Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Mobile broadband - not just terrible when it snows!

I've been meaning to get on and blog over the last couple of days but Monday's snow hampered me considerably. It wasn't the snow specifically that impaired my blogging you understand, it was the reliance on mobile broadband. As an MBB-only household (and have been for the last 3 months) we struggled on Monday to stay connected sharing one dongle, delivering pitiful bandwidth, between two laptops. This can only have been exacerbated by the thousands of other like-minded souls who thought "I'll work from home and use the mobile broadband". I live in Kensington, possibly the highest concentration of potential WFH-ers in the country.

If I was being generous I'd say the inclement weather indirectly increased the contention ratio around my local cell resulting in diabolical service. If I was being less generous I'd say that mobile broadband just isn't up to the job of providing me with an alternative to DSL. I'll be on the phone to BT today to get myself wired up again. The final straw was actually Sunday when there was no snow at all. I wanted to find out what the quickest route to get to the Royal Academy. I have to confess that, culture vulture that I am, it’s not a route I take often. So, I thought to myself, get the mobile broadband going and check on the excellent Transport for London website. Over the course of the next 20 minutes I could load neither that site, nor indeed any other site. My download speeds peaked at 105Kbit/s (although for how long I got that speed is a moot point; for the first 5 mins all I got was 0.6Kbit/s) and despite disconnecting and reconnecting, pages were timing out faster than they could load. So, furious with my MBB service, I grabbed my Blackberry, fired up the GPRS (remember that?) and got straight onto the TFL site and got the information I needed. In my frustration I actually did screen shots of the speeds I'd achieved every 5 minutes, but I won't bore you with them.

I hate sample groups of one and I tend to avoid using personal experiences to flavour my view on the market. However, indications are that a large proportion of users have a similar experience to me. This naturally colours my view and encourages my belief that the future of mobile broadband lies firmly as a complement to DSL.

Back to some more substantive material now...


  1. Not all mobile broadband modems are equal. The poorer quality ones will fall off the edge of cells at busy times, the better ones will hang on and still give a reasonable data rate. Unfortunately which ones are good and which ones aren't is not easy for the end user to find out.

  2. I use 3's mobile "broadband" service...I would not recommend it to anyone. As soon as I am able I won't be using it any longer.

    I'm slap bang in one of their "high speed" areas and rarely get more than 40k p/sec, but mostly it's MUCH lower...but download sped is kinda academic anyway, the time to actually connect to a site before downloading info is huge, It drops connection often and there are periods when I'm unable to connect at all. They have non existence customer service (ignored 5 e-mails)

    All in all I feel ripped off.

    Buyer beware.

  3. They're all terrible. I use O2 and not only is it slow, it continually locks up the PC. Maybe in 5/10 years time it will be worth coming back to this technology.... but for now, stay well clear.