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  >> Mobile Broadband (3G, 4G, 5G etc)


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Standard User R0NSKI
(knowledge is power) Sat 09-Jan-21 18:03:34
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4G instead of Virgin?


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I'm currently with VM on M350 broadband only, paying £37 a month but have just received notification of a £4.50 price rise (just over 12%), add to that our current £15 a month discount ends in March, so there will be another increase then.

So I'm weighing up my options, which are phoning VM and negotiating a new deal, which will mean giving 30 days notice, or moving to 4G. We have FTTC available, but the speeds are poor, especially the upload which is important to me. FTTP is being rolled out, but our estate is DIG, so is being left until near the end, at which point they'll decide if there is enough money left to cover the rollout cost on our estate, so FTTP is at best probably 12 months away.

We are lucky that we have excellent speeds on Three, having line of sight to the cell tower, which is only 400 meters away. I regulary get speeds tests of over 80/25 and and hit as high as 157/30 sometimes on my Mate 20 Pro.

This is my cell mapper data https://i.postimg.cc/RZsmzQsY/2021-01-09-12-31-41.jpg and https://i.postimg.cc/SsnqNZ15/Network-Cell-Info.jpg I don't really know what it all means though, these screen shots were taken standing inside an upstairs window with line of sight to the tower.

I use pfSense as my router,so would need something suitable to connect to that in bridge mode purely as a modem.

One thing that's very important is I have a public IP address as I need access to my home network when away, preferably that doesn't change too often, although fixed would be better. Is this possible on Three?

Given I can get a 12 months unlimited sim for an effective price of £13.34 a month, how much is the other kit likely going to cost - I've seen some pretty high prices for some 5G kit, but currently we don't have 5G, although it seems that Margate does but of course that doesn't mean we'll get it any time soon.

I'd like something fairly cheap at first to experiment with that could be sat in a window, perhaps with an external aerial stuck in said window, but at a later date could very easily fit an external 4G or 5G modem if I decided to do this long term.

I should add that we don't play online games, and use our mobiles for calls.

So what's my options please?

Standard User jchamier
(eat-sleep-adslguide) Sat 09-Jan-21 19:12:55
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Re: 4G instead of Virgin?


[re: R0NSKI] [link to this post]
 
I'm not an expert in the hardware available, others should post. However your cellmapper data leads to a mast at Rumfield waterworks, by the Dane grammar school. Also located here is an O2 mast with a massive amount of cellular spectrum. It appears that Vodafone and EE are likely to be weaker in this town, given the limited spectrum deployed. On the O2/Vodafone regional split, you are in an O2 managed part of the country. Whilst this is slowly being unwound, the impact to yourself is that Vodafone is likely to be slower than O2 services.

You have a very fast, and (fairly?) reliable fixed line service with good upload speeds. Moving to cellular data over LTE is going to be a lower quality service in average. You cannot tell when other people in the cell area increase their usage. Some on this forum have reported speeds of 100+ Mbps dropping down to 5 Mbps before Christmas, perhaps a fault, but also perhaps due to user load.

Having multiple network SIMs available to switch between is costly, but could provide some resilience, or keeping a slower speed Virgin Media cable service for resilience. Especially given everyone is working and schooling from home !

Any hardware you buy would be worth checking it supports Bands 20 (800 MHz), Band 1 (2100 MHz) and Band 3 (1800 MHz) for the Three network and the same bands with Band 40 added for the O2 network. Any virtual / resellers (e.g. Smarty or GiffGaff) are usually slower and have annoying effects (e.g. transparent proxy) for usage away from a smart phone.

The sort of hardware you may be interested in:
* Expensive- Netgear ORBI 4G router, with lots of bands supported and high LTE category:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/NETGEAR-Tri-Band-primary-In...
https://www.netgear.co.uk/orbi/lbr20.aspx
This is an LTE category 18 device, but sadly doesn't support LTE Band 40 for O2 (the only UK network with Band 40). It is also not 5G enabled - it is however excellent for any other network assuming you have tested in advance in a smartphone handset. This router is equivalent to a 2020 smart phone device (e.g. OnePlus Nord) in 4G capabilities.

* Cheaper - TP Link - this is LTE category 4 which as you can see is dramatically less than Category 18, and means "max lab speeds of 150 Mbps" which translates in real world usually just under 90. In my opinion this would be a poor purchase even if you stay with the Three network, as Three are rebuilding and upgrading a LOT of sites in the UK in 2021 and will be adding capacity that this could not use. (This is equivalent to a 2014/2015 smart phone in 4G capabilities. ).
https://www.amazon.co.uk/TL-MR6400-Unlocked-Configur...

* Portable - you can buy this sort of thing, which is portable, but also has an ethernet socket, so you'd have to attach a switch for more devices. Unclear what the WiFi range would be.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B079H2LX8X

There are Huawei products around, but I don't see them on Amazon. The elderly design ones such as the B311 should be avoided, as it is sensible now to buy a 5G enabled one, which means it will also have much more modern 4G(LTE) capabilities.

