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Three (and Smarty) tested packet loss - 'slow browsing' and timeouts

AliJCam

Casual Member
You can get cashback deals for Unlimited Max from plenty of places which bring the prices down in line with what Three charge.

You have to pay the higher price and then claim it back later. A nice workaround though for better pricing.
If you are 'eligible' the Voda Business Unlimited Max is actually cheaper than 3 now. And you can even try it out with a 30 day Paygo (only double the cost). However, I don't think you will get a public IP if that's a requirement.
 

vallode

Casual Member
between 90-110Mb consistently off 3 using a 3 sim using channel (you guessed it) 3.
Honestly it staggers me that you get such high numbers, I'll give a shot at trying different cells and bands. I ran 3 (heh) speed tests on both my phone and my router and got an average of 4.32Mbps on band 3. Going through different bands and testing.

I really do wish to get this working because it's probably the most cost effective plan out there, I'm waiting for a Voxi sim to come so I can test that out as Vodafone got fairly decent speeds.

Will report!
 

vallode

Casual Member
Been experimenting with the router settings and locking in on band 11 gets a "pretty" stable 5Mbps, peaks of 10Mbps.

I don't understand how band 11 even works here, checking cellmapper makes it seem the only bands that should be serviceable in this area are 1,3, and 20.

CA tries to combine bands 3 and 20, resulting in speeds of about 0.2Mbps here, I've tried so so many different places indoors for my router, everything results in sub 1Mbps speeds with CA.

Dangling my router outside of my window with Band 11 actually hit 20Mbps at one point, which makes me optimistic about my initial plan for getting an external antenna (potentially just window mounted)...

Any ideas of where to go from here? 5Mbps is on the cusp of being usable for me, if I could push it to the 7-10 range I think I'd be set for however long I'll be staying here.
 

multimarcus

Member
Been experimenting with the router settings and locking in on band 11 gets a "pretty" stable 5Mbps, peaks of 10Mbps.

I don't understand how band 11 even works here, checking cellmapper makes it seem the only bands that should be serviceable in this area are 1,3, and 20.

CA tries to combine bands 3 and 20, resulting in speeds of about 0.2Mbps here, I've tried so so many different places indoors for my router, everything results in sub 1Mbps speeds with CA.

Dangling my router outside of my window with Band 11 actually hit 20Mbps at one point, which makes me optimistic about my initial plan for getting an external antenna (potentially just window mounted)...

Any ideas of where to go from here? 5Mbps is on the cusp of being usable for me, if I could push it to the 7-10 range I think I'd be set for however long I'll be staying here.
Hey there,
I have similar issues to the ones you're experiencing.
3 weeks ago I started using a Huawei B535 Router with a SMARTY Unlimited Data Sim. It worked for approx 2 weeks (average 15Mbps in download / 7-8 in Upload). It was good enough for my zoom/figma/slack combo (I work remotely). Then one Saturday the router could only received 3 bars out of 5 and the speed dropped drastically. I couldn't use Zoom nor Google Meetups etc. I was then on Band 3.
Found a hack online which allows me to select different bands, and saw that Band 20 was at least giving me 1/2 Mbps (!!). Haven't been able to improve my connection ever since.
I decided to give VOXI a go, I received the SIM today and popped it in the router. It seems to be a little better than SMARTY, (avg speed of 3/5Mbps) but still far from ideal.
At the moment I am not using an external antenna, though I'm thinking of giving that a go.
I can't use any other broadband provider, only copper based type of connections (with a guaranteed speed of 3mbps) and I'm in Hackney East London. There are a few Vodafone masts nearby and two from Three as well.
I will try Band 11 and see if improves anything.
 

GavinAshford

ULTIMATE Member
The frequencies used by Band 11 (which isn't a UK band) are a sub-set of B32 (which is a UK band). Fortunately for use with Three the subset of B32 that B11 occupies is the upper end of the band and covers all of the Three owned portion, apart from a tiny 100khz slice at the very top. It excludes the lower, Vodafone owned, portion, so this wouldn't work for Vodafone/Voxi.

