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Rural ADSL Max vs 4G

spielo

Casual Member
Hi all,
My mum lives in a rural hamlet in North Devon. For many years, she's had ADSL "Max" (8Mbps) with Plusnet. It used to be reasonably fast and stable, but recently she's been experiencing much slower speeds at peak times. I don't know if this is throttling, or the infrastructure being oversubscribed due to work from home/covid/increased Netflix/iPlayer use, but I'm trying to find a fix for her. She has tried contacting Plusnet, but can't even get through to their customer "service" and just waits on hold forever.

It is expected that she will be able to get fibre from Airband by May, so we just need a temporary solution to last until then (her house is not able to receive Airband's wireless service).

She wants to switch to a different ADSL provider, but I'm not convinced it will help. I'm worried that she'll change to a different supplier, and the speed problems will be the same, but she'll then be tied to an 18 month contract. There are no LLU providers in the area.

I wondered about an unlimited 4G dongle from Vodafone as a replacement for her ADSL service. She can get a reasonably good Vodafone signal, but I worry that the quality of this service might fluctuate even more (e.g. with the weather, especially being on the Atlantic coast in winter).

Any suggestions on the best course of action? I'm considering the following:
  • Switch from Plusnet ADSL to Zen ADSL on a 1 Month contract
  • Switch to a Vodafone 4G dongle and jerry-rig it to her router (Apple AirPort)
  • Switch to an EE 4GEE router
  • Stick with plusnet and try to get Openreach to change her VLAN or something!?
She's not super fussed about having the fastest available speeds, she just wants it to be consistently decent. I think if she could consistently get say 5-6Mbps, she'd be fairly happy, but right now she gets 8Mbps sometimes and 1.5Mbps at other times.

Any suggestions on which approach would be most likely to deliver a reliable service? (Happy to hear about other options too!)

Thanks in advance!
 

Lucian

ULTIMATE Member
Lte can definitely be an option, but also highly variable on location etc.

My advice, as always, get giffgaff(02), voxi(vodafone), EE payg sims, test them in your phone[1] by the windows, outside the windows, see how it goes. This way you can find an answer to your question with minimal expense.

Three has some pretty good prices, but their network is seriously oversold in many places, as such I can't recommend it.

Which town are you in btw, can you share a partial post code?

[1] - as the modem in your phone is most likely significantly better than a low/mid end router.
 

Meatball

Pro Member
As always slow speeds can be caused by many factors. Have you eliminated them all before placing the blame on the ADSL line?
If it is a change to someone like Zen may kick it into life. At least going through the order process will confirm what speed they would promise, allow an opportunity for alternative support and possible OR badgering if it's a line fault. The process may also change the route of the upward network.

If a 4G signal is present on the phone indoors then that bodes well. What is its 4G speed performance?. As Lucian says if you can use various SIMs/Phones to compare. You are after a balanced performance rather than high but more unreliable performance. If somebody has a spare smart phone (say 4/5 years old) that will accept the SIM which has a WIFI hotspot that may be all she needs for specific use like PC/TV Streaming.
 

spielo

Casual Member
Thanks both, very helpful replies! Partial postcode is EX39, but that really doesn't narrow it down a whole lot.

There's definitely a chance that it could be improved without changing provider, but there's a limit to how much rigmarole I can put my mum through, and I'm not even based in the UK any more!

She's currently on 3 and the reception is poor but it doesn't matter because she uses Wi-Fi calling. I know that 3 and O2 are bad in the area and EE and Vodafone are generally good.

After thinking on it a bit more today, I think I might try ordering her a 4G router (TP-Link or D-Link) and try a Vodafone unlimited data SIM. If the service is ok, we might be able to improve it further with external antennae. If it doesn't work, she can return the router and cancel the Vodafone service, and she'll have only lost like £30 or so.

If that sounds like a bad plan to you, let me know :)
 

Lucian

ULTIMATE Member
Indeed that's a very broad partial post code. :)
Doing things remotely is not a great idea imho.
Cheap routers are not usually too great.
I'd try the EE 4GEE, they claim excellent signal in your area.
 