Good luck.

21 years of broadband connectivity since 1999 trial - Live BQM
Standard User RobertoS
(elder) Sat 09-Jan-21 19:53:16
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Re: 4G instead of Virgin?


[re: jchamier] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by jchamier:
* Portable - you can buy this sort of thing, which is portable, but also has an ethernet socket, so you'd have to attach a switch for more devices. Unclear what the WiFi range would be.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B079H2LX8X
?
It claims it supports 20 devices on WiFi, though how well is another question. Even with some of them through a separate switch or WAP.

My broadband basic info/help site - www.robertos.me.uk. Domains, sites and mail hosting - Tsohost & Ionos.
Connections: OnePlus 8 Pro max 165Mbps down, 24Mbps up on Three, and B311 4G, tbb tests normally 35-45Mpbs down, 65Mbps off-peak, 9-24 up.
========================
Experience shows us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking together in the same direction. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.


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Standard User jchamier
(eat-sleep-adslguide) Sat 09-Jan-21 21:09:00
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Re: 4G instead of Virgin?


[re: RobertoS] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by RobertoS:
It claims it supports 20 devices on WiFi, though how well is another question. Even with some of them through a separate switch or WAP.
The older models did not have ethernet ports, and supported 5 devices, so that is an improvement. It is intended as a portable solution, and might be useful as a test box before buying something more expensive.

Sadly the cheaper hardware is much lower specification in LTE specification.

Even in rural areas the assumption was the mobile networks would only deploy their base levels of technology. This is now changing, and so having better capability hardware is worthwhile, especially as usage increases.

Of course the other option is to tether a smartphone via USB into a traditional router, but this is where you need to confirm USB 3 at least, as USB 2 will limit speeds dramatically.

21 years of broadband connectivity since 1999 trial - Live BQM
Standard User R0NSKI
(knowledge is power) Sat 09-Jan-21 22:41:21
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Re: 4G instead of Virgin?


[re: jchamier] [link to this post]
 
Thanks for taking the time to write a comprehensive reply, certainly some things to think about, and I obviously need to experiment prior to jumping in. Perhaps I'll keep a look out for some decent second hand hardware to experiment with, and I can always sell it if not successful.


I only really have a fast download to get a fast upload, so a slower download isn't an issue, but substantially lower would be. Reliability is generally good, I've had VM since April 2018 and had two faults, both were a complete nightmare to sort out because VM's telephone support is totally useless and I had to resort to the forums.

PS. Yes that's the correct cell tower.

Edited by R0NSKI (Sat 09-Jan-21 22:46:07)

Standard User andynormancx
(committed) Sun 10-Jan-21 11:29:10
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Re: 4G instead of Virgin?


[re: R0NSKI] [link to this post]
 
I've been on mobile broadband for about two years now, only 1,600 metres from a seemingly reasonably lightly loaded mast.

In that time I've had to switch provider from Three to EE, because Three's service became unusable. After switching to EE the service then gradually degraded over several months.

I then had to fall back to my backup FTTC line for a couple of weeks when EE deployed some network update that broke things.

If I had Virgin available, I'd not be thinking about switching to mobile broadband unless I couldn't afford Virgin's prices. The only reason I'm on mobile is that our FTTC is 25 down, 5 up and I spent a small future for a while with two lines getting a heady 50/10...
Standard User busterboy
(experienced) Sun 10-Jan-21 11:33:00
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Re: 4G instead of Virgin?


[re: andynormancx] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by andynormancx:
If I had Virgin available, I'd not be thinking about switching to mobile broadband unless I couldn't afford Virgin's prices.


+1

Not a chance in hell would I cancel VM choose how bad you think it is for a 4G setup

Been there done that. frown

Standard User dect
(fountain of knowledge) Sun 10-Jan-21 11:58:05
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Re: 4G instead of Virgin?


[re: R0NSKI] [link to this post]
 
I agree with the others, if Virgin or Openreach networks are available and meet your minimum requirements and you can afford the ongoing costs I really wouldn't recommend switching to 4G as I think you may regret it.
Standard User R0NSKI
(knowledge is power) Sun 10-Jan-21 12:07:28
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Re: 4G instead of Virgin?


[re: busterboy] [link to this post]
 
Appreciate what you guys are saying, but have you ever had to deal with VM support? I've never experienced worse support in all my life.

Haggling with VM over price pretty much always requires giving 30 days notice, and then getting an acceptable offer at the eleventh hour.

So it would be prudent to have a back up plan in place just in case the cancellation did go through.

Standard User andynormancx
(committed) Sun 10-Jan-21 14:50:30
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Re: 4G instead of Virgin?


[re: R0NSKI] [link to this post]
 
It took me 40 minutes on a online chat the other week to cancel my Three SIM (after their awful website convinced me I'd cancelled it back in August 2020). They kept trying to get me to migrate to a new network to cancel the contract, rather than them doing the work on their systems to cancel it.

It was a ridiculous and frustrating experience.

VM do not have the monopoly on lousy support...
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