3G Modem – Experiences So Far

Ok, so I’ve been using the Three 3G modem on my commute from Havant to Waterloo for some weeks now.  There follows some random thoughts…


Getting (and staying) connected

When it has a 3G or HSDPA connection, it is pretty good.  Unfortunately, getting and maintaining such a connection is often fraught with problems.

I think a lot of the problem is that I’m a moving target, so to speak.  Trying to initiate a connection with one base station, only to move out of its coverage into another one whilst trying to connect, must be quite hard.

I don’t know if there is anything that can be done from a client software end, or even the Three network end, that would improve things?  Maybe there is, but it would adversely affect those users who are not moving?

Once it has a connection, it stays up and running for as long as it has signal coverage.  Sadly that isn’t always very long, although that is largely down to the geography of my route.


The Software

The connection history is funny.  For example:


‘Data usage is approximate only.’ – Uh, ok.  Rounded up to the nearest 4GB?!

I’ve stopped bothering to reset the Network option to ‘3G Only’, because I know it doesn’t actually save that setting.  I don’t think it saves any settings, actually.

There don’t seem to be any registry entries relating to any of the settings, so I’m not sure where it is meant to save settings – maybe its because I’m using Vista.

The signal strength meter and signal type shown on the software generally lags behind the indication provided by the LED on the dongle, presumably the software only polls the dongle on a cycle.  Not a big thing, but maybe the polling cycle needs tweaking.



Don’t get me wrong, when it has a 3G or HSDPA connection, its very usable, and if I was standing still, it would probably stay that way.  I think the ‘mobile’ part of mobile broadband needs some work, that’s all.

I’m going to look into an external antenna – not sure whether it will make a massive difference – I’ve tried various orientations of the dongle with the extension cable, without any noticeable improvement in signal strength.  That said, I’m not sure that signal strength is my main problem.

If there is a Beta program for the client software, I’d love to join – I would be using it (or at least trying to) for around 3 hours a day, 4 days a week, on a train, if anyone has a route into Three, please let me know!

Is there anyone out there that travels on South West Trains on my route that uses either a Three or other 3G service, that would like to comment on their experiences?  I generally get the train that arrives into Waterloo at 0830 – one of the white trains, not the cramped blue ones!


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3 Responses to 3G Modem – Experiences So Far

  1. Les Smithson says:

    Hi I’ve recently acquired a three 3g dongle (e220) expressly to pass the tme on my new commute from Waterloo to Wokiing (I’m an IT contractor on a 2 month gig there). There are some days when it works really well, others when it barely works at all. I can always get and keep a good connection around Waterlloo (perhaps not that surprising) but for the rest of the trip its unpredictable.

    Sometimes I end up on a diesel train back from Woking. On these trips I get a solid conection all the way back to Waterloo. I wonder if the poor performance is due to electrical interference from train motors conmbined with a weak RF signal?

  2. Pingback: 3G Commuting - Southern is better than South West Trains « ee61re - Fiddling with IT until it works

  3. Steve says:

    I regularly use the Voda USB dongle on my journey from Waterloo to Guildford. The signal is pretty good most of the way, with the exception of the area immediately after Clapham Junction (when travelling from Waterloo) and just before Weybridge where it normally drops out but reconnects to full 3G speed pretty quickly. When I travel I usually sellotape the dongle half way up the window and this improves things no end compared to having it on my lap or dangling over the screen.

    I too notice when I occassionally travel around the UK that the older the train the better the signal – but whether that’s due to power or construction I don’t know.

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