Yay, unlimited tethering

iphone 6s plus Photo credit: Yanki01 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

I can’t quite believe it, but I can now use all of my data allowance for tethering on my Three mobile phone contract. There was a 4GB monthly limit before, but now I can use all of my data allowance for tethering, and as I have an unlimited data contract, that means I have unlimited tethering.

Yay!

I was very pleased when I moved to Three in 2015 having been with EE and before that T-Mobile for many (many) years. There were quite a few reasons I moved to Three, the first was that for the previous few years we had been living in broadband hell with a terrible 1Mb/s ADSL pipe. My contact with EE was only 3G and I had had it for a fair while, but even then I reached my 2GB fair use limit quite often. The main challenge though was EE coverage at our house which was fine for phone calls, but 3G only worked when the phone was in certain places in the house!

So with all those reasons I decided to move mobile phone providers to Three. My main requirements were, 4G connectivity and unlimited data.

3G was fine for e-mail and general browsing, but for streaming video, and steady HD video at that a 4G connection was preferable.

Though I don’t mind data limits, I do think having a limit constrains how you use data on a device, turning off updates, 

So I managed to get a SIM only unlimited data contract with Three for just £17 per month, which I thought was very good value for money. The constraint at the time was a 4GB limit for tethering.

I use tethering when travelling, but I also used it at home when I needed some bandwidth, as back then I had a slow ADSL connection, less than 1Mb/s.

I reflected on the arrival of 4G earlier, in 2012 when it was launched in the UK. Back then, the tariffs from EE were quite expensive, £36 per month would get you just 500MB of data. That was one of the key reasons I didn’t upgrade my EE account to 4G (and I didn’t have a 4G device).

So £17 for unlimited 4G data for me seemed like a good deal. After having the phone and contract for a while and running out of data on the odd month, I did decide to get a data booster which gave me an additional 6GB personal hotspot, which at the time cost me an additional £6 per month (now £8 per month). I did that for a few months, before cancelling, as though it was useful, I didn’t think it was value for money.

A couple of years ago, Three changed their unlimited data deal to include 30GB of tethering, I was tempted, but it was a lot more expensive than the £17 per month I was paying. I didn’t think that was worth it for the odd month when I needed more than 4Gb of tethering. I was also on the edge of getting a fibre connection at home, so that was negate the need to tether at home.

Once I had FTTC, streaming video at home became much easier, so less need to use my mobile data contract for streaming. The same was said for the bandwidth for other things such as Skype.

Since I got FTTC I have only run out of tethering a few times, and one of those times it was a mistake. 

Having a limit on tethering meant that when tethering I would try and avoid high bandwidth activities on the laptop and switch to the phone. So now having unlimited tethering means I don’t need to worry anymore.

Yay!

Check out Three mobile contracts.

4G’ing it

iphone 6s plus Photo credit: Yanki01 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

I have now been on Three for nearly six months and I am still pleased with the speed of the connection and reliability of the service.

In some areas I am getting nearly 50Mb download speeds.

Download speeds

There are some days when the connection appears to stall, but this is short lived.

I am on an unlimited data contract with Three. This appears to be a full unlimited contract with no “artificial” limits or throttling.

On my previous original T-Mobile (now EE) contract I would usually use less than 2GB. This was partly down to the speed of the 3G connection. On the Three connection I am now using on average 35GB of data. In at least one month I used in excess of 50GB.

As my home broadband is rather slow, I am now using my iPhone connected to the TV via an HDMI adapter for services such as iPlayer, Netflix and other on demand services (well the ones that work through the adapter). As the connection is quite fast, I am able to stream HD video, which probably explains the high data usage!

Nov – 30GB
Dec – 22GB
Jan – 50GB
Feb – 41GB
Mar – 35GB

Checking the bills I used over 7GB on the 7th January, no idea what was happening that day.

There are some aspects that I find frustrating, however these are more down to limitations imposed by others. For example Apple don’t allow you to download software updates, large app updates, movies and TV shows over mobile data, you have to use WiFi. However as my internet contract is much slower compared to the potential speeds I can get on 4G this means that it can be frustrating when I need to download large files.

In terms of signal, one of the reasons I chose Three was the coverage they have for my home address and over Bristol. In other places it has been somewhat sketchy, but was pleased to get a decent signal in Dublin for a conference (and no roaming charges) other places I wasn’t surprised as it was rather rural.

