[Gllug] Internet connection through mobile phone

general_email at technicalbloke.com general_email at technicalbloke.com
Sat Dec 12 18:54:02 UTC 2009

Jason Clifford wrote:
> On Sat, 2009-12-12 at 10:22 +0000, general_email at technicalbloke.com
> wrote:
>> Well that's not my experience, other than low speed in some parts of my
>> house it seems fine. 
> yet it is my experience as I clearly stated and at least one other
> person has posted the same experience to the list.
> Even when it does work mobile broadband is no better a replacement for
> fixed line broadband in many cases than dialup access is.

Well Jason the op said he wanted something fairly cheap for a bit of web
surfing, specifically not streaming (so dropouts aren't a huge issue to
him) and not downloading ISO's (so bandwidth isn't top priority either).
Given his requirements, 3G may actually be a 'better' solution than
'fixed line broadband'. I wouldn't suggest it is an appropriate
'replacement' for most use cases but he was quite clear about what he
wants and 3G would seem to fit that.

>> Your 'simple fact' is a just a fairly blunt conjecture
>> and I refer you to your argument below: "the vast majority of people
>> simply don't have problems with the service. If they did ISPs would not
>> be able to operate as the margins are so low.". Which is it?
> I run an ISP. I have daily contact with others who also do the same. I
> know for a fact that the ratio of customer faults to connections is very
> low on fixed line broadband services and I know the margins we operate
> to. My comment was clear in that it referred to fixed line services.
> There was no conflict between the 2 statements I made.

Your implication is that ISPs couldn't survive if they didn't provide a
usefully reliable service. If this line of argument is sound why is it
only applicable to fixed line services? 3G adoption is growing at a
pretty healthy rate, ~8% in Europe last year, ~11% Stateside, either 3G
is as rubbish as you say and the providers are growing despite not
offering a usefully reliable service, or they are offering a usefully
reliable service in contrast to your assertion that "mobile broadband
services are just not fit for any kind of regular use". That looks like
a contradiction to me.

>> It's not a fantasy if you don't pay by direct debit and don't cancel
>> paper bills. Not only that but it will be going up an extra 50p/month
>> next year to subsidise rural connections. It makes little difference
>> anyway, being more precise and using your figure gives £122.50 + 12*12 =
>> £266.50 a year i.e. still an awful lot more expensive than 3G for
>> moderate use and that's not including the cost of a broadband package!
> Define "moderate use" please as without doing so your statement is
> meaningless. I'd say that for most people mobile services are only
> suitable for very light use. 

Moderate, in moderation, middle of the road, average, median, somewhere
in the middle, not light but far from heavy, restrained by an average
persons standards and expectations.

The crowd on here would almost all be heavy users, say using the
internet every day for several hours and downloading big files like ISOs
on a semi regular basis.

My mum and dad would be light users, under 2 hours per week sometimes
less, popping on from time to time to check their email or book some
tickets or order something and never downloading any files explicitly.

A moderate user would be somewhere in between, say an hour a day.
Catching up on facebook, doing a bit of online shopping, watching the
odd youtube video, maybe downloading an song or two off iTunes.

You can do that on 3G, if you can get a good signal where you are you
can get "up to" 5Mb, even a quarter of that is good enough for moderate use.

>> BTW, price and quality aren't directly correlated at all. The service I
>> have now, the uncapped "Be Value" is only £13.50 a month and is by far
>> the best broadband experience I've had in London. The BT connection I
>> had to endure before cost twice as much and was utterly shit.
> Comparing Be's LLU based service to BT service will always favour Be as
> they run a good network while BT are generally crap at every service
> they supply.

I'm glad we agree on something then!

>> That may be true but ease of fault finding is hardly worth over £250 for
>> most domestic users.
> If that were the only benefit you might be right but it isn't and I
> suspect you know full well it isn't.

No but the OP isn't asking what benefits they might derive from spending
more and getting fixed line service, they are asking what drawbacks they
might experience by spending less and getting a 3G mobile service.

>> I have to say I consider this use of "up to" in marketing thoroughly
>>  dishonest anyway, I have come across providers advertising upto 
>> 20Mb that can't consistently deliver one. I'd like to see them forced
>> to advertise their average speed as monitored by an
>> independent 3rd party, that would quickly bust the myth that paying
>> extra for BT gets you fast reliable service.
> Another fantasy. We're able to offer services that are not "up to" on
> fixed line broadband services. They are 512k, 1Mb and 2Mb fixed rate
> services. Most customers don't want them as "up to" delivers better
> service.

