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4G speeds on Three and EE?

cbdeakin

Casual Member
Not sure it will be an option now, as my dad has recently decided that mobile tech is too unreliable to use for internet access, plus he doesn't like the idea of paying for the landline seperately. He thinks this because on his phone with a PAYG O2 sim (with remaining credit on), the signal is almost non existent in our house. It's very good on Three, however.

Is it true that the signal may be too unreliable for regular use? If the signal is good /very good (say around 58-62 ASU, as I got in earlier testing) on the router, is the connection ever likely to drop?

Is there a 'magic number' (such as dbm, or ASU), which virtually guarentees that the 4G router connection will remain fully functional and stable? Are latency spikes an issue, or is the latency likely to remain around 50ms all the time?

Does anyone find internet access with a 4G router too unreliable? Is it worth considering an external antenna, or internal window antenna for greater reliability, if there are problems?

Or, should I just stick with a reliable wired Internet connection?
 
Last edited:

sheephouse

Regular Member
If you can get a good wired connection, I'd suggest that is better than 4G. I use Three 4G (my ADSL is too slow to be useful), and latency is much higher (40-60ms) than a fixed line, but otherwise I find it very stable and reliable. It is also cheap.
 

GavinAshford

Pro Member
I also have Three 4G as home broadband and have had it for about 6 months now (£17 per month), originally it provided me ~65-70Mbps but after my mast was upgraded with newer hardware it now provides ~150-165Mbps (for no extra cost!).
It replaced an increasingly more expensive landline (FTTC) that could 'only' provide ~35Mbps (was £26 per month) and with a phone we never used.

The only time 4G has failed totally was when Three had a nationwide outage back in October last year (6-8hours?) - we had a new baby a few weeks old so we were up most of the night and not having 'home' internet was annoying at most - we just switched to using our (EE) mobile phone data while it was unavailable.
The only other downtime was while my 'main' mast upgrade was happening it was offline and during that time I was connected to a more distant mast on the 800Mhz (B20) fequency.

You could argue that 4G could be more resilient to a localised outage than a landline. That is assuming you have more than one mast in your vicinity that you could connect to if your 'main' one fails for some reason (e.g. the mast upgrade that I experienced).
With a landline you're fully reliant on that line and the BT exchange it connects to. While I'm not saying its a regular occurrence but power outages/workmen digging through cables etc do sometimes happen.

On the flip-side of the argument you could say that the mobile networks are more susceptible to interference, human reconfiguration mistakes (like the nationwide outage Three had) or even bad weather (if you're on the edge of a cell coverage), whereas landlines are less so.

There is absolutely no guarantees from either type of connection for 'stability' however stability and the other potential factors (e.g. cost/speed) are what you, personally, must balance to determine what is suitable/acceptable for you and your needs/requirements.

There is no magic number for any metric - any wireless connection will do its best at maintaining a connection, but as its wireless it may be subject to higher packet-loss, ping, jitter etc than a wired connection - that's just the nature of it.
Pings may be affected by the capacity/usage on the mast at that given instance, so spikes are definitely a possibility.

I've just tested my own connection by pinging google.com and I'm seeing an average ping of 33.3 with lows around 27 and highs of 44. If you're seeing average pings of 50 that may suggest the mast that you're connected to is using a microwave back-haul to another site. If that is the case that increases the hops and also increases the risk/potential for another point of failure as then your mast is reliant on another mast also being functional. There are some masts I know of that are 2 microwave hops away from the physical cable back-haul.

If your router reports 'good' (or better) metrics (ASU or whatever) then that's probably enough, the built in antennas will be designed as best as they can be (for the cost/size constraints of the device) and adding more external antenna hardware on your end is unlikely to change the 'stability' and it'll be things on the network provider side are more likely to be the deciding factors in whether your connection is 'stable'.
 

kommando828

Pro Member
I have dropped my BT line and use 3, a lot more reliable than BT even with the outages last year, old phone number is ported to Sipgate so calls still come in using VOIP.
 

cbdeakin

Casual Member
Gavin - Do you live near or in a city? I live in a small town, so I doubt I would get the speeds you are getting, which sounds about the same as the average 5G speeds.

Do you know if you are connected to a mast on the 1800 frequency, or a higher frequency?
 

