For the last few week’s I’ve been using Vodafone Australia’s new 4G network, and I must say it ain’t bad at all. Here’s quite a long post about what I’ve experienced.
Since Saturday 8 June 2013 — that is, since about a week before the network was launched to the public — I’ve used Vodafone’s network as my primary data link to the internet, via a Samsung Galaxy S IV 4G handset that Vodafone loaned me, along with a SIM that gave me uncapped data. Generally I used that smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot for my everyday internet use.
Normally I use Telstra’s Next G 4G network — or their 3G network outside 4G coverage areas. The hardware is either a Sierra Wireless pocket Wi-Fi hotspot, or sometimes my Samsung Galaxy S III 4G handset configured as a Wi-Fi hotspot. So what you’re about to read is, I think, a reasonable comparison.
That said, I’d call this a “trial”, not a “test”. I was not rigorous at all about this, and the results only reflect what I experienced on the days in question. Your mileage may vary.
- I often work on the train between Sydney and the Blue Mountains. So, on Saturday 8 June, I did a side-by-side comparison. With all other data usage removed from the handsets, I did speed tests as speedtest.net as they sat on my lap. On the train. The detailed results are over the fold. As you’ll see, Vodafone’s network was often faster than Telstra’s, especially where Telstra was likely to suffer congestion. This is unsurprising: there weren’t any customers on Vodafone’s network yet.
- Over the three weeks of the trial, my general impression was that where both Vodafone and Telstra had 4G coverage, they offered similar speeds. In highly congested locations, such as the Sydney CBD, North Sydney or Newtown, Vodafone often pulled ahead. But Vodafone obviously has far less geographic coverage for now. See below for the maps.
- Up at my Blue Mountains base near Wentworth Falls, neither Vodafone nor Telstra had 4G coverage, only 3G. While I didn’t do speed tests there, as a user I found no noticeable difference between the two networks. That is, there were no occasions when I felt the urge to whinge that Vodafone’s network was causing me more problems that Telstra’s usually did. Both seemed to have the same difficulty punching a signal through a eucalypt forest that’s waving in the wind. That’s not Science, obviously, but it says… something. Probably that there’s not much to choose between the two networks in that location, given the sort of things I do.
- On my regular train runs up and down the mountains, there was no real experiential difference between Vodafone’s network and Telstra’s — except, of course, where Vodafone has no 4G. Apart from one factor, that is. My impression was that the Telstra handset was better at noticing when 4G became available and switching to that, whereas the one on Vodafone would stay on 3G all the way into Central even though there’s plenty of 4G areas — but I didn’t test this properly.
- Using mobile broadband is a very different experience when you’re not worried about how many gigabytes of data you’re sucking down. As I wrote the other week, the promise of mobile broadband is years away.
Overall, it would appear that Vodafone is rolling out a 4G network that will match Telstra’s in terms of performance, at least once the coverage is in place. Assuming there’s coverage where you need it, the choice will come down to the pricing and support, as always. Whether this will be enough for Vodafone to win back the customers they’ve lost is another question.
Continue reading “Vodafone Australia’s new 4G network ain’t bad”
Over the last few months, I’ve been trialling Telstra’s Next G mobile broadband as part of an experimental “technology seeding program”. Despite my initial doubts, I’ve been impressed.
Previously I’d been using Vodafone 3G, tethering my MacBook Pro via Bluetooth to a Nokia N80. It worked just fine. I subsequently moved to a Nokia N96 and Virgin Mobile, which uses the Optus network under the hood. It’s terrible. I made a big mistake.
But that’s a story for another time…
Sure, Next G is the most expensive mobile broadband out there. But it’s also the best. Clearly.
On our road trip, we could use Next G almost all the way from Cowra back through Bathurst to Sydney. Yes, the signal dropped out as we drove through hilly areas, as you’d expect. But the data link automatically reconnected once it found a new cell — with the same IP address!
