Fallingditch

Mobile Phone Mast Performance (Rural Broadband 2)

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We're in a rural location. We moved in five weeks ago. We have a BT ADSL line - about three miles to the exchange - but it is regularly interrupted for days at a time by weather related problems. So I decided to use a Router capable of working from two separate Broadband feeds (TP-Link R470T for about £30.00) and capable of switching between them if one was interrupted. Also, we fitted a static antenna high up (12m) on the gable end, so there should be no problem with signal.

 

So far so good (although I am still trying to understand how the Router should best be configured).

 

However. The Mobile Broadband is supplied by 3. When we moved in, I was pleased to see that Speedtest.net reported that we were consistently getting 3MBS download speed (and 3MBS upload speed). About the same performance as the BT ADSL line.

 

But two weeks ago, the 3 performance became suddenly much worse. It would typically start the day at 3MBPS, then fall of a cliff and drop to 0.1MBPS where it would stay for the rest of the day. Or, it would sit at 0.5 MBS all day. Whatever, there was a big deterioration.

 

I reported the fault to 3. They said (last week) they were going to be working on the mast. After the work was finished, they asked me to check performance. There was a slight improvement. I asked 3 to explain. The only cause they were able to give me was "the mast can only take so many connections. Clearly your mast is really popular, and its the load put on it which is causing the issues". (Well they would say that wouldn't they).

 

They wouldn't tell me where my mast actually is (so I can go stand next to it and measure performance there). They wouldn't tell me what their engineers did. .

 

(The obvious solution for me is to switch to Vodafone. But there are reasons why I am reluctant to do that). 

 

So, can anybody point me at resources which allow me to find out more about how individual masts work? How to locate your mast? How to check your masts reliability? and performance and loading? How to find out whether or when a mast might be upgraded to 4G? 

 

NB at exactly the same time that 3 were working on their mast, the Vodafone service available at the house jumped to 4G - I assume this was coincidence??

 

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One thing I found out recently is that EE have won the contract to provide the replacement for Airwave, the emergency services communications system.  As such, EE are having to make significant improvements in rural areas, as they have had to give a performance guarantee as a part of this contract.  At the moment, we can't get a mobile signal, but our nearest mast is an EE one, and using a booster, connected to a mast-mounted high gain directional antenna, I can just about get a GSM phone signal, but not really a usable data connection.  We're hoping this will improve before long.

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4 minutes ago, JSHarris said:

One thing I found out recently is that EE have won the contract to provide the replacement for Airwave, the emergency services communications system.  As such, EE are having to make significant improvements in rural areas, as they have had to give a performance guarantee as a part of this contract. 

+1

I'm with EE in a very remote part of N Wales however I get 40MBS download speed and 5MBS upload with EE using a 4G SIM card in a router.

Edited by Ian

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That would explain why EE are going to build a new mast near us, seemingly in a location that only serves a few scattered houses.

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23 minutes ago, ProDave said:

That would explain why EE are going to build a new mast near us, seemingly in a location that only serves a few scattered houses.

 

Potentially however...

 

The Emergency Services network is a different beast and I would hazard a guess that the initial antenna are for that only. Frequency and wavelength are different than that for Airwave and they also use a mesh repeater network so they don't need access to a ground cable for the traffic - doing this for standard phone connections will prove pretty costly and EE ( as part of BT....) won't be spending any more on this than absolutely necessary so you may be out of luck...

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1 minute ago, PeterW said:

 

Potentially however...

 

The Emergency Services network is a different beast and I would hazard a guess that the initial antenna are for that only. Frequency and wavelength are different than that for Airwave and they also use a mesh repeater network so they don't need access to a ground cable for the traffic - doing this for standard phone connections will prove pretty costly and EE ( as part of BT....) won't be spending any more on this than absolutely necessary so you may be out of luck...

Hmm,  that could explain a lot. EE erected an Emergency Services mast further up the Glen and there is no signal (yet) from it. I did wonder how they did it as its 5miles from civilisation and I couldn't understand how it got signal. 

 

That said,  when I phoned them about it months ago the chap told me the coverage would likely be better than shown on the planning application and didn't suggest the signal would be restricted... 

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My understanding is that the new emergency services network will use the normal 3G/4G system, but with prioritisation for the emergency services, which means that if there is a local incident then the network may well reduce in capability for non-emergency service users.  This is straight from someone who is working on the system.  Unlike Airwave, which uses a dedicated system for comms, the idea is to use the growing mobile network to provide all the current emergency capabilities, so reducing the current mix of systems that are used.

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40 minutes ago, JSHarris said:

My understanding is that the new emergency services network will use the normal 3G/4G system, but with prioritisation for the emergency services, which means that if there is a local incident then the network may well reduce in capability for non-emergency service users.  This is straight from someone who is working on the system.  Unlike Airwave, which uses a dedicated system for comms, the idea is to use the growing mobile network to provide all the current emergency capabilities, so reducing the current mix of systems that are used.