TTJJ

ULTIMATE Member
I think I might try ordering her a 4G router
You'd be better off ordering one of the Huawei ones. They are higher specced so take advantage of the better 4G technology that EE and Vodafone will have.

There're so many of them so you'll have no problem finding one for a decent price. The TP-Link ones seem to use old hardware, same with D-Link.
 

Lucian

ULTIMATE Member
@TTJJ if you search, there seems to be a shortage of b818, their price has certainly gone up and the b535 are not stellar by any means.

The Alcatel EE sell with their 4GEE is cat12 afaik and I would imagine it works out of the box sort off, which is important as we're lead to believe the person who will use it is elderly and non-technical.

 

TTJJ

ULTIMATE Member
Certainly not stellar by any means but certainly better than TP-Link and a relatively simple set and forget device.

These EE/Alcatel devices also work well but from experience not perfect as a home solution as they shut off after certain periods of inactivity even when plugged in. For less advanced users it could be quite confusing as to why it keeps happening.
 

TTJJ

ULTIMATE Member
Wow, didn't know they shut off, that's bad.
It's only the portable ones. I'm sure their ones designed to be plugged in all the time don't do that, but the ones with batteries do after a period of inactivity to save the battery (even when plugged in, or perhaps the device doesn't check if it's plugged in before starting the timer).

I recall there was no option to disable this 'feature'.
 

spielo

Casual Member
Thanks everyone for your help and suggestions. Ended up going with a Vodafone SIM and a Huawei B535 router, which should arrive tomorrow.

Chose Vodafone over EE just because they offer unlimited data. The router was "amazon renewed" so I can return it any time within 12 months for any reason (and Vodafone is a 30 day contract), so if it all goes wrong the outlay is pretty small.
 

TTJJ

ULTIMATE Member
Thanks everyone for your help and suggestions. Ended up going with a Vodafone SIM and a Huawei B535 router, which should arrive tomorrow.

Chose Vodafone over EE just because they offer unlimited data. The router was "amazon renewed" so I can return it any time within 12 months for any reason (and Vodafone is a 30 day contract), so if it all goes wrong the outlay is pretty small.
Do report back with your experience.
 

spielo

Casual Member
Finally received the Vodafone SIM today and was able to remotely walk my mum through setting up the Huawei router and changing the settings on her network of AirPort base stations to act as a bridge instead of a router 🎉

Initial results are pretty good! With 1-2 bars of 4G she's getting around 15Mbps down and 3Mbps up, with 40ms latency. This is twice as fast as she ever got over ADSL.

Hoping that after she's spent a bit of time repositioning the router for good signal she'll have a pretty solid connection. If she can get something decent from it then I might investigate a larger aerial for it!

Thanks again to everyone for their advice/suggestions.
 

spielo

Casual Member
Mini update:
My mum seems to be very excited about her new internet because she's sending me speed test results 3-5 times per day! Now that she has repositioned her router, her speed test record is 25Mbps, and the speed never seems to drop below 14Mbps, a vast improvement on her ADSL service.

Next steps:
  1. Install a better aerial to boost the signal as much as possible (hoping for 40Mbps once this is done)
  2. Replace her landline with a VoIP service (AAISP looks like a good candidate for this, but happy to hear recommendations).
 

Lucian

ULTIMATE Member
How are you using Vodafone? Via Voxi payg or on its own?
Re antenna, had good success with Panorama and Poynting directionals which I recommend you use.
 

spielo

Casual Member
How are you using Vodafone? Via Voxi payg or on its own?
Re antenna, had good success with Panorama and Poynting directionals which I recommend you use.
Ordered a Data SIM direct from Vodafone (Unlimited "Max"), was a Black Friday deal, £33/mo on a 30 day contract (they also had it half price for 6 months on a 12 month deal, but didn't want to be tied in).
 
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