GavinAshford

Pro Member
Gavin - Do you live near or in a city? I live in a small town, so I doubt I would get the speeds you are getting, which sounds about the same as the average 5G speeds.

Do you know if you are connected to a mast on the 1800 frequency, or a higher frequency?
I live in a half rural spot located between several villages/towns. It's fortunate that the network infrastructure is pretty good here, plus I have direct line of sight to my mast from a bedroom window, about 450 meters away. And I know the cell I connect to on the mast has very low load because it only covers our small housing estate (80 houses) plus and a primary school and then a couple of farms and some open/common land further behind us.

Before Three came and upgraded their radios, they only had 1800 (B3), and bow it's 1800+2100 (B3+1) aggregated. Unusually, Three are now faster than EE (who share the same antennas on the mast) but as EE haven't replaced their radios they only have their 20mhz of B3 for 4G giving ~90-95Mbps (no aggregation).
 

cbdeakin

Casual Member
Thanks for the info.

I think in our case, it really depends on the likelihood of the connection dropping completely and how many times this occurs (e.g. per month).

If it's just once or twice a year, I doubt it would be an issue. Also, if the throughput or latency drops occasionally, I doubt we would notice.

I thought that it might be possible to work out when the connection would drop / become unusable based on -dbm?

For Wifi networks, -70 dbm is considered to be sufficient to deliver packets reliably, -80 dbm is barely functional and at -90 dbm, the signal is too weak to use (link - https://www.metageek.com/training/resources/wifi-signal-strength-basics.html).

Isn't there a similar minimum dbm figure for 4G/3G internet / mobile signal?
How strong is the relationship between dbm and a working 4G internet connection?

Is there an app on my phone I can use to track and record the 4G dbm?
 

GavinAshford

Pro Member
Yeah those values are probably a good guide, but as providers manage their networks they set handover levels whereby if the metrics drop enough then it'll cause the device to be pushed to another technology (e.g. 3G) or switch frequency (e.g. 800Mhz) or even another nearby mast (if the current one is over used). None of which we, as consumers, have much control over.
 

Mark8253

Regular Member
Network Cell Info Lite (Android) works well. Remember though that it measures the signal it sees, so is dependent on how good your antenna is as well. For example, I get strong and very stable 4G+ at -93 dBm typically at the router with an outdoor directional antenna, but the phone is usually below -100 dBm and frequently drops 4G altogether, particularly indoors.
 

cbdeakin

Casual Member
My home is quite close to the mast (for Three) apparently (~0.5km away), I so suppose this makes it quite likely that my 4G connection won't be moved to another mast, as long as the signal is strong.
 

cbdeakin

Casual Member
My phone's 4G RSRP is 82/83, when placed optimally. So, fairly close to 'Excellent' signal strength, but I haven't tested it over a long time period yet. I suppose it might be worth trying a few more locations around the house to see if this can be improved a little more.

What RSRP values for your 4G connection do you get Gavin?

Mark - is that -93 dBm router value for RSRP?
 

Mark8253

Regular Member
Mark - is that -93 dBm router value for RSRP?
Yep - as you can see, signal quality is good so you don’t necessarily need every dBm of signal for decent speed - this gives 100 Mb/s+ at quiet times and 50 Mb/s now (8:30 pm on Friday evening). Archer MR600 router and Poynting XPOL-2 antenna, 4.3 km to mast in a rural setting.

E5AC1B3D-7786-4304-B898-D88C3304B7AB.jpeg
 

Jamin40

Member
Im on Three in a rural location and om occupations can get 100mb/s. Have 6 people in the house all streaming and have 3 people gaming on xbox's at the same time with no lag. Im using tplink mr600 no antenna atm. I have the router on top of a box in the window atm as a foot in the air makes a big difference in signal quality. 20200112_205859.jpg
 

Jmi

Member
I use Three, and get RSRQ -11dB, RSRP -90dBm and SINR 5dB. That's using a mast with 1800MHz Band 3, which is just under 20km away, but probably with line of sight - too far away to see for certain. Gives me up to 40Mbps with an average of a bit over 30Mbps. That's about 10 times better than FTTC on a long line. So I'm happy ... But I would say that the positioning of the router is absolutely critical and that using anything other than the internal arials on the Huawei B618 makes things worse not better.
 
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