I'm expecting to be sitting this one out for half a decade. At least.
Six weeks ago Everything Everywhere EE announced the UK's first 4G network. "A new era dawned over London," Daily Telegraph writer Matt Warman told us. Mourners shuffled into the streets of Leicester and Stoke, and buried an enormous dongle in a mock funeral. That weekend, travelling football supporters from those cities were …
I'm having trouble believing this. I live in South East London and work in the City, and I've found that over the last 6 months or so, 3's data connectivity has fallen off a cliff. It was fantastic last year, when I got the contract, but that runs out in the next few weeks, and I'll be jumping ship to someone else. It'll cost more, but at least I'll be able to make calls and get data.
I'll second this.
Fallen off the edge of a cliff, into a massive chasm and then buried under a massive rock fall.
I'd do a speed test, but wait, I've got no network connectivity in the middle of the day, in the middle of London, on my Three mifi.
Three's answer. For the first 4 months off complaining, "We are upgrading our network. Is it fixed yet?". No.
Their response now is, "Well you have downloaded some data, so therefore we won't compensate you. We suggest you find another provider" !!! Yes I may have downloaded some data, but I have only used a fraction of my data allowance and not when I wanted.
"Fallen off the edge of a cliff"
Meaningless without comparison to other operators in the same locations. My adventures with "3" showed a patchy and extremely variable coverage that rapidly got better. O2 and Orange however had slightly less blackholes, slighly less variable rates but rarely beat "3" 4 years ago and haven't much improved since.
Right now "3" arguably have better coverage than O2 and certainly better data speeds. They even have better prices if you eat lots of data and don't want to go down the giffgaff rabbit hole.
Obviously where you are makes a difference, but being in London is going to mean huge demand for data and thus lower average speeds.
But I can honestly say 3 offer by far and away the best service I've used (and I use them all). The speeds are genuinely brilliant - 10 meg is the norm.
3 do all you can eat data for £12.90.
If you want to use mobile data, you don't want to go near O2 (or Giff Gaff which runs on O2) . Obviously you'll get a few people with bad experiences on 3, just like every other network, but overall it's by far the best network for data.
GiffGaff's unlimited data on a smartphone (no tethering) is £10 at the moment, about to go up to £12 a month. This includes 250 minutes and unlimited texts. If you're price sensitive, and don't mind online-only customer service, it's the deal to go for; I have several family members on it and they've had no problems so far (been about a year I guess).
I've been on 3 and it was a nightmare; poor signal where I needed it, and the customer service was shockingly bad (though I haven't had good customer service from a mobile provider for many years).
But your mileage will vary - this is the thing about mobile phone coverage. It all depends on the signal you have on the network you're on in the places that *you* need it. And that varies with everyone. So it's a moot point and not even worth discussing really. There is no one best provider for everyone.
But this piece was about 4G vs 3G.
I can't understand the need for 4G on a smartphone (assuming you're not tethering). 3G at anything from 1 Mbps to 15 Mbps surely has to be enough to surf the web, facebook and tweet, listen to internet radio, and upload the odd picture you've taken etc?
For home broadband, yes, totally get it, but the backhaul matters even more than the downlink there, and who actually believes that they will be investing in that as quickly (or at all)?
I made the mistake of switching to 3 (for stupid reasons due to carphone warehouse and t-mobile being cretins)... and haven't had a worse data network for years. And this is saying some as I had the "pleasure" of using some of the earliest mobile Internet PC-cards and USB dongles.
For family reasons I frequently spend time in Cornwall. 3 and any data coverage down there? Forget it, the useless POS network might have a reasonable voice coverage but as the decided to only supply 3g connections and where not available, back this up with precisely nothing, this leaves a good chunk of the South West of the country in a black hole. Not just these areas either - I'm often about the rest of the country and finding fresh no-Internet zones, usually wherever I'm staying...
I really need to go and slap carphone warehouse for being useless and for 3 providing a service that is not fit for purpose... should be enough to cancel the contract.
I'm with you, Andrew. I consider myself to be part of the internet revolution. I've recently binned Vodafone due to their inability to service customers in the evening ("I'm sorry, our offices are closed. You can contact us on a webform" <but don't ever expect us to reply>) and an inability to fix dodgy network equipment in my home area. I also resent being sent a text to inform me that I'm near my 500MB data limit, when my data limit is 1GB.
So now, I'm on Three. I haven't yet needed to talk to their customer service, so don't know whether or not they'll deal with me in the evenings. But with their One Plan, I now don't ever have to worry about using up too much data. Their speed is sufficient for me and I took it on with their upgrades to HSPA+ in mind. Like you say, 12Mbps will do on a proven technology.