Advertising "up to" 20Meg! and delivering a fraction of that most of the
day is dishonest in my book. My cable provider in NY did this, they
advertised "up to" 10Meg but most of the day it was averaging around one
and was jittery to the point of making even low res youtube clips
unwatchable, it was little better than dialup most of the time. As they
were the only cable provider in town I suffered them for several months
and then one day I noticed that between 5 and 5:30 am the speed suddenly
shot up to something in the ballpark of 10Mb. It turns out it did that
every night! I have always wondered if that was their get out of jail
free card so if they were ever sued for their lousy performance (and
believe me they made BT look like the Super JANET by comparison!) they
could point to an example of speeds "up to" 10 Meg.

> The reason it's marketed as "up to" is because that's the honest truth.
> Those who want ISPs to market rate adaptive services on some other basis
> are simply ignoring the fact that speeds are dependant upon factors
> beyond the ISP's ability to control or accurately measure before any
> service exists on the line (and even when it does). ISPs are no more
> able to change the laws of physics to facilitate such a fantasy than
> anyone else can.

I understand, but this is hardly made clear in the marketing is it? An
"honest" policy would mention a "down to" speed as well, a minimum you
should expect, and you should be free to walk from your contract if your
ISP cannot supply that. I mean what's wrong with the principle of paying
for what you get eh? If my house can only get 3Mb then fair enough but
if the package I signed up for was advertised as "blazing fast speeds
upto 20Mb!" then, small print aside, if they didn't make it very clear
my area will not get anywhere near that speed I think that its mis-selling.

> Average speed is another fantasy. It's meaningless as it often has
> nothing to do with the broadband service itself. Any speed measurement
> that moves beyond the connection from the customer to the ISP is
> corrupted by including measurements of external networks beyond the
> control of the ISP.

That's buck passing pure and simple. For the most part your broadband
connection is running over someone else's copper or fibre but those
someone else's are your agents, you pay them for the service, you should
know what they can and can't deliver and you should not over promise.
Not all providers over promise but many of them do and that is not cool.
Be manage it, they say "up to 8Meg" and I get 8 meg, all day every day,
8Meg. I'd be cool with a bit less than 8Meg TBH, I'd still be pleased if
I got 6, and I could live with it if I got a reliable 4 but an awful lot
of consumers don't even get half of their packages max rated speed on a
regular basis and that's bollocks. It's not good enough to go selling
packages based on speed and then claim "well that's beyond our control"
if you can't deliver something approaching that speed consistently.

>> Did I say that they did!? I'm a repair man so I see a lot of setups that
>> are struggling, not so many that are working fine. 
> So? That just means your experience is limited to poor instances by
> definition. It means your perspective is skewed accordingly.

Er, yes, that's exactly what I am saying, I never claimed otherwise. I
see a lot of "poor instances" however my perspective isn't skewed as...

>> What I am saying is
>> that these problems seem to be fairly evenly spread across service
>> providers. I have come across problems on everybody's networks and no
>> one provider stands out as being particularly reliable or unreliable.
> Because by definition you only ever see the services when there are
> problems.

...I'm only talking about unreliable services, you see? I don't see what
you're trying to get at here, are you just trying to be contrary for the

>> This is one of the reasons I object to BT's repeated use of the words
>> "Fast and Reliable" in their advertising, I have experienced a boatload
>> of slow flaky BT connections and yes, I have tried swapping out the
>> routers and connecting them directly to the master sockets. Even
>> factoring in their ubiquity BT provide a pretty dismal service IMHO and
>> they have some remarkable chutzpah to market it as "Fast and Reliable"
> That's an issue with BT rather than with fixed line broadband service.
> BT are one of the poorest quality suppliers in the market. I'd be
> inclined to agree with anyone arguing that BT's advertising is dishonest
> on the basis that their network management ensures that customers wont
> get any real benefit from the higher speeds available from ADSL 2+
> services.