Firstly, I think you would do better to use the proper UK band 32 rather than B11. But secondly B32 is a supplimentary downlink band (SDL) and SDL bands always need another band to use as it's primary, and therefore uplink band. Trying to use an SDL band without another band should result in no throughput, because there is no uplink traffic.
I'd be interested to see what an app like huaCtrl actually reports for you when you have B11 forced, particularly the top of the main stats page where it shows the connected band and bandwidth.
 
Last edited:

vallode

Casual Member
Firstly, I think you would do better to use the proper UK band 32 rather than B11.
I swapped to band 32 which has indeed improved the stability of the connection, at least a slight bit!

I do not own a Huawei router, I use a Gl.iNet Spitz EP06-E so not sure if HuaCtrl would apply here?

Trying to use an SDL band without another band should result in no throughput, because there is no uplink traffic.
Interestingly enough, works fine for me unless the router is doing something to compensate for it that I am unaware of. Here is the network information:

Code:
+QNWINFO: "HSPA+","23420","WCDMA 2100",10564

Below is my cell info if that is of any interest, while forcing B32.
Code:
[
    {
        "type": "servingcell",
        "state": "NOCONN",
        "mcc": "234",
        "mnc": "20",
        "lac": "20",
        "cellid": "C070F9",
        "uarfcn": "10564",
        "psc": "463",
        "rac": "32",
        "rscp": "-94",
        "ecio": "-7",
        "phych": "-",
        "sf": "-",
        "slot": "-",
        "speech_code": "-",
        "commod": "-",
        "rat": "WCDMA"
    },
    {
        "type": "neighbourcell",
        "uarfcn": "10564",
        "rat": "WCDMA"
    },
    {
        "type": "neighbourcell",
        "uarfcn": "10564",
        "rat": "WCDMA"
    }
]

The performance I am getting right now with B32 is the bare minimum of what I would consider acceptable, would be great to push it a bit further but I am running out of things I can do (apart from throwing money at it) hah.
 

GavinAshford

ULTIMATE Member
Well, as expected, forcing B32 alone (or B11) is causing 4G not to connect and the router is falling back to 3G, as denoted by WCDMA/HSPA+ and having a uarfcn.

That said, 20Mbps is pretty good for 3G, but don't expect too much more from it. - it just shows how unloaded 3G is now that 4G is much more prevalent, and the reason why providers are re-farming their 3G spectrum over to 4G to boost its capacity.

No huaCtrl wont work - as it's not a Huawei device.
 

vallode

Casual Member
That said, 20Mbps is pretty good for 3G, but don't expect too much more from it. - it just shows how unloaded 3G is now that 4G is much more prevalent, and the reason why providers are re-farming their 3G spectrum over to 4G to boost its capacity.

Yeah this makes total sense, if I could get a stable 20Mbps I'd be very happy haha, on average it looks like more of a 3-5Mbps connection (I have no idea what I initially did to get that 20mbps!!)

Is it worth looking into an external antenna? I have low signal for the 3g connection (CSQ is around 8-9 usually) but I am unsure of how much this actually affects me in the end...
 

GavinAshford

ULTIMATE Member
Unfortunately 3G is not an area I'm familiar with, so the metrics for that aren't something I'd be comfortable trying to understand, however saying that, with Three (I assume you're with Three...) their 3G works on 2100mhz, which is Band 1 for 4G, so you're able to at least receive that frequency, indicating that your house/building isn't blocking too much signal of the higher frequencies.

Are you able to lock to the 4G bands that are likely to exist around you - B1, B3 and B20? If you can test those alone and collect the Cell Info as you have above - that's pretty useful information to begin to understand what your connections looks like.

From what I can see of the EP06-E module that I think is in your device
the only carrier-aggregation combination that it supports when used with Three is B20+B32, so I would suggest try selecting those bands in combination too - however as B32 isn't widely deployed it wouldn't surprise me if you didn't get aggregation (4G+) and the results were the same as B20 alone.
 
Auto Band switching is a it of a nightmare for me. I usually get 75-100Mbps on B3 with Smarty (15MHz BW) but the mast also has a B20 (5MHz) cell which CellMapper shown pointing away from my house. From time to time my modem used to latch to B20 and I'd get 10-20Mbps. Once latched to B20 it was a night mare to get it back to B3. Hence I needed to exclude B3 altogether which was simple on my old Huawei USB modem.