But here's the really important bit. I'm an iPhone user, I'll freely admit. The way it looks for networks is to find the one that it thinks is best, so Wifi first, 3G followed by Edge followed by GPRS. Frankly, I don't want my phone bothering with anything that's not 3G - I'd rather not bother trying to use the internet without 3G. And as Three doesn't have any non-3G and (with, I understand some rural exceptions) no longer partners with a 2G network as backup, I don't get those frustrating times when the phone switches from 3G to E to O. And back again.
Did I mention that I didn't have to worry about how much data I'm using? And did I mention that battery life on the 3G signal is good enough?
I'll come back to this 4G when it's a bit more mature; maybe by then, I'll have had plenty of use out of my iPhone 4S and will want to upgrade. Maybe by then, I'll have plenty of things that work with whatever proprietary connector my next phone has.
Right now, the poor choice of networks with 4G, the poor choice of equipment that works with a 4G iPhone 5 and the inflated prices with limited data capacity... the odds aren't in 4G's favour.
And me. I've got a 3 Mifi gizmo on a contract that gives me 15GB pm for about £18, and I've yet to use all of it. I use it for a tablet, sometimes my Kindle, and my O2 phone since the last upgrade, when I switched to a much cheaper contract.. It's all I need for email and web browsing.
I went up north to Stockport by train earlier this week, and apart from a few stretches of open country, I had an excellent connection all the way. We've come a long way in the past few years. When I were nobbut a lad, we had to use two tin cans and some string.
I'm on Three, too. I am also in South East London, and I have not had much in the way of network issues recently. They are cheap, and I am happy enough. As for 4G, Three are launching on 1800MHz next September, and maybe on 800MHz before that - depending on what they do at the auction. Depending on cost, I will probably get a 4G phone around then and stay with them. EE are asking too much for it at the moment.
The second generation of LTE chipsets are out now, and oddly enough they are MORE battery efficient than 3G chips. The reasoning is simple, they power up, get the data they need and power back down again. They are active for much less time than the equivalent 3G chip so the total power used is lower.
Take a look at the iPhone 5 battery life benchmarks, it's got a second generation chipset and lasts significantly longer using LTE. See http://www.anandtech.com/show/6330/the-iphone-5-review/13
You'll note that the HTC One X also manages better life under LTE than 3G.
Huge increases in headline speed are, for the moment, debatable and a bit of a moot point anyway given limited coverage.
I'm far more interested in the promised reduction in latency that 4G is meant to bring. This has the potential to deliver benefit on every single packet/transaction, not just the big downloads, subjectively a far bigger impact to the user.
I'll bide my time. Maybe in 2014.
... if it doesn't come in a plan with unlimited or at least a very large data cap? I've read Everything Everywhere's tariffs and they border on being a sick joke. What's the point of being 4G enabled if someone can anhilate an entire month's allowance in a few minutes? Even EE's most expensive tariff at an eyewatering £56 per month only offers 8GB. It's pathetic.
"It's about speed of data flow, not how much more you can download (with probably doesn't make sense on a mobile), are you really going to download torrents on your mobile?"
WRONG. Faster speeds mean more likely to download more. For example, you're unlikely to download HD videos from YouTube on 3G but you are more likely to (because there's little wait for it to download) on 4G.
Remind me, how fast can you watch a video or listen to a sound track? I always assumed that you would never really need more speed than the bit rate of the content plus a small buffer, but what do I know. Or is it to consume a very large webpage on a 4" screen. Or is it not about "mobile" at all. Do the Telcos have any idea what will drive 4G (other than marketing and a few "new means better" sheep)?
Simple, they do it because they can.
If I remember rightly, when 3G first came out it did the same thing (to a lesser degree) first came out you had miniscule data allowance (I remember some being as low as 50mb) and higher prices. As 3G matured the prices dropped, and the data allowance rose.
The main reason I'm sitting it out is simply because it isn't in my area. And I doubt it will be for a good few years.
One thing I do wish however, is they'd depricate older technology as newer tech becomes the mainstream. For instance somebody mentioned the number of 2g phones. Why? If they stopped manufacture of 2G phones, and then got rid of the area of the spectrum used up by 2G that could clear up the wireless world for another new service in the future. Of course I wouldn't advocate doing such a thing until 4G has matured a little. A bit like how they're getting rid of analogue TV because digital is now common enough.
"One thing I do wish however, is they'd depricate older technology as newer tech becomes the mainstream. For instance somebody mentioned the number of 2g phones. Why?"
