Landline was down…

Old Phone
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

…but I hadn’t noticed!

Found out this morning that my phone landline wasn’t working. I couldn’t make or receive calls and there was no dialling tone.

The thing is I have no idea how long it has been like this, the fact that the internet is still working, means I wasn’t suspicious something was amiss. It was only after I was having trouble with my mobile on the Three network that I tried the landline.

I mainly have a landline for the internet, so rarely use the phone for making actual phone calls. I wasn’t expecting any calls either, so that didn’t raise any alarms either.

The support process from BT was quite simple, after I had Googled “BT Line Checker” as there didn’t appear to be a path from the MyBT page. Once I found that page, I had to go through a diagnostic process on the website, which included going out to buy a replacement new phone just in case it was the phone, as well as using the test socket on the master socket.

The end result is that BT Engineers will be out to fix this by Friday…

Though I have no evidence, my suspicions are that this fault may have been caused a few days ago when there was a bundle of BT Openreach vans outside our house where they were working on something…

Weak French Connection

Having recently gone on holiday I wasn’t that surprised to find, as I did the previous year, poor 4G speeds whilst on the campsite in France.

Over the last few months we thought we wouldn’t be going on holiday at all because of Covid-19 and the lockdown. We had thought about going away in the UK, we looked at York but it was proving expensive and things we wanted to do weren’t open. At the end of July we checked a few sites and found that we could book a Eurocamp holiday relatively cheaply, especially compared to the UK holidays we had been looking at. We did wonder about the impact of Covid-19, but the story in France appeared to be less risky than in the UK! So we booked the holiday and five days we were driving down to Folkestone to catch the Eurotunnel.

As we entered France, thank you EU roaming legislation as my Three account easily connected to a French network. I recovered the obligatory SMS from Three which stated that I could use my allowances in France as though I was in the UK. I have an unlmited calls, text and data plan, however I was limited to a 20GB limit on data. We were only in France for six days so I thought that should be okay.

We were staying at the La Croix Du Vieux Pont campsite and though the phone said I had a good 4G signal, alas the speeds were nothing to text home about.

In the morning the connection wasn’t too bad, but by early evening the connection was not just poor, but intermittent as well. I did an (unscientific) speed test and you can see I was struggling to get more than 3Mbps download speeds on 4G.

I am guessing partly that the issue was, we were in a somewhat rural location. When we visited Paris, though I didn’t use my phone much, I think the connection was much better (which was to be expected).

The campsite, in theory, had wifi, but this wasn’t very good either by our caravan. In the first half of the week we could connect to the wifi for free, but this was “fixed” by the second half, where we would have to pay. So we became dependent on the 4G connection.

This was critical towards the end of the holiday as we had to fill in an online UK government form before we got back to the UK. We did manage this, but using the connection for anything apart from e-mail or basic web browsing was out of the question.

It was interesting to see that we could get 4G in the Eurotunnel, I had assumed that this wouldn’t be possible, but it worked, partly because we had already switched and connected to the French mobile phone network, so we remained on that as we went through the tunnel.

Well it might have worked…

Having written about my iPhone 6S Plus connecting to 4G problems.

So the issue I have is I have been at home on the Wi-Fi, I leave the house and then wherever I am I check the phone as find that it says.

Could not activate mobile data network Turn on mobile data or use Wi-Fi to access data.

The only solution was to go into airplane mode and then turn that off. At which point all works fine. Even if you turn off mobile data and turn it back on again, that doesn’t work. It’s airplane mode or nothing!

I said that I was going to upgrade my iPhone to the latest iOS, 13.5.1 which I did and went fine.

Since then has it worked?

Well I have been out a couple of times and I think it’s being fine, but watch this space!

My 4G still keeps getting lost….

Back in January I blogged about issues I was having with my iPhone 6S Plus and the Three network.

The problem is still happening, it’s just that I notice it less as the lock down restrictions meant I was driving a lot less (so didn’t use the phone for music and podcasts, which I use to do for long journeys). Even when walking and cycling as part of our government sanctioned exercise I wasn’t using my phone.