I will say I wasn’t disappointed with the signal of T-Mobile, especially when they merged with Orange. However the lack of an unlimited data contract on 4G meant that I didn’t see it as an option. Though 3G was okay, I do appreciate the faster speeds you get with 4G.

Photo credit: Yanki01 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Haven no 4G, well not quite no 4G

Though I have been pleased with the 4G coverage I get from Three at home in Weston-super-Mare and at work in Bristol, as well as travelling. I was pleased with the coverage I got recently in Dublin, but I didn’t expect anything less.

Going on holiday down to Cornwall I did wonder if I would be getting any coverage at the Perran Sands Haven resort we would be staying at. Checking Ofcom’s coverage map it was apparent that there wasn’t much hope.

Perran Sands

Arriving at the resort I wasn’t too surprised that in the caravan there was no signal of any kind. I was a little surprised to find that climbing the sand dune next to us, I could get a 4G connection! Not too practical to climb a dune to stream Netflix.

There was supposed to be free wifi in the central hub, but as mentioned in a previous post about the Haven wifi, my expectations about this weren’t too high, and I never did manage to see the free wifi network let along connect to it.

I wasn’t too worried about having a connection to the internet whilst on holiday, I was quite happy to leave the Twitter for a while, I certainly wasn’t going to worry about e-mail, but it would have been nice to be able to stream some video, or read the news. So in the end I watched the occasionally bit of live television and I also read books and newspapers.

Dodgy 3G

Nexus One

Earlier this week I was without 3G on my home mobile phone. Trying to use it resulted a “failed to connect to server error”. I certainly had signal and it wasn’t even working in areas where I know it should work.

My initial thought was that the T-Mobile (EE) network had fallen over, but with no one else reporting issues it was only me having the problem.

What I found out later was that I had exceeded my “fair use” limit on my unlimited 3G plan. This has only happened once or twice before and I was, then, able to get a free booster to extend my limit.

This time though the SMS messages I received from EE, the pages I was redirected to on the phone, did not indicate that I had reached my limit. In the end I guessed I must have as it was almost the day my 3G fair use limit resets.

Most of the day I was unable to access the boosters page, but in the evening on the way home, it did (finally) appear on the mobile browser and I was able to get 3G.

I think part of the issue is I have quite an old legacy plan, which isn’t really able to be matched by newer plans, hence my reluctance to upgrade. This probably means that when I run out of 3G, the redirects don’t work as they should, as so few people are using them. I know it has only happened once or twice before for me.

One day I might upgrade, especially when 4G is more prevalent, or even cancel, if FGW get their WiFi act together this year, as I generally use 3G more on the train then anywhere else.

4G

Mobile Phone Mast

Today sees the launch of the UK’s first 4G network. It’s quite a small network with availability only in the following cities: London, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Glasgow and Southampton.

I don’t have a 4G device, well I do, I have the third generation iPad, but I don’t think that will work with EE’s 4G. I can’t actually find out if this isn’t the case, but I am pretty sure that is correct.

I am thinking about getting an iPhone 5 that supports 4G to replace my ageing 3GS. Though as the 3GS is still running iOS 5 I might keep it for the Maps app! However I am expecting Apple to turn off that existing Maps app in a year’s time when their licence for Google maps runs out.

To be honest what I really need is a 4G MiFi or similar so I can take advantage of 4G with all my devices. EE will start selling SIM only deals next month.

The tariffs from EE are quite expensive, £36 per month gets you just 500MB of data which is not much… a typical BBC iPlayer programme is half that! It goes up to £51 for 8GB.

So though I would like to have 4G I don’t think I can afford it!

Another factor that has taken me by surprise is by how slow the reported speeds of 4G are. I have always thought of 4G as speeds in and around 100Mbps. However from the news reports I have seen today have spoken about 15Mbps.

EE’s own press release says that their 4G is only five times faster than 3G.

The UK’s first 4G mobile service will launch on Tuesday October 30th, offering consumers and businesses a new way to access the people, places and things they want on the move, with speeds typically five times faster than 3G.

So as well as wondering about the costs of 4G, I am not even sure with the limited geographical availability and lower than expected speeds, I don’t think 4G is for me at this time.