Well they'd have to provide UK-wide 3G support first. I think you'd be surprised at how little coverage there is and how much of the population is dependent on 2G coverage:
http://maps.ofcom.org.uk/mobile/index.html (and change the radio button between 2G and 3G)
" Well they'd have to provide UK-wide 3G support first. I think you'd be surprised at how little coverage there is and how much of the population is dependent on 2G coverage:
http://maps.ofcom.org.uk/mobile/index.html (and change the radio button between 2G and 3G)"
Thanks for the link but it seems to me that the information shown is a year old. Unless every operator has refused to enhance their 3G coverage in the last 12 months I don't see how this data is valid.
Interesting - I get 5-bar signal from T-Mobile at home (+200Yds from mast) and a blistering 0.04Mb/s down & 0.03Mb/s upstream with 684ms ping times - this with several different devices. I assume they have ISDN back-haul from the tower - don't see 'upgrading' to anything other than a different carrier.
EE has made the classic mistake of trying to sell a feature rather than a benefit. There is no killer application for LTE. The key benefit of LTE is more bandwidth and EE isn't even trying to sell that. I generally get about 4 Mbps down 2 Mbps up on 3G and I'm happy with that, and I'm a pretty demanding punter. What matters to most consumers is being able to download decent amounts of data at reasonable cost with good coverage on a cheap phone with good battery life. EE, daft rebranding without owning the .com domain, doesn't hit these requirements. I can't see this 4G-only network idea enabling them to grab market share or increase customer satisfaction and margins, any more than a wholly 3G-only network approach helped Hutchison. And Hutchison thought they had a killer app with video calls. EE doesn't even have that.
I fear EE has gone down a cul-de-sac with this. It only takes one of its competitors to realize that differentiation between 3G and LTE tariffs is not only futile but also counter-productive (i.e. very limited coverage, pisses off existing customers, few phones, damages existing brands and relationships, gives an excuse to reconsider loyalty as 4G more important than existing brand) and where does EE go? Imagine if 3, or one of the other competitors announces "All our customers have 4G. Does your network love you enough?" It doesn't cost them much, as most customers don't have LTE phones and LTE technology can be delivered to alleviate current network overload. Meanwhile, T-Mobile and Orange, overloaded and unloved, lacking LTE contracts, become perceived as budget network and go into a death spiral. But remember, this is where most of EE's customers live. This approach might have been worth the risk for a small player like 3 (though I still don't believe it), but it doesn't make any sense for the biggest player in the market.
This just shows that Olaf Swantee isn't very smart.
Wonder why they can't get voice over 4G yet. Because here in the states, where I am on AT&T with my iPad 4G/LTE, seems I can use VoIP apps over LTE just fine. Doesn't sound like I am falling back to 3G/"4G" when I place a call, because there is no lag at all. Whereas even HSPA+ still has dismal upload speeds even when my connection is at 5 bars, such that conversations always get choppy when I am out of LTE range. Huh.
You can use VoIP apps fine, as in the US. However VoLTE relates to how the phone handles calls with the inbuilt phone dialler, e.g. the type of calls which show up on your phone bill and which can be billed for (depending on your tariff).
A quick Google suggests AT&T doesn't have a VoLTE service and won't until some stage in 2013.
No one in the US (or anywhere else in the world AFAIK) supports VoLTE yet. Not sure what the holdup is, it was supposed to be deployed already but now AT&T says 2013 and Verizon says end of 2013.
The lack of VoLTE is why the iPhone 5 can't do simultaneous voice and data on Verizon's network. Apple didn't have room for the extra antenna and amplifier chips in such a thin phone (look at the teardowns, it is PACKED) but didn't think it would be an issue at all or for very long since VoLTE will allow simultaneous voice/data with just the one antenna. Now that it's delayed so much, iPhone 5 users on Verizon's LTE network will have to endure this limitation when they're away from Wifi.
VoIP Apps are Data based they have nothing to do with 4G LTE Directly apart from using the data layer same as if they was using 3G system (HSDPA to DC-HSPA+)
Upload speed is always limited on 3G compared even at higher speeds
VoLTE is an Mobile Operator supported system (or should say unsupported at the moment) so it will replace Switched based voice calling and change it to packet/IP based
I have just come back from a trip to the US where my colleagues there all have LTE based mifi dongles (Verizon jetpacks).
I just can't wait for a device like that here.
