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

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  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 2.

    Unfortunately I'm one of the EE customers who has suffered from worse 3G signal & service since the merger and 4G rollout. I wish I had recorded the phone call, but the customer service rep at the time told me that the mast near my house had an issue, and that there was (her words) 'no intention to fix it at this time', leaving me with inconsistent signal whenever I am out of the house.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 4.

    your second image would suggest that your phone is on charge. Pretty impressive wireless charging system in place on your walk to the station.

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 19.

    I think the point he is trying to make is that as 4G is rolled out, people will move to using 4G over 3G, reducing the noise and interference in the 3G spectrum and freeing up capacity which will improve your available bandwidth. This should be correct.

    Actually it appears that Service Providers are reducing 3G capacity in order to improve 4G connectivity so there is no additional capacity.

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 43.

    Since EE have been rolling out their 4G(ish) service, my 3G has stopped.

    For my entire journey home, and inside my house I have nothing. I to sit in the garden to get any data.

    I believe this is just EE downgrading 3G in order to force people like me to go 4G.

    Well, EE - I won't. Not with you. I'll go to another provider offering "4G, all you can eat, at no extra cost". Bye-ee.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 46.

    I'd be happy if I could make a mobile telephone call when ever I wanted to.

 

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