Wednesday, 21 January 2009

3's 3g puts the Mac in peril

On our last trip to the boat I got really frustrated with the 3g dongle I have from 3. It actually went into the cut..... The connection was very poor and when it did connect it was mainly GPRS and that kept dropping.

A big issue is that there is no available software for the Mac using the broadband dongle. When I plug it into my little Sony it finds the software on the dongle and installs it. I can then see the data I am/have used and also the strength of connection and what connection I may get. Non of this is available for the Mac.

Rachel's solution is not to bring the Mac on the boat and use the Sony - I like the Mac, screen size, performance and keyboard, so I am loathed to stop using it because of threes incompetence (Vodafone do an application for the Mac but my work Vodafone dongle only gets GPRS on the boat, and they do not say there is 3g or HSDPA coverage at my moorings - BUT 3 Do !)

I tried the modem when back at home and it was much better on the Mac, but still without software I feel cheated and the connection on the boat was more reliable on the PC. One thing to try will be a long USB cable with the modem in a bag on the roof, it could be the boat is blocking the signal. However, as I will then not be able to see the lights flashing (this gives the speed of the active or potential connection), this is even more reason to get the Mac software sorted.

When I phoned 3 they just said keep checking back to their web page - quality customer service, not.

Steer clear of 3 I say they do not understand customer service or support Macs

Rant over

Ok some more information - I wrote the above on Monday and scheduled it to be published Tuesday. Andrew on Granny Buttons does this so it must be the right thing to do !

I posted to asking for advice and a really nice bloke called Richard Fairhurst replied and pointed me at a CheetahWatch this does everything the 3 software should do if it existed So stand up and take a bow Richard.


I really do not like to be beaten and will stubbornly think through solutions if I can. So I started looking for external ariels for the Modem to make it better (less risk of it going into the cut) but them it occurred to me I use my Mac at work and use my Vodafone phone via bluetooth using something called Bluetooth Pan network - effectively making my phones data network available via bluetooth connection to the Mac. I have acquired a good phone that will allow me to have the same set up but with the 3 sim in it. It works much better as I think the ariel built into the phone is so much more efficient and the connection seems solid - see below....

My tests

My vodaphone HSDPA network (solid connection to HSDPA) 1125 KB/s down 272 KB/s up
My 3 HSDPA network in the phone (solid connection to HSDPA) 1130 KB/S down 272 KB/s up
My 3 dongle HSPDA 1561 KB/S down 348kb/s up*

*Sounds good but the big issue is that the connection was jumping from HSDPA to WCDMA (3g) and this is with CheetaWatch showing a good signal.

Phew.... So bigger is not always better (ladies take note). I really need to go to the boat to repeat this experiment but putting the phone outside to get a better reception and to be fair to the dongle to do the same (downside will be the cable length)

I'll report back.....the Mac might have a reprieve yet



Kev said...

Hi Nev,
We have a '3' dongle and at first we didn't get a very good signal, we bought a USB extension cable and we put the dongle on the roof, it works fine now.
Kev & Ann (4evermoore)

Nev Wells said...


After my recent nocturnal fishing trip for my dongle I will be careful if it goes outside again. I like the idea of using a mobile - they seem to have a better ariel and can be placed outside (covered up) without the need for a cable.

I was looking on ebay for an external ariel for my 3g dongle and there are items that mean you can have a permanent ariel on the roof to which you connect your dongle. These might be better than putting the actual dongle outside and you could set up the ariel permanently