Planes, Trains and Automobiles – 3G Data on the move

Well maybe not planes right now, but certainly we need to talk about Trains and Automobiles when it comes to using 3G data on the move. Well let me put it this way – unless you do not move it is simply one of the most frustrating exercises you can ever experience.



The issue is in the movement through the various coverage zones along your chosen route, whether this is on a train or in a car (obviously you are not driving). The 3G modem I use is the Huawei E220 that comes in various brandings in the UK. This is an HSDPA modem that can run up to 3.6Mbps (oh yes, I believe that one … not).

Now the general experience on the route is 3G…HSDPA… GPRS… no service… GPRS… 3G… no service… GPRS… HSDPA… 3G… HSDPA…no service. The other aspect of the experience is that on every transition, you have 30 seconds to 1 minute of nothing as the modem software tells you that you are connected but NO data actually transfers.

Now I do not believe that these are all coverage issues as this happens within the London M25 boundaries where 3G is pretty much 100%, there seems to be a real issue with the transitions between these different standards that kills the experience completely. Now I do not know whether this is totally to do with my E220 (I had another branded 3G modem that experienced something similar without the HSDPA transition which makes it unlikely) but this ‘roaming’ issue is something that is not experienced on voice calls.

There is hope however, as you can ‘minimise’ the issue by removing the optimisation out of the modem software – by setting it to one specific technology such as GPRS or 3G/HSDPA, although better results are experienced by setting it to purely GPRS. This makes it slower and harder to manage but it does deliver the most important characteristic of in-motion data – consistency.

Has anyone else got experience or hints and tips on how to improve the experience?