back to article Three's 'Home Signal' femtocells fail, restore mobile black spots

UK telco Three appears to be having problems with its Home Signal femtocells. The Home Signal is promoted as “a great way to make calls and send texts if you have trouble getting signal indoors” because it hooks a small mobile phone cell - a femtocell – into a DSL connection. For punters whose homes are in mobile blackspots, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Oops, the team patching thie backhaul network via GCHQ are all on holiday.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Andre Carneiro

        Whilst I agree that someone should probably have been able to advise you of this (but that certainly wouldn't have been the poor kid at the local Three store), I believe it has been policy with all the mobile carriers to severely restrict outgoing services on their networks?

        I'm assuming you're using a CPE with a public IP address, of course.

        Incidentally, my Home Signal is working fine. I'm sitting at home with a signal strength of -68dBm on my iPhone :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Actually, regarding three, I am pretty sure that you can't send any traffic over port 25 using them. That was deliberate in 2012 when I last tried to use port 25 in an emergency.

          That may have been in response to the IP blacklisting....

          1. Doctor_Wibble

            > I am pretty sure that you can't send any traffic over port 25 using them.

            I doubt it's unique to them either - at least a few fixed-line ISPs do this and have done for 10+ years - if your internet/data connection doesn't have "office" in the title you are likely to be on the wrong side of this.

            It's possible that "business" would also have an implication of unrestrictedness but "pro" would probably just mean a bigger data allowance.

            That said, offering a "business" or "office" internet connection without the customer having the capability to operate a mail server does fall short of 'reasonable expectation' and should be made clear along with any other traffic blocking.

          2. Vince

            Easily fixed, use port 366 and no more issue.

      2. steogede

        > Is that the same team who volunteered all of their IP addresses to various blacklists and refuse to listen to my complaint that I was not advised of this before taking out my contract? As a result it's basically impossible to run your own outgoing SMTP server on a Three data connection.

        I doubt they provided a list to the blacklist providers, more likely the blacklists listed them based either on the rDNS or perhaps the IP whois (the latter is unlikely). You can't really hold Three liable for the actions of various blacklist operators, it's not like they are accountable to Three or anyone else. Do you have a static IP? Can you get the rDNS changed? Without an rDNS that matches your forward DNS and suitable SPF record, your mail is likely to be rejected by a lot of servers anyway.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Annihilator

    So not only can they not provide a mobile service, they can't keep the extension that customers have to buy and operate themselves running.

    1. Chewi

      I don't know about everyone else but we got our Home Signal box for free.

      1. Annihilator

        So the 2 people I know had to buy one. Plus, who's paying for the lecky and broadband it needs to operate?

  3. johnaaronrose

    Three in Touch versus Home Signal

    When I applied for a Home Signal, Three told me to download the Three in Touch app to my Android phone instead. This app works OK for me i.e. it allows me to make calls from my phone using wifi at home. Thus, it does not use my minutes on Three. Am I missing something?

    1. frank ly

      Re: Three in Touch versus Home Signal

      You seem to be missing cynicism, distrust and paranoia. Don't worry, they all arrive eventually.

    2. dms05

      Re: Three in Touch versus Home Signal

      Three in Touch requires a connection to the '3' data service to initiate, for which I need my Home Signal to work. Three in Touch only works on Calls/SMS whereas Home Signal works on Calls/SMS/Data.

      1. johnaaronrose

        Re: Three in Touch versus Home Signal

        For data (i.e. email & web browsing, the phone uses wifi to my home router. Thus, it works. To paraphrase what I said before, what are the advantages of a Home Signal device over the Three in Touch phone app?

        PS I have plenty of distrust & cynicism, though not too much of the paranoia - though perhaps it is increasing.