 

This is my understanding too. We were going to get 3 telecommunication poles in our glen, but the powerful outdoor lobby groups destroyed that, and when there is an emergency they knock on our doors to get access to a phone. The key to the emergency service network is they get access to a power supply and my understanding of the small print is the local community can then add their network to the system. Adding a local community network to the system is easy and the equipment is of military grade and so is very reliable and the speeds outstrip what BT offers. I could go on into a total rant here but that will solve nothing.

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6 hours ago, JSHarris said:

My understanding is that the new emergency services network will use the normal 3G/4G system, but with prioritisation for the emergency services, which means that if there is a local incident then the network may well reduce in capability for non-emergency service users.  This is straight from someone who is working on the system.  Unlike Airwave, which uses a dedicated system for comms, the idea is to use the growing mobile network to provide all the current emergency capabilities, so reducing the current mix of systems that are used.

Am I the only one that can see a potential problem in this?

 

When there is a major incident and the phone network dies and the emergency services have no comm's,  I will say told you so.

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4 minutes ago, ProDave said:

Am I the only one that can see a potential problem in this?

 

When there is a major incident and the phone network dies and the emergency services have no comm's,  I will say told you so.

 

From what I've been told, EE/BT have agreed that all emergency service traffic will take priority over any other traffic on the system.  In a major incident, this probably means that, in some areas, people will lose non-emergency connectivity, just as they do now when the network is congested (as indicated by the "Emergency Calls Only" warning we get a lot on 'phones around here).  The emergency services will then have all the bandwidth they need, at the expense of non-emergency customers.

Edited by JSHarris

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We're in a rural location. We moved in five weeks ago. We have a BT ADSL line - about three miles to the exchange

 

I take it there is no sign of a fibre connection coming any time soon? That would still use the existing copper line for perhaps the last half mile but might bypass the problem area. 

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10 hours ago, Fallingditch said:

We're in a rural location. We moved in five weeks ago. We have a BT ADSL line - about three miles to the exchange - but it is regularly interrupted for days at a time by weather related problems.

 

Same as us.  Old house used to get about 2Mbps download.

 

When we had the line connected to the new house (100 metres closer to the exchange) we barely got 1 Mbps, so I complained. A very helpful Open Reach engineer (far far better than the one that made the initial connection) spent some time checking the line with his instrumentation and re made a number of poor connections. Result was we now get nearly 4Mbps.

 

Definitely worth reporting the fault.

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2 hours ago, Temp said:

Might also be of interest..

 

https://www.mastdata.com/

 

 

 To pick up on @recoveringacademics point, I use not only Opensignal, but also Cell Map and Network Cell Ino Lite to try and see where the mast might be.

 

Thing is, they all report differently as to the location of the mast my phone has locked to - its almost random! And none of them agree with Mastdata :-(

 

 

 

 

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Just now, Fallingditch said:

[...]

Thing is, they all report differently as to the location of the mast my phone has locked to - its almost random! And none of them agree with Mastdata :-(

 

Ha!

Locally the Open Signal mast locations are correct to within a few meters. Trouble is that a few meters can matter. Salamander Cottage gets 4G (our build location) Our house (domicile) 20 meters away gets 3G or worse.

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It's radio so it's subject to the physics of radio, a few millimeters can make big difference at 4G frequencies when you add terrain, mimo etc almost any thing can happen. 

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8 hours ago, MikeSharp01 said:

It's radio so it's subject to the physics of radio, a few millimeters can make big difference at 4G frequencies when you add terrain, mimo etc almost any thing can happen. 

I can vouch for that. We've got an antenna to grab signal and provide WiFi in the house - move it more than 10mm in either direction and there is no 3G - but where we have it now it shows 4bars!

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Same in our old house with tv reception. Because we are in a glen it's not line of sight to the transmitter. So when we were building that one and living in a caravan I put the tv aerial on a summerhouse that we had put on the highest point of the plot, and it worked reasonably well with a masthead amplifier as it was then a long run of cable.

 

Later, when the house was finished I tried moving it. I spent nearly a day. Put the aerial on a pole on the gable end of the house, making it higher than it was on the summerhouse and a shorter run of cable.  I spent hours trying to get a signal. Same aerial, higher location, no local obstructions. At the end of the day I gave up and put it back on the summerhouse, and there it remains.

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Check for noise in the line. Sometimes if you complain about broadband speed you just get fobbed off. However if you complain about a noisy line they seem more willing to investigate and that can fix your broadband sped. 

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On ‎07‎/‎06‎/‎2017 at 11:54, Temp said:

Check for noise in the line. Sometimes if you complain about broadband speed you just get fobbed off. However if you complain about a noisy line they seem more willing to investigate and that can fix your broadband sped. 

Dial 17070 on your phone and select option 2 for a noise test on your line. 

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