4G signal problems

Commuters on the platform Signal come, signal go...

Regular readers will know that I have an obsession with seamless connectivity - and in particular with mobile broadband. Well, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that 4G has reached the leafy London suburb where I live.

The bad news is that the revolution in connectivity it promised for those here and in other parts of the UK where mobile coverage is patchy may prove a disappointment.

My regular commute involves a short walk to a nearby station. And on most days, my phone tells me as I hurry along that my connection is not 3G but Edge, making it virtually impossible to use an app to check that my train is running on time.

Fast speed test From fast...

In recent days I've been using a borrowed 4G handset on my same network, alongside my regular phone.

But because the 4G network had not yet rolled out this far, I was still only getting Edge coverage. Until Tuesday.

Seeing the 4G symbol popping up on the phone as I waited for my train, I ran a speed test - and got an amazing result. Download at 44Mbps, upload at 10Mbps - speeds that would make many fixed broadband users weep with envy.

Then I checked my regular 3G phone - surely the 4G upgrade to my local mast would have benefits for all those people who haven't upgraded their phones yet?

Err, no - in the exact same spot, my test revealed I was still crawling along at Edge speed.

Now whenever I write about 4G I get lots of messages from people saying they would rather the networks spent their money delivering 3G to rural areas - and some city not-spots.

Speed test ... to whoa

I reply that the whole idea behind 4G is that it will provide extra capacity for everyone, improving basic connectivity in the countryside as well as giving lightning speeds in towns.

Now I'm wondering just how true that is. For instance, EE seems to be doing a pretty good job of rolling out its 4G network, but I've heard complaints from a couple of customers that its 3G coverage is getting worse as a result.

Perhaps the truth is that only customers who buy new 4G phones and sign up to new contracts will see any improvement in their connections in the short-term. Which means that the whole upgrade to the UK's mobile connectivity could take rather a long time.

Meanwhile, I tried my new phone at the station again this morning - and the 4G network had evaporated, with the speed test reading 0. And then my train was delayed.

Ah well, the future will be along in a minute.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    My 3G throughput on EE has degraded significantly over the last year since the 4G network has started rolling out. I work on the Strand in London and get little or no throughput even though I have full signal strength. Clearly the data traffic is being prioritised to the 4G customers. This, in my view, is a very cynical way of getting customers to upgrade to 4G.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    What ultimately determines coverage is not the technology but economics. 1. 4G will only be installed in areas where the service provider is going to get maximum revenue return. This will disadvantage rural areas with low population densities.
    2. Infrastructure budgets which were spending on 3G kit is now diverted to 4G. So no new 3G sites :-(

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    True 4G signals are unlikely to affect 3G. True 4G runs in the 800 MHz band, EE's faux '4G' runs in the 1800 MHz band and 3g runs in the 1900-2200 MHz band. It is likely that a fully operational 4G network will have better and broader coverage than 3G as the signals are more like the DTV signals that once used the 800 MHz band and reached most homes - but not all. Lower frequencies travel further.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Your lack of knowledge pains me Rory as does your attitude to tech, why would work on 4G give benefit to 3G?! BBC please replace him! And while you're at it ban the blatant troll "Money" from HYS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Why are the two images different if you used the same app both times?

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Don't get me wrong, i'm a patriot. HOWEVER the progress of technology in this country is a joke. I would expect that Britain would be almost a world leader in improving our technology and connectivty (especially since we invented the web) but our connectivity is restrained by cruddy copper wiring, lack of coverage and nimby attitudes to progress.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    4G rollout can affect 3G. Depends on lot factors incl whether new hardware vendor is used for 4G, if 3G/4G are diplexed into same antennas or new ones, if different tilts are used for 3G/4G.
    People always moaning 'no signal'- major factor is that people want signal but no masts!! Like derr! Local planning authorities won't give planning permission to build them - so complain to your LPA!

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Well I have 3.9G in Scotland ... It's not quite 4G but Three who's network it uses is briliant up here . EE and there ridiculously overpriced 4G contracts and abysmal performance doesnt get close to it !!! ... Too much money spent on Mr Bacon for those somewhat misleading ads !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    I pay more for my *3G* Mobile Internet bill each month than I do for my share of all the houses water, electricity, gas, Fibre Optic Broadband and largest Sky TV Package COMBINED

    I often can't stream standard detail youtube videos and I often have my BBC Radio app buffering every 5 minutes.

    I live in a rather rural area known as London

    P.S: We're spending £42Billion on a 30 minute-faster link.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    I commute from Milton Keynes to London and have had a smart phone for about 5 years (since the orginal iphone). Over that time the data connection along that route - which passes through rural and urban areas - has actually gotten worse / slower.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    The thing people don't think about is all this stuff works over radio waves... Its very easy for things to interfere with radio waves, the sun, trees, a lorry going past... remember when you had a portable TV with an indoor aerial, trying to get a good picture....

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    "I believe the 4G signal uses the old signal used for analogue TV. This signal is better able to go through materials such as bricks etc"
    Almost. This was the original intention of 4G. However in a bid to get the jump on their competitors, EE leveraged their old 2G spectrum to con users into buying 4G contracts with a frequency that won't work as well as the old analogue TV one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    @104 Money
    Where on earth did you get any of those claims from?? None of them either make sense or have anything to do with 4G.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    @Money can you link to the company that's selling 500gb internet speed in Japan? as 500gb (gb is a storage acronym, Gb/s is data transfer speed). AFAIK 2GB/s from Sony is the quickest consumer speed you can get in Japan at present.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    The main issue with EE's 4G is that it's in a different radio band to current 2G and 3G services, meaning there are differences in range from masts and penetration in to buildings.
    Another point is that now EE have merged the Orange/tmob networks,they're starting on a process of rationalisation.Meaning masts that are covering the same area are being removed leading to different coverage patterns

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    @119 billy goat gruff
    Billy stop underming me the 4G won’t pay for my 4 girls and 3 boys

    I just think the UK is behind in technology, for instance

    Broadband is only 120gb whilst 3 weeks ago when I was in Japan
    You will be mocked laughed at and ridiculed if you didn’t have anything more than 500gb

    Fortuitously my children have restrained from the unreliable 4G

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Err speedtests are useless metrics as too many variables to gain a reliable figure, the issues can be surroundings, to many users to the tests like "speedtest.net" using a specific server location that your phone and app may not connect to properly thus one minute 4G speed next EDGE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    I too am an EE 3G subscriber who suffers from terrible mobile data performance, even in central London. The way 4G is marketed is ridiculous; with most mobile data allowances at 1-2GB/m this would be eaten up in no time if 4G was used to its intended extent. 3G should provide ample bandwidth for virtually all mobile usage, including video streaming yet suffers because of this drive to 4G.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    @102 "Just came back from the US where they are now using 6G"

    Who was looking after your 7 kids and signing on for you?

    Good luck with your next degree

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Id even go as far to suggest that 3G services were 'ramped down' in order to address the terrible sales figures of 4G.... Ive put this to the famous 4G fail company a few times and a few times had responses of stutters and excuses ....


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