There is known, recurring, frustrating, fault with the Three service that H3G refuse to fix. I am in a rural area where the 3.5+ km distance from the green cab means I barely get any copper broadband at all – trying to work from home is a nightmare, so I have a Three unlimited data SIM in a Draytek 2860Ln. I’m only about 500m line of sight across an open field from the Three tower (I could actually sling a wire to it!) so RAN connection / signal is not an issue. Download can peak up to 120Mb with consistent 30Mb up. All good so far. However, the issue is, as many have noticed, that accessing web sites and services it a totally miss and hit experience. Failure to get DNS, failure to negotiate TLS, timeouts, packet loss all conspire to make the service pretty much unfit for purpose. Changing DNS, MTU, band, access tech (3G/4G) make little difference. However, using a VPN almost completely eliminates the problem – except that unless you spend alot on a full SLA’d commercial VPN the speed is crippled and connection is unreliable.
So I decided to write a monitoring app to hit a selection of 10 URLs every minute and log the results - which are amazing. At worst, I see over 25% failure to complete the URL transaction and the average runs at about 9-10% failure rate over time. It appears to be consistent, random packet loss issue. The BEST I have seen over a rolling 1 hour window is about 3% error rate. Those failure rates, as far as I am concerned, do not even fall within the ‘best effort’ small print. For comparison, EE runs at less than 0.05% failure and even the dribble that I DO get from BT also runs at less than 0.05% failure rate.
This all suggests there is a serious design flaw in the Three core; probably an under-specified / overloaded backbone or equipment – but it’s difficult to speculate.
I have spent hours on the phone to various 1st and 2nd line support ppl in Three, but after getting through the dumb ‘have you turned it off and on again’ scripted response, all they will offer is ‘we don’t know how it works’, ‘we can do nothing about it’ (WON’T do anything?) and ‘would you like to cancel?’ (and return that c**p Huawei router). It’s as though even the 2nd line view the network core as some sort of invisible magic they can’t touch and won’t question. Any request to escalate to core engineering is met with ‘I don’t know how to do that’ or ‘we are not allowed to do that’ depending on who you are talking to. They DO NOT DESERVE TO BE IN BUSINESS with that sort of attitude. I have pointed out that MANY of us suffer the same experience, all over the country, and that they REALLY need to take a look at why it's happening - but with no takeup whatsoever. I guess the majority of Three customers use phones and just put the necessity to retry down to ‘bad signal’ – when it is really a fundamentally broken service. The fact that a VPN over Three works without these errors shows that the RAN (and your home equipment) is not the issue.
AVOID THREE (and Smarty) AT ALL COSTS!
(fwiw, I used to be a cellular core engineer)
Any updated on your situation since?
I really am dumping my Three unlimted 4G phone contract and Home once they run out. I was with Three for three years and had good 4G on my phone - 30mbps which was enough to get me to go for the home option which for 5 months gave me 50-70mbps + but the whole lot has completely and truly went down the pan.
Customer services gave me some bull about a problem with my local mast that their engineering team are apparently working on - even escalated my issue and told me I would be contacted by a specialist in 2 days, well that hasn't happened lol.
I told him I've tested multiple masts and I am getting the same speed range at each one 3-10mbps and that's just the speed- so it is very clearly a backbone issue with their core network that they are refusing to acknowledge.