Again with the thinking I'm on a mission to disrespect and despoil the
reputation of fixed line broadband services; I have no problem with
fixed line broadband, as a heavy user I personally wouldn't use anything
else. All I am saying is that 3G may be adequate for some people, that's
not an attack on any other types of connectivity. Glad we're agreed BT
are a steaming pile though :)

>> Actually, although it's still very early days, it seems good enough to
>> indicate bad service. I have profiled the worlds top 25000 websites for
>> over a week and weeded out any that do not respond very promptly to
>> ICMP.
> That doesn't address route management on ISP networks and intervening
> networks. It doesn't address the fact that network management policies
> are entirely beyond your control and you wont ever know when or how they
> change.

You're absolutely right and you know what? that doesn't matter one jot
in my context. What matters is if people can get on the web or not.
Route management doesn't come in to it... I don't care when or how
anything to do with routing changes and neither do my customers. If one
of the servers I am pinging starts failing on a regular basis I will see
this in the logs and disregard those results, no biggie.

What my customers care about is that sometimes they can get on Yahoo and
sometimes they can't, what I care about is ruling out their computer,
router and cabling and if the problem persists after that then
quantifying how often these failures occur and whether they fail at the
DNS stage or later. The subtleties aren't so important to me as I can't
do much about them, I am solely interested in logging the times when
their connection can't carry out DNS+ICMP+HTTP requests so I know A) if
my client is exaggerating and B) if the connection looks flaky enough to
take up the matter with their ISP.

>>> To test a broadband connection you need to be using LCP to test between
>>> the end point and the ISP network. That's the only way to measure the
>>> broadband connection.
>> Balls. Just last week it identified I was getting periodic spotty DNS
>> service, I contacted my ISP and they identified out of date DNS settings
>> on my router (supposedly managed and updated by them). 
> A DNS fail is not a broadband service fail. It's a fail at a protocol
> operating at a higher level.

You're splitting hairs now, it's an ISP problem and the ISP provides my
broadband service. I don't care if the errors are at the ATM level or
the TCP/IP level, all of that is my ISPs responsibility.  I think you'll
find that most people's understanding of the term "broadband service"
include DNS resolution and indeed anything else the ISP usually does
pursuant to providing them with internet connectivity.

>> They corrected these by hand and I have had considerably better service 
>> ever since. I see no reason why, given a known good computer and router 
>> the above method could not generate quite useful results in most 
>> domestic/SoHo environments.
> Yes it probably could to some degree assuming that all those variables
> beyond your ability to measure accurately or control remain fairly
> static. My point is that there are immensely better ways to measure the
> quality of an internet connection.

Well either there are or there aren't. In your last post you said there
was precisely one correct way to measure connectivity and the ISP was
the only entity well placed to do it. Now you're talking in the plural!
It should be clear by now what I am trying to achieve and you know that
implementing monitoring at the ISP level isn't an option for me or my
clients as half the point is ascertaining if the ISP needs to be
contacted and gathering some objective facts to take to them. IF what
you say is right how about you help out, make with the info and explain
these 'immensely better' techniques so that I may improve my tool?

>>>  It's also a waste of resources in almost every case
>> <3MB memory use, unmeasurable processor use and with 350 bytes * every 5
>> seconds = 4.3Mb per day, spread across > 20,000 servers its hardly going
>> to cause the internet to grind to a halt is it?
> No, your math's wrong. That's 5.7678 MB per day. It's over 175MB per
> month. A customer with a light usage broadband package may well find
> that his is 17.5% of their monthly usage allowance. That's a waste of
> resources.

Touche, you're right about the maths, I have to admit it would actually
generate a a whopping 6 Meg of traffic per day of testing, about he size
of a long MP3 or a short porn clip. I can't think why one would need to
run this app for any more than a week so Mr Worstcase there might burn
upto 5% of his monthly bandwidth allowance. Given that he would only be
running it when he is experiencing connectivity problems and that it
might help quantify his problems and diagnose a solution he might
consider that bandwidth well spent.

> The issue isn't whether it's going to cause problems for "the internet"
> or uses computing resources but rather it consumes the far more scarce
> and costly resource, which is bandwidth, and thus causes problems for
> the specific people whose connections you run this on.

As I said, if they're running it they already have problems. You're
being melodramatic to suggest bandwidth is so scarce and costly that a
measly 6Meg a day might cause anyone any problems, this isn't 1999 and
we're not all on dialup still. I can download 6 meg in under 10 seconds
on my "value" broadband connection. It wouldn't take that much longer on
my 3G connection, assuming I were in the kitchen ;)


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