Seriously. Here I was in a moving car, running a ping and watching YouTube videos. The link dropped out. It reconnected. And when it did, perhaps six minutes later when the terrain sorted itself out, the video started playing from where it left off. Pings resumed with the very next packet number in the sequence — albeit with ping times of over 370 thousand milliseconds.
In another test, the data link kept the same IP address while I caught a train from Newtown across Sydney Harbour to Pymble. In CityRail’s loop under the Sydney CBD, there was no signal in the tunnels, but the link came back up within seconds of arriving at a station.
Somebody did some great network engineering. They deserve a pat on the back.
But what else?
Continue reading “The pleasure and (minor) pain of Telstra Next G”
With Thursday’s night’s episode the Alpha series of Stilgherrian Live came to an end. What next?
Across eight “proper” episodes, plus a couple of impromptu programs from a local pub and a hotel room in Canberra, I achieved my main aim. I proved that it’s possible to do a live video program on the Internet using equipment I can carry in a backpack.
I got a feel for how much pre-production is needed. I got inbound talkback calls working via Skype. And I was very pleased to sustain a regular live audience of 30-odd people. Thank you.
Recently, thanks to Qik, I was able to broadcast live video feeds from my Nokia N80 phone. They’re still viewable at qik.com/stilgherrian. However the “standard” 3G available in Australia meant the technical quality was pretty average. It really does need HSDPA, i.e. a new phone.
So, given that “we have the technology”, what sort of programs should I create?
Continue reading “Whither “Stilgherrian Live”?”
I’ve been too busy during business hours to phone Vodafone about their surprise bill. That’ll have to happen on Monday now, unless today goes remarkably well. However there’s plenty of discussion in the comments, including links to new iPhone plans from Virgin Mobile, Telstra and the 3 Network.
I’ve previously called Vodafone “brain-dead” because they don’t redirect the misspelt version of their web address and couldn’t respond intelligently when I told them about it. But now… [sigh]
A fortnight ago there was confusion over Vodafone’s plans for the iPhone. Were data charges included in the cap or not? Vodafone’s “explanation” seemed to contradict their published terms a conditions.
Even though all their previous plans allowed data to be included within the cap, billed at $1 per 5 minutes of connection, Vodafone reckons that for the iPhone it’s billed separately. Can anyone give a rational explanation for why the data should be more expensive if the device happens to be an iPhone?
Other than price-gouging, that is.
After all, if your mobile device is a laptop they’ll sell you 5GB/month for $39! Given that Telstra and Optus had already announced their pricing, Vodafone could have scooped them both with a better package, rather than looking like a greedy also-ran.
So with this background, I was… erm… thrilled to receive my phone bill this month.
Continue reading “Vodafone, are you completely brain-dead?”
On Wednesday my Twitter stream was dominated by the Politics & Technology Forum, and I’ll write more about that later. The other highlights this week:
- MYOB continue to flood me with far too much promotional material, even when specifically requested not to. Losers.
- People continue to install new software on the very day of its release, discover that it’s still buggy or insecure, and then complain. Do you never learn?
- The Aurora Hotel in Surry Hills and the C Bar on the corner of Pitt and Campbell Streets in the Sydney CBD have free Wifi.
- The comedians on stage at The Sly Fox Hotel on a Monday night are 300% more bitter & disturbed than I am.
- There is no evidence that 17 Massachusetts schoolgirls became pregnant because of a “pregnancy pact”
- There is not, but should be, continuous 3G or HSDPA phone coverage on the highway between Sydney and Canberra. In some places there isn’t even GSM!
- “The 7 categorises of satedness: Food. Sexual pleasure. Alcohol. Music. Visual appeal. Amphetamines. Blue cheese. Agreed?”
- The Concourse Bar at Wynyard Station has Coopers Ale for $4.70 a schooner and a choice of six cocktails for $7 each.
- “Backpacking” has descended from “travel world for enrichment” to “global party by indulgent drunken arseholes”. Hence, “gas them”.
- Automatic weapons really do solve so many everyday problems.
[Credit: Cartoon Twitter-bird courtesy of Hugh MacLeod. Like all of Hugh’s cartoons published online, it’s free to use.]