I think the worries about the data caps on EE are entirely valid. They seem very harsh to me, but the other concerns I am less worried about. LTE is far superior to HSPA or even HSPA+, even when you are getting the same bandwidth. Latency is key, and LTE has so much better latency, the perceived performance is much better than 3G. Also, the battery life concerns don't bother me. The jetpacks I was using last week in the US would all last a few hours on decent use, and we would just plug one in when we needed to. They key use for them was to all be able to use our laptops and tablets while on the road, in customer offices (where getting guest wifi can be a nightmare), and in airports.
My dad just got one of these because Verizon finally got around to turning off the analog systems on the towers in his area. Now I just have to find a manual that has been translated from ZTE's version of English to actual English, because Verizon's online manual pages are horrific.
(this is in the southeastern part of the US).
"Then, remember that the LTE chips in this first generation of phones are immature and deplete the battery very rapidly, which for me is the clincher"
Second generation chipsets are already in most new phones. Most first generation phones were a combination of primarily data-only modems like the Qualcomm MDM 9x00 series combined with an application processor and other voice bits (together called fusion). Now we have the 28nm based 8x60 series. I am right now using a a galaxy note II LTE which admittedly also has large 3100mA battery (All corporate mail/personal mail/ NO FB and around 20 calls and 1/2 30-min conf-calls per-day) that normally lasts for a minimum of 3 days (in Germany on 800MHz spectrum with 10MHz bandwidth)
Couple of good things about LTE is that
- there is no cell-breathing ie., users at the edge of a cell don't get lopped off just because the number of people using the same cell in the center increase.
- The maximum up-link throughput in 3G HSPA+ as of today is 5.6Mbps [Cat 6] which is not comparable to 50Mbps (in 20MHz bandwidth and 25Mbps if the bandwidth is 10MHz assuming Cat-3 LTE). This is a boon when you use your phone as a hotspot. Note that there are higher categories in HSPA+ for unlink but you won't see deployment of these very soon.
- Latency -The experience is totally different between LTE and 3G. With my earlier 3G based phones is was very noticeable but with the LTE ones, the webpages just render as soon as the 'go' is pressed. This is most noticeable when using LTE tablets (the Acer transformer comes to mind)
Yes, there is no clean voice solution as of today but the CSFB solution works pretty well and I don't find it any different in experience when compared to my 3G phones. One thing that is really annoying with CSFB is that any data transfer is shot down in LTE if there is an incoming/outgoing call. SMS is handled via SGS, so that is not an issue.
It is not fair to compare HSPA DLDC (Downlink Dual-carrier ) to LTE because as the name suggests it does nothing to up-link. It is different when you talk about ULDC which is 3GPP Rel-10 feature and IMHO not see the light of the day until 2 years from now. I routinely get 25-30 Mbps in down-link and 10-12Mbps in the Uplink in LTE which is theoretically not possible with HSPA+ Cat 24/ UL cat-6. Byte-for-Byte LTE is MUCH more efficient.
One thing is true though, until a few operators start offering LTE, I would sit it out as well (if I were to be in the UK).
skimmed it an little
i do agree EE seems pointless with 4G (like they think they are in the USA and can charge stupid prices for stuff)
T-Mobile, the full monty £21 sim only 1 month contract (that can use Orange masts as they share now),
Three, £15 PAYG and £25 contract 1 month (unlimited, Coverage is an issue though and overload masts, three is more like t-mobile is the USA its a new network so coverage on avg is poor, more so indoors)
giffgaff £12 PAYG ,, uses O2 network (1GB an hour and 3GB day limit, data bar limit)
with unlimited data on 3G only
So I have a Xoom with Verizon's 4G here in the States. Since a) it's datacapped and b) android market throws major temper tantrums if you turn off background data, and c) Ice Cream Sandwich doesn't really do "wifi only", I pulled the sim out just to see how it coped.
Since then, it's gone from "must recharge every day and a half" to happily running for nearly a week on a single charge.
As a data point, before I rooted it, it wouldn't even last a day. After I rooted it and got rid of the "Dungeon Defender" & "Cordy" shovelware, the battery life got a lot better, as Dungeon Defender appeared to be constantly running in the background AFAICT, even though I never played it. Fuckers.
Ever since the amalgamation of Orange with T-Mobile, service has been abysmal. Calls are repeatedly dropped, data rates are painfully slow, signal strengths that used to be good to excellent are now average to useless.
Customer services at Orange used to be the best in the business - now their call centres are staffed with morons with a poor grasp of English as a fifth language. They don't speak comprehensible English, they're rude, and they never have any kind of clue about anything at all, and certainly don't have any ability to solve any billing, coverage, fraud or other problems.