        1. dms05

          Re: Three in Touch versus Home Signal

          I was just highlighting the differences. Three in Touch is Calls/SMS, Home Signal is Calls/SMS/Data. To set up Three in Touch I need my Home Signal working so I can verify the App as I can't get access to the '3' mobile network. One additional difference is Home Signal, when working, will support as many as 36 '3' mobile numbers provided they are registered. All differences which allow the user to decide which is best for them. Finally Home Signal pre-dates Three in Touch and so had a significant user base when the newer App arrived.

      2. Vince

        Re: Three in Touch versus Home Signal

        You only need a connection to normal 3 mobile network to setup the app, not after that or it would be pointless.

        As for data, well yeah, you would need wifi so why would you then want to use your data allowance when you've already got data?

    3. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Three in Touch versus Home Signal

      Actually, it does use your minutes on Three; the page for the service says "We won't charge you a penny extra. Calls and texts come from your monthly price plan or Pay As You Go credit."

      That said, it is a useful option. I wasn't allowed a femtocell, because I'm on a 30 day rolling contract and though the signal in my home is rubbish enough to warrant one, they said they would only let me have one if I switched to a 12 month deal.

      Fortunately, the app appeared shortly afterwards.

      The downside is that you can only use it with phones on which the app is supported. The femtocell will work with any phone compatible with the network, and you can easily add handsets for friends/family so they'll "just work" when they visit you. But for a household with a couple of people, who have compatible phones, I can't see any other significant difference.

      (well, I suppose, since you may pay for data over the femtocell, if you have metered broadband, you'd potentially be paying twice for - to your ISP and to 3 - for heavy data usage).

      1. Alastair MacDiarmid

        Re: Three in Touch versus Home Signal

        Try again with them, they gave me one and I'm on a 30 day rolling. I have been with them a while though. I use my box at work, because although I am 100m from a Macrocell I am down a hill and behind a load of concrete and steel.

        Works well, thought the dubious BT VDSL connection at work drops regularly, and the Home Signal box needs re-setting about once a month.

        I use three in touch occasionally, mostly when I'm at my local, which being miles out in the country can be patchy. Only if I need to be contactable though, who really needs to be called by work when you're having a pint?

        For a while three in touch wrote sms to it's own system, so texts received didn't show up in the normal text app, irritating, it was easy to miss stuff, they've given you the option to turn that off now.

        Living out in the country I find three coverage pretty good, much better than o2 who I used to be with, and hey, you always have 3g minimum, that was a revelation.

        I used to get all my home internet over a 3 link, £15 month for 15GB.

        BT landline dsl ran at a snails pace until they ran a new fibre into our exchange the other month, used to get a clean fast 10mb down and 4 up on three, only moved to a landline for the unlimited data. Good service all round imho.

    4. Mike Bell

      Re: Three in Touch versus Home Signal

      It would be far more useful if Three were to enable Wi-Fi calling, which comes out of the box with the iPhone 5c and greater, rather than lumber the user with a proprietary app to install.

      But, since they don't seem to realise it's 2015, and fail to provide Visual Voicemail, I won't be holding my breath.

    5. Vince

      Re: Three in Touch versus Home Signal

      Calls made with intouch do use your allowance. Same with texts.

      ...but as most people on three have shedloads of both, it's academic.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still not working

    Down for days and days. I've had to resort to an EE PAYG SIM to make outgoing calls (from an old phone). '3' haven't a clue what's wrong. Pity my contract has 8 months to run, or can I claim they aren't providing the service I'm paying for and then go elsewhere?

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ours had been having kittens, but had full signal from it this morning.

  7. steogede


    > it hooks a small mobile phone cell - a femtocell – into a DSL connection.

    More accurately, the femtocell connects to Internet connection - doesn't need to be DSL.

  8. Rawr.

    Seems mine's still broken :( it's been flashing its sole LED green for days, and before that it would seemingly randomly drop its connection to the Three servers, 3G would vanish, then come back up a few minutes later.

    Their network is great generally, but they blocked me from their Facebook page after complaining about their network being down in the southeast about 12 months ago...

  9. Swift6

    4 days broken!

