Where did my hotspot allowance go?

checking my e-mail

When I got my iPhone 6S Plus in 2015, I got a new phone contract and moved providers. The SIM only contract was with Three and came with unlimited data. However this was unlimited on the phone only, there was an allowance for hotspot, which was only 4GB. This was initially problematic as at home we had a very poor ADSL connection, so I would use the hotspot quite often when I was frustrated with my poor connectivity. As a result I would need to keep an eye on my usage. Quite often I would run out. 4GB was generally fine for simple browsing or e-mail, but would quickly run out if I was streaming video.

I did think about increasing the allowance, but the packages available weren’t cheap. Today Three’s unlimited data contract has a 30GB hotspot allowance. Why don’t I upgrade? Well my contract is just £17 a month, the current unlimited data contract is now £30 a month. However since my home broadband was upgraded to fibre I’ve stopped using the hotspot feature at home, reserving it for trips and visits, again mainly for browsing and e-mail. The 4GB allowance has been fine for this kind of internet activity.

A recent trip away to Glasgow made me aware to still carefully check my usage. I was away staying at the Premier Inn which came with free wifi. According to the blurb the free version of the wifi was for browsing and e-mail and the Ultimate version of the wifi was for streaming. Testing the free wifi, I found it worked fine for streaming Netflix. So there I was watching my favourite TV shows on the iPad and though the free wifi wasn’t brilliant, it was working. As I watched the next episode I found the quality had improved, this is alright I thought. Then another episode…

Then I got a SMS from Three saying I had nearly used my hotspot allowance. I was confused, it was only five days since it had reset. Where had my allowance gone? I then noticed that my iPad wasn’t connected to the hotel wifi it was now connected to my iPhone’s hotspot.

What happened was that previously at the Airport I had connected my laptop to the hotspot, but hadn’t turned it off. My iPad was connected to the hotel wifi, however that connection must have stopped or dropped and then the iPad found and connected to the hotspot network automatically. So when the hotel wifi came back it didn’t re-connect. So the quality of the Netflix stream had improved because of the new connection… the downside was that it sucked up all of my hotspot allowance.

Will I upgrade, no, because it was an error and though it may happen again, I am quite content with a 4GB limit.

Just fibre…

I’ve not mentioned my home internet connection for a while now, since we had the FTTC fibre upgrade. The main reason is that is just works. With roughly 30Mb/s download and 9Mb/s upload speed I feel I am back, in terms of internet speeds, where I was in 2012 at our old house before we moved.

A good example is how streaming video across multiple screens just works with no buffering, whereas on our previous ADSL connection a single stream struggled. Services such as iPlayer, Netflix and Amazon Video both stream in HD with ease. We never use to be able to watch the trailers on the Apple TV, but now no problem.

When working from home I often download and upload large files, this is so simple that I don’t worry about it any more.

So I am really pleased with the FTTC connection, it just works.

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

Goodnight Netflix

When Netflix started in the UK back in January 2012 I was quite intrigued having heard about it a lot on TWiT network podcasts.

I was initially disappointed with the range of films and television programmes, older films and television series, but did give it a go. So I have now been subscribing for well over a year and have certainly watched some good tv series and films.

This month though I have decided to relinquish my subscription. The main reason is threefold, since moving house and changing from FTTC back down to ADSL, streaming video has been a bit of an issue, more so when other people in the house want to use the internet tubes. There has been a fair few times I have cursed Netflix for stuttering, only to find out that my son was streaming BBC iPlayer at the same time! Secondly, I am not really using it very much, I seem to be watching a lot less television as I get older and certainly a lot more selective; this leads into the third reason which is what I am actually watching on Netflix in the main are repeats of things I have seen before. For example I re-watched BBC’s Hustle and enjoyed that, but I had seen that on the TV before. I am certainly not taking advantage of other stuff on there. As for films, they do add new films regularly, but apart from the “B” movie dross that use to fill the shelves of your local video rental place, there are very few films that I want to watch and many of the new films I do want to watch I have found I have already seen at the cinema, I bought the Blu-Ray or rented the DVD from the local library.

So after a little consideration I am going to terminate my subscription and say goodnight to Netflix.

Netflixing

Even though I was less than impressed with the range of films and TV shows on the new Netflix service in the UK I decided I would give the service a go (having heard good stuff about the service in the US0 and you get a free trial for a month, so it wasn’t going to cost me anything.

I left it for a few days as I expected that everyone else in the UK would be trying out the service and this would have an impact on Netflix’s servers.

So far I have watched the service on my iMac through the Safari browser, through the Apple TV and using the iPad App.

The iPad app works really well, and I have had no buffering issues, and was really pleased with the quality, which was a good as BBC iPlayer and even Home Streaming from my iTunes collection.

Netflix “appeared” on my Apple TV menu, without me needing to do anything. The navigation was fine and again streaming quality was excellent.

Through the Safari browser, most of the time it was okay, but I did have more issues than through the iPad or Apple TV. Netflix uses Silverlight and though I updated the plugin I did have a few stuttering issues. I know this wasn’t a bandwidth issue as if I streamed the same content on the iPad, it worked fine. I also found that I couldn’t interact with the video controls on the Silverlight player, so the pause button didn’t work, but the space bar did to pause the video.

Overall I was impressed with the technical side of Netflix and if I was to continue with a subscription then I know it would work with my system.

As for the content, I think I *may* be able to justify the £5.99 a month it costs, but I would expect to either see an increase in the quantity of content on the service or regular new releases. Netflix is not the place to see new stuff, but from a back catalogue perspective I do expect to be able to see more than there is in there now.

Netflix, now in the UK

Today saw the release of Netflix in the UK.

Just download this free app and you can instantly watch TV shows & movies streaming from Netflix.

I have been somewhat interested in Netflix after listening to rave reviews about the service in the US on podcasts such as TWiT. I quite like the idea of “all you can eat” subscription video service, the key though is the content and how often it is refreshed.

I wrote over three years ago now how I subscribed to the GO!VIEW service for the PSP from Sony and Sky. This was a video subscription service (downloading for the PSP mind you, not streaming) however I only subscribed for two months, not for any technical reason, purely content, once I had watched what I wanted to see, and there was no refresh of content within those two months, I couldn’t see the point of continuing my subscription. Now of course GO!VIEW is defunct and no longer available.

When we got our new TV, which has internet services built in, I did consider getting a Lovefilm subscription, but wasn’t that impressed with the content back then.

With the Netflix announcement I have been looking at the content available, and importantly how easy it will be to access. Alas my TV does not have Netflix, though it may come in with an update later. I thought my LG Blu-Ray player would be a possibility, but alas no luck there either. Good news however the PS3 does have Netflix capability and there is an app for the iPad and the iPhone. I suspect that we may see a future update to the Apple TV that gives us Netflix on that box.

So apart from the content considerations, I am also concerned about the impact it will have on my broadband cap, I have a bandwidth limit on my fibre connection and in recent months we have got quite close to the limit. My concern will be if I start using Netflix I will (obviously) be using more bandwidth and if I have to increase my cap that will cost me more money. Not sure if I will watch Netflix instead of iPlayer, that may be a possibility so may not have such an impact after all.

So what about content? Well that has to be a serious consideration and you don’t subscribe to Netflix if you want the most recent film and TV releases. For example it only has the first four seasons of the new Doctor Who, so no Matt Smith (though some may think that is a blessing). There are a few 2010 films, but most are much older.

So not sure yet, but hey you can have a month’s free trial and that may well be the way to go.