I recently got a new B818 and the ability to select bands is removed from the firmware. Luckily Android Play has a great app called huaCtrl which enables bands to be turned on and off and has a great set of live gauges for signal quality. LTEInspecteur also seems to work with the B818 for those not on Android.

I would also add that all the antenna both internal o the modem and external are super sensitive to orientation and more importantly it is not always the best signal strength that gets the best speed. I've found trial and error and lots patience to run speeds bares fruit. Don't be afraid to try standing up or lying down the modem either. In my case the B818 works best laid on its side in the loft the and the internal antennas work better than my external antenna. LTE throughput has some black magic associated with it.

huaCtrl signal data
RSSI -59dBm
RSRQ -5dB
RSRP -84dBm
SNR 12dB

nperf test.

DL 99.01Mbps
UL 35.99Mbps
Ping 41ms with 10ms Jitter
 
Last edited:
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)
Hello,

I wanted to detail the steps i have taken to improve my SMARTY Connection. I am somewhat technical but not a patch on you so please excuse me if my suggestions seem odd.

Context: I changed to smarty after being with Virgin 200 fibre for 8 years as over the last 2 years the network was down at least 18hrs a week during peek times and maxed out at about 12mbps. With SMARTY i experienced pretty much what you are experiencing, ridiculous packet loss, connections timing out and failure to resolve address’. I also suffered issues using streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube.

Distance to Mast: <100m
Obstacles between mast & router: one building, brick construction (1920s)
Hardware: TPLink Archer MR200 (v4) - firmware updated Feb 2021
SMARTY: Unlimited data

Tried but didn’t make a deal of difference: Cloudflare DNS on router and Cloudflare warp on devices. Google DNS.

The signal showed as strong (2 to 3 bars, 3 being the highest signal) but in addition to the packet, dns etc issues, my connection peaked at 1mbps.

Today in a fit of aggghhhh I decided to do a physical mod to my router, I know this shouldn’t have any effect on the way their network handles traffic but it has taken me from an unusable connection to better than the Virgin Media connection i was replacing so i want to detail it for you.

I built 2 small reflector dishes out of cardboard and tin foil (Blue Peter baby!) and mounted them to the antenas (picture attached).

My connection is now very stable, every page is loading as expected, streaming services no longer show loading and jump immediately to HD. Further my connection speed has increased to a minimum of 12mbps DL 20 UL but sometimes tickles 20mbps!

I’m now finding that WARP is limiting my speed such is the change so ive tossed it in the sea. Feel free to call me a tit and that this doesn’t make sense but it has worked for me, god knows why but its worked. Took 5 mins and is a lot more enjoyable than fiddling with TPLinks cruddy control pannel.

I know some may say this has perhaps improved my signal and that was my issue but the signal, as i say, was strong before and hasn’t improved any, at least as far as the TPLink control panel would suggest.

For those still hunting for an alternative provider, Lebara have an unlimited data package that runs on Vodafone and that will be my next port of call if this improvement is just a blip.
E5F0E6EC-5915-49B2-8512-5ABE3C0882D6.jpeg
 
Your speed suggests the modem is using a Cell with 5MHz Bandwidth. Are you sure none of the Cells receivable at your location are transmitting with a bigger bandwidth? CellMapper is good for finding out which Bands and Bandwidth are available to you. If necessary limit the modem to the band you know has higher bandwidth via its config screen.

Modem firmware implementations will typically select the strongest signal rather than a slightly weaker one with greater bandwidth. Lower carrier frequencies penetrate building better but also have the lower bandwidths (simple physics as there is less space to cram data into the licenced band) so stronger signals can often mean lower speed.

My house can see the following cells.

3 - B3 15Mhz - The one I use on SMARTY and get 100/35Mbps
3 - B20 5MHz - The one it sometimes latches to 20/5Mbps

Vodafone - B20 10MHz - I've tested this and get 65/25Mbps

EE - B3 20MHz - Should give me highest speed but I've not found a cheap unlimited data SIM deal yet. When I do I'll test it.

O2 - B20 10MHz - Not tested but as it is on 10MHz BW it will be slower than the 15MHz and 20MHz options.
 
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