    My home signal has been working on and off over the past few days.

    Spent an hour on hold waiting to get through to Three support and eventually the call dropped before speaking to an advisor.

    Time to jump ship?

  10. andy 28

    more Three in Touch versus Home Signal

    Three in touch is an app so I'd need a google account to download it.

    Home signal is a bit of hardware that I don't need a google account for.

    Been mentioned on here before that the app is shonky whereas the box just has to relay packets.

    I know which I'd use.

  11. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Maybe I'm missing something

    But I'm struggling to see the point of femtocells.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but these give a mobile signal via your DSL while you're at home. Presumably, if you have DSL, you also have a functioning land-line, and these days Wi-Fi, so you need neither a voice nor data connection for your mobile.

    So what am I missing? I'm sure there has to be a use-case in there somewhere...

    1. handle

      Re: Maybe I'm missing something

      What are you missing? Well for a start, the fact that no-one can contact you on your mobile number, and that you can't use your included mobile minutes to make calls. You can also neither send nor receive text messages. Online banking and other services often uses text messages to provide 2FA.

      1. johnaaronrose

        Re: Maybe I'm missing something

        gmail is almost compulsory with an Android phone, so no problem with that (plus I was already a gmail user). With Three in Touch app, people have contacted me on my mobile number. Also, I have sent & received text messages. Given that both the app & Home Signal use my voice minutes, it seems to me that Home Signal has no advantages over the app except that visitors using Three can use a feature phone. As I said earlier, Three refuse to supply me with a Home Signal: how do I make them do so?

        1. Nigel Whitfield.

          Re: Maybe I'm missing something

          It took a few calls to them, explaining the signal problems I had at home, and them checking coverage, and explaining that it's a semi-basement with very thick walls. Eventually they agreed, as long as I was on a 12 month or longer contract, which I wasn't.

          Just keep hassling their support people, and explaining patiently.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maybe I'm missing something

      You are missing more than one.

      Convenience, your mobile just works.

      Incoming calls, no need for a divert etc.

      SMS particularly incoming, as far as I remember there is no option to divert them.

      It doesn't have to be DSL therefore you may not have a land line.

      It may be a work mobile so you don't want to make/receive calls on your land line.

      That said I don't see the point of fem to cells much either, SMS can be delayed by up to an hour.

      You are paying for a service and then providing them with the capability to provide it.

      It's no use if you leave your house to somewhere else in the area with equally awful coverage.

      1. Rawr.

        Re: Maybe I'm missing something

        It's better to have a signal in some places where no network operator will ever improve signal, deep inside an old stone building for example, than no signal at all, whether you have to pay for the hardware to do it or not. Also, mine was free.

  12. People's Poet

    @ johnaaronrose - You could simply keep tweeting them about it / bad signal / service etc. They don't like bad tweets. I had complained previously about no home signal and never even knew about the service, I found out by them helping some young lady out with the problem on Twitter. I just rang support and they said they would send me a text to test my signal, I said go for it as I wouldn't get it. If you do the same just put your phone in Flight mode if you get a bad signal.That seemed to satisfy them.

    Alternatively you could always make a Twitter account as a young lady, fake pic and see how much help they give you! ;)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still borked

    My home signal is still flashing rapid green (registering) and has been all week, support rep said he expected it fixed "shortly" chortle. Next to no signal is caning the battery life of the mob though had to put it in flight mode.

  14. dms05

    Over 8 days and still not working

    I spoke at length to a '3' techie. He said all 80,000 users of Home Signal are without service via the device and no solution is available at this time. He also said the Three in Touch App had severe limitations with the latest Lollipop version of Android (ie it didn't work).

    So if you rely on Home Signal and have a new'ish Android phone then you don't have any way to access the 3 network.

    His advice was to leave the Home Signal flashing it's green light until 3 solved the problem (if they ever do). Solution of the Three in Touch problem was the responsibility of the handset manufacturer and 3 didn't intend helping.

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