So the issue I have is I have been at home on the Wi-Fi, I leave the house and then wherever I am I check the phone as find that it says.

Could not activate mobile data network Turn on mobile data or use Wi-Fi to access data.

This is even with 4G being in the top of the phone. Clicking OK results in no change. You are still not connected to the internet. As you can see in this screenshot the phone does show 4G at the top.

What’s interesting, was that I thought it might be a handset issue, but family (also with Three) are having similar issues with their iPhone 6S and a newer iPhone XS.

At the moment, the solution is to go to airplane mode and then turn that off. At which point all works fine. Even if you turn off mobile data and turn it back on again, that doesn’t work. It’s airplane mode or nothing!

I am going to update the iOS on my phone, which I haven’t wanted to do, as newer iOS upgrades often result in different problems on older phones. I think it might be an phone operating system issue rather than the network. Having said that, Three are working on the network this week, so I will probably wait until next week, just in case. If I still have the issue, it’s upgrade time!

Where’s my 4G gone?

Over the last few weeks I have been having an issue with my iPhone 6S Plus and the Three network. Over the last four years I have had very few if any issues with my Three data connection, so it’s weird I am having an issue now.

I have been at home on the Wi-Fi, I leave the house and then wherever I am I check the phone as find that it says.

Could not activate mobile data network Turn on mobile data or use Wi-Fi to access data.

This is even with 4G being in the top of the phone. Clicking OK results in no change.

What’s interesting, was that I thought it might be a handset issue, but family (also with Three) are having similar issues with their iPhone 6S and a newer iPhone XS.

At the moment, the solution is to go to airplane mode and then turn that off. At which point all works fine.

It’s not isolated to a single tower either, as it happens locally and further afield.

I don’t have a real solution and it appears from searching online others are having similar issues as well.

Connectivity issues

iPhone
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

I was in London today, at a venue on Southwark Street and I was surprised to have connectivity issues, not just with my home iPhone on the Three network, but also with my work phone on Vodafone.

I don’t know why the connections were so poor, certainly both phones had high signal bars. We were on the seventh floor, which I have found isn’t usually an issue, but today, poor bandwidth or sometimes non-existent bandwidth.

It didn’t help matters that the guest wifi wasn’t working either.

All was fine by the time I got to Paddington.

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.

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.

Melting the Wi-Fi

The canal in Birmingham

Back in the early noughties I remember attending edtech conferences and the wifi failing to cope with the number of delegates. That wasn’t surprising, they were often using a single wireless access point and when sixty plus edtech delegates hit the event with their laptops and PDAs it wasn’t much of a surprise to find the lone access point failing to deliver any wifi.

Even today I have been to events where the wifi struggles as delegates with their laptops, iPads, smartphones connect to the wifi. It is partly about the number of devices, it is also about how they are using the connection, refreshing twitter, uploading photographs, streaming video like Periscope. I also think that some people may take advantage of the fast connection (sometimes inadvertently) to download updates, podcasts and video.

The canal in Birmingham

At the recent UCISA Spotlight on the Digital Capabilities event in Birmingham, the conference centre wifi, which in theory could cope with 250 wireless clients, failed to deliver a stable consistent wifi connection. I found that if my laptop was connected to the wifi, it not only took time to get a connection, but every so often the connection would drop. I would say that when I had a connection it was fast and consistent. I felt lucky that I could still tweet and upload photographs using my phone on my Three 4G connection. I was getting over 60Mb/s on that connection in the main auditorium. I was quite pleased that the seats in the auditorium had tables and power sockets.

60Mb/s

The thing is, a conference with delegates from the edtech world are probably going to melt the wifi as most conference centres don’t plan their capacity on the extremes. For most events it probably works just fine. Personally since those early days I have come less and less to rely on the conference wifi, using a 3G dongle, 3G tethering, a 4G WiFI Hotspot to my current 4G tethering. This means that not only do I not worry so much about melting wifi, but it frees up the bandwidth for somebody else, and I think I might a pretty heavy user of bandwidth!