard service) and crucially for some you appear to get a public IP address.


I have the same routing to all sites I've tried and the same level of filtering on "adult" or questionable sites


When trying the three.co.uk APN and 3internet APN separately?

This behaviour is present on the mobile handset I tested this on with both a mobile data sim and a standard 3-2-1 sim (in that on three.co.uk APN adult sites are blocked, you get an internal not public IP address, and the routing is slower (ping increased from c.40ms to c.50ms on speed tests). As above you could put something completely different to three.co.uk in the APN field and get the same experience, it's only when putting 3internet in was the route and experience different.

It's possible that this only applies to mobile handsets (the APN differences), and even more possible that the APN field is mute completely for data devices such as modems as they are clearly identified to the networks when connecting.
Standard User chriscdotcodotuk
(learned) Wed 14-Aug-19 10:28:06
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: gary333] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by gary333:
In reply to a post by chriscdotcodotuk:
In reply to a post by gary333:
My point was that you can type whatever you want in the APN field whilst on three (or Smarty) and it will work. Thus why even with a 3 Ireland APN in there it will still work fine. Whatever you type in the field you get the equivalent access/service as you would by typing three.co.uk in to the APN field.

The APN field has no bearing on the access unless the APN field states 3internet. Then you are routed differently within their internal network and as a result of this you get a slightly lower ping time, no adult blocking filter, no messing with traffic (well at least to the extent of the standard service) and crucially for some you appear to get a public IP address.


I have the same routing to all sites I've tried and the same level of filtering on "adult" or questionable sites


When trying the three.co.uk APN and 3internet APN separately?

This behaviour is present on the mobile handset I tested this on with both a mobile data sim and a standard 3-2-1 sim (in that on three.co.uk APN adult sites are blocked, you get an internal not public IP address, and the routing is slower (ping increased from c.40ms to c.50ms on speed tests). As above you could put something completely different to three.co.uk in the APN field and get the same experience, it's only when putting 3internet in was the route and experience different.

It's possible that this only applies to mobile handsets (the APN differences), and even more possible that the APN field is mute completely for data devices such as modems as they are clearly identified to the networks when connecting.


I've tried the sim in my handset and a modem. I have 3 contracts with three. one unlimited data but all are data AND calls.
I've tried swapping three.co.uk / 3internet and at the moment my B612 modem is set to 3internet out of the box and it has normal content filtering in place.
Standard User gary333
(member) Wed 14-Aug-19 10:43:42
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: chriscdotcodotuk] [link to this post]
 
Will update later today smile

Edited by gary333 (Wed 14-Aug-19 11:16:20)

Standard User andynormancx
(member) Wed 14-Aug-19 11:12:18
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: gary333] [link to this post]
 
I get adult filtering enabled with either APN. Also, I actually see 10ms _slower_ ping times on 3internet compared to three.co.uk
Standard User connormill
(member) Thu 15-Aug-19 10:45:39
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: gary333] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by gary333:
Do you know if the Mkrotik 4g kit happens to support carrier aggregation?


It does not, it has their own R11e LTE card installed, but this can be swapped out with a number of Sierra and Huawei LTE cards with do support CA
Standard User richi
(member) Fri 16-Aug-19 08:49:01
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: gary333] [link to this post]
 
I've tested both official APNs. I see no difference in latency, speed-test throughput, nor any change in blocking behaviour. I've not studied the routing used.

The only difference I've noticed is many more dropped pings using three.co.uk. I've not noticed any problems with packet-loss in normal use, so I guess this is an ICMP deprioritising setting somewhere.

Three unlimited SIMO, replacing 3 km ADSL line.
Previously: BT ISDN, Nildram, Plusnet, 186k, EFH, Be*, Plusnet (again), Pulse8, Sky, Plusnet Business, TalkTalk Retail.
Standard User kommando
(newbie) Fri 16-Aug-19 16:08:40
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: richi] [link to this post]
 
I have tried both APN's and did get a 10ms better ping with 3internet in a B525.
Standard User lincsat
(regular) Sat 17-Aug-19 19:54:47
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Re: Any alternatives to Three who also offer Unlimited Data?


[re: gary333] [link to this post]
 
I couldn't activate mine through the site so started a chat session to activate, they offered a free upgrade to unlimited data for 1 Month. This could be a standard offer, so well worth trying if looking for short-term data or doing loads of speed tests
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