Any attempts to escalate a problem to someone with any authority are a waste of time - you just get handed over to an appallingly abrasive, nasty Scottish woman who is obviously just there to handle the "difficult" customers - like the ones who won't be fobbed off with garbled platitudes.
The sooner this crowd of miserable criminals go out of business, the better for all of us.
They are LYING about data rates, LYING about charges, LYING about coverage and refuse to accept that their "service" is any less than perfect.
Are any of the other mobile companies any better?
Must admit that data price for 4G is crazy, but early adopters and all that - just like the 3G early days as you say, on many levels.
The whole call handerling aspect is certainly an eye opener and as you say, until they use VOIP for the 4G, things get silly. Who wants there shiney fast 4G connection slowed down by a single spam SMS, as can happen. Though how SMS are hdealt with, is an outstanding question with regards towards there VOIP directions.
Still I do wonder what 4g is being sold as, 3g was sold on the back of video calls and got used for just data, now 4g is being sold for data I do wonder if video calls will become more viable. Though if anything I suspect the opening up to the whole VOIP avenue will prove fun; number porting being one. I also hope they at least thing about IPv6 as if they don't do it now then it is not exactly going to rush out any faster and for what it offeres and the number of mobile phones out there, then it will if anything make things easier in the end.
Once again nice read and great summary of the gotcha's of 4g as it stands.
If you’re an early adopter of mobile tech, then your (4G) device will be flaky, but at least you'll have a status symbol.
3G was crap when it first came out, handsets were large, expensive and power hungry, but chipsets evolve and radio networks are continuously optimised.
What EE (and others) have been doing over the last couple of years are increasing capacity within their core and Radio Access Networks to meet the increase in data usage and in anticipation on the capabilities that the LTE air interface will bring.
GSM / 2G was (is) an incredible success, but did we expect it to provide ubiquitous cover or capability on day 1? Since 2G, wireless networks have been under constant scrutiny and (often) unrealistic expectations that the technology will always work right first time. Perhaps the choice of platform name "Long Term Evolution" provides some indication that this next generation air interface will continue to evolve, not deserve its “4th generation” tag on day 1 or even work properly at that time. Oh dear, we are already talking about 5G, so bang goes the theory of “Long Term Evolution”!
If 3G had never been compliant, then we would never have had the proliferation of iPhones, Andriod devices and tablets. We have seen a symbiotic maturing of network and applications, up till which, UTMS didn’t deserve the 3rd generation title. However, you cannot just keep on loading a 3G cell and expect it to perform.
The capacity and link rates of a mature LTE network will likely change the architecture of personal computing and will see all sorts of difference user equipment, not just personal Voice + Data. I long for the day when the produce in my fridge “talks” to me (it does now, but that’s another issue and the meds are kicking in!).
If you’re an early adopter of mobile tech, then your device will be flaky, if you have interim problems on 3G – well at least you have 3G!
Think I’ll give it 18 months and in the meanwhile stick to EDGE which is the usual service I have
right now wireless comms networks are a mess of crappy crap run by crap
in the future it will all be free and all phone calls will be free because the cost would be so insignificant that to produce a bill would cost several orders of magnitude more than the call itself.
im sick of paying for this crap service. im holding out a decade or 2 for it all to be free, and it will be, it wont be economical to charge.
It has lots of parameters, so it is possible to build special low-power low bandwidth devices. LTE is highly flexible in that regard. For example in Germany it's mostly marketed as an alternative to DSL and cable modems.
The main problem I have with LTE is that it doesn't seem to address the complexity of GSM/UMTS. As far as I know, you still need your GSM backend infrastructure to run LTE.
It's almost impossible to get a decent data signal in most of London with Vodafone, why on earth you'd pay extra to not get a 4G signal is beyond me. I can't speak for other networks and locations but on Vodafone in London you may as well be using 2 baked bean tins and a piece of string to send/receive data and voice.
Originally from London, I have been working in Adelaide for the past 3 months. I got a Telstra and Optus sim. Optus gives me HSPA on my HTC Sensation (Telstra was really good as well, until they switched off their network to concentrate on 4g) Amazing HSPA coverage throughout the city. Android SIP calls, Viber and video Skype work flawlessly - I can even receive calls diverted to SIP from the UK - High speed, reliable data, and it is cheap as chips.
In the UK, you would be lucky to be able to make a SIP call good enough to have a conversation, even in central London. All the networks are totally rubbish in the UK! I did not appreciate this until I came to Adelaide.
Don't get hyped by 4G - its marketing rubbish. 3G/HSPA is still amazing when it is implemented properly, and certainly good enough!
I am not looking forward to useless networks when I return in a years time.
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