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Improve your mobile broadband speed

Having slow mobile broadband speeds? Here’s some factors that contributes to your connection and tips on how to improve it.

Mobile Network capability/speed
The top speed of your connection will be limited by the maximum speed of the mobile operator’s network. In Malaysia, the 3G network of DiGi, Maxis & Celcom supports HSPA speeds which gives you speeds up to 14.4Mbps while U Mobile’s network supports up to 3.6Mbps at the moment.

However, it’s one thing for the network to theoretically support these higher speeds, but if the link from the mobile operator’s network to the internet (called backhaul) isn’t fast enough you won’t be able to hit the higher speeds.  This is similar to having a 54Mbps WiFi router at home, but connecting it to an 1Mbps Streamyx connection – your speed is limited by the slowed link in the chain.

Modem/Hardware capability
Mobile broadband modems come in a variety of different speeds – from basic 3.6Mbps devices through to the fastest 7.2Mbps with support for high speed uploads.  If your mobile operator offers 7.2Mbps broadband, but you’ve only got a modem that is capable of speeds up to 3.6Mbps, you won’t be able to hit the higher speeds. It is recommended that you always go for the modem that offers a higher speed, so that you get the best speeds out the broadband network and there’s no need to upgrade the modem in the near future.

Signal strength
The speed of your connection is affected by the strength of the signal you receive from your mobile operator’s network.  The poorer your signal strength, the slower your connection.  The software included with your modem will show you what your signal strength is – this is similar to the bar indicator you have on your mobile phone.

If your in an area of poor or no 3G coverage, your modem will switch to use the much slower 2G network – instead of receiving speeds of 3.6Mbps, you’ll be crawling along at just 30-60Kbps.  The modem software or the lights on the modem itself will tell you if you’re using 3G or 2G. You can improve your signal strength by moving your modem.  Try moving closer to a window (as the signal can pass through glass more easily than walls), or try moving to the first floor of your home or office. Using an USB extension cable could be useful as well.

You may notice that the strength of your signal changes throughout the day – this is called the ‘breathing’ effect of 3G networks.  As the network gets busier, the coverage area shrinks, therefore you’ll see your signal strength reduce too.

If your modem has a port for an external antenna, you should purchase one(usually sold separately) as it helps to improve the signal reception.

Number of other users on the same network
The speed of your connection will be reduced during busy periods on the mobile network.  When you connect using mobile broadband, you’re using a shared data service.  This means although your data is secure, the ‘pipe’ that you’re using is also used by other people on the network.  As more people go online and start downloading using the same pipe, the speed each user receives reduces.  It’s similar to the difference between driving on a highway at 2am versus 6pm.

As odd as it sounds, the number of customers making voice calls will also have an impact on your speed.  This is because voice customers take priority over data customers on the network and during busy times voice customers are allowed to access the network ahead of data customers. In general, the busiest time to use mobile broadband is usually between 6pm and 6am – during this you’ll find your speed much slower than using it first thing in the morning.

Source- Note that this article has been modified on this blog

You may also want to read- A simple guide to choosing a Mobile Broadband service

About Kugan

Kugan is the founder of MalaysianWireless. He has been observing the mobile industry since 2003. Connect with him on Twitter: @scamboy