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3 Ways to Enjoy the Best Internet Experience on your Smartphone

These days, you can get 4G LTE signal and super fast Internet speeds in Malaysia, almost anywhere and everywhere — if the Malaysian Mobile Telcos are to be believed.

Maxis-Poor-4G-LTE-Signal-1

As of June 2019, major mobile operators in Malaysia, Celcom Axiata and Maxis both claims 93% human population coverage nationwide, while Digi is at 90%.

4G LTE network has been available since 2013 in Malaysia but there are many places in the city and rural areas across the country don’t have good 4G LTE mobile coverage. A huge number of places also have slow 4G Internet speeds during peak hours and Telcos have been slow to upgrade network capacities and put up new base stations to deal with these network issues.

As a consumer, there’s really nothing much you could do about fixing the 4G LTE network itself, however there are a few ways for you to get the best Internet experience on your smartphone.

Here are 3 ways for you to improve your Smartphone Internet Experience:

Improve 4G Signal on your Smartphone – Find the right spot

Before we talk about super high speed 4G Internet experience, its very important to look at the mobile signal strength on your smartphone. The signal bar indicator on your smartphone (usually located at the top left of right) reflects the signal strength of the mobile network.

4g-lte-signal-bar-indicator-smartphone

Generally, a full signal bar on your smartphone would allow you to enjoy faster Internet speeds and crystal clear voice calls.

Wireless network are complicated these days. Just by moving the phone a couple meters away could affect its signal strength. Also not all smartphones are built with the best antenna. With the upcoming 5G service (at higher frequencies), signal are even more sensitive and cannot easily penetrate through walls.

Here’s some tips to improve mobile signal reception on your smartphone:

  • Standing next to an open window at home or in a building may help you get a strong enough signal.
  • Go outside if you really need that high speed Internet- Mobile signals are blocked by construction material, such as concrete and steel, deep inside buildings and basements.
  • Ensure your smartphone battery is charged – A fully charged phone would allow the device to function normally. When smartphone battery level drops below a certain percentage, usually below 30%, the phone will try to conserve as much battery as possible and this sometimes affect signal strength, browsing speeds, depending on smartphone.
  • Toggle Airplane Mode – Sometimes you have trouble with your 4G Internet connection even when your phone is showing a full signal bar. As wireless networks are complicated, there could be a few hiccups either with your smartphone or the mobile network itself. Toggling airplane mode (Off and On) can help reset the network connection. Another way to do this is simply restart your smartphone.
  • Avoid other Electronic Devices – Laptops, computers, tablets, microwaves and other electronic, can interfere with your mobile phone signal, so keep your smartphone far away from these devices. Placing two smartphones close to each could also affect signal quality (interference) and Internet speeds especially if both smartphones are on the same mobile/Wifi network.

3g_4g_lte_signal_strength_in_dbm internet experience

The signal bar indicator on smartphones are not necessary accurate and may vary from smartphone to smartphone. Technically, the actual signal strength is measured in -dBm format. For the best Internet experience, we recommend mobile signal strength with a measurement of -90dBm (RSRP) and below. A simple way to find this measurement on Android is to install a mobile app called Network Cell Info Lite from Google Play Store. Its a little bit complicated to get this reading on iOS (instructions here).

Want Super High Speed 4G Internet? Use the right Smartphone

There are so many smartphones out there but no all it perform the same.

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One technology that is extremely important when it comes to mobile Internet speed is called Carrier Aggregation (CA), a major feature of the 4G LTE-Advanced and LTE-A Pro network. CA allows mobile network operators to combine a number of separate LTE carriers to offer faster Internet speeds, possibly up to 1Gbps.

In Malaysia, almost all the mobile operators supports CA and it is known as the 4G LTE-A network. Celcom Axiata claims 81% LTE-A coverage while Digi at 70%.

In simple words, with CA, Celcom, Maxis, Digi and U Mobile are able to combine multiple network/spectrum on different frequencies (2600Mhz+2100Mhz+1800Mhz) into a single connection to give users the fastest possible Internet bandwidth/speeds. In comparison, older 4G smartphones are locked to a single frequency (example 2600Mhz) and have limited download speeds.

To enjoy CA, consumers need the right smartphone. Generally, mid-high range smartphones from Huawei and Samsung supports CA, including iPhones. However not all CA smartphones are configured the same. For example, the Xiaomi Pocophone F1 has 4CA capabilities but it is not compatible with Malaysia 4G LTE-A networks. On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ is compatible with all local Telcos and supports 7CA with speeds up to 2Gbps.

Refer to this link for a list of smartphones that supports CA however you need to check with the smartphone maker if the phone is compatible with Malaysia mobile networks.

Another latest technology that is being implemented on 4G (and 5G) is called Massive MIMO but not all smartphones have this capability. MIMO stands for Multiple-input multiple-output. MIMO involves multiple technologies but it basically means transmitting and receiving of more than one data signal simultaneously over the same radio channel. Standard MIMO networks tend to use two (2×2) or four antennas (4×4).

The main advantages of Massive MIMO include better performance in terms of data speed transfer and link reliability. It will also help improve coverage, especially indoor.

Currently there are no commercially available Massive MIMO devices in Malaysia but regular MIMO smartphones could still benefit from it. The iPhone XR supports 2×2 MIMO, while the iPhone XS supports 4×4 MIMO. The latter is comprised of four antennas for four simultaneous data streams, thus making it able to transfer data twice as fast as 2×2 MIMO. Samsung’s recently announced Galaxy Note 10+ also supports 4×4 MIMO, though so does the Samsung Galaxy S8/Note8/S9/S10/Note9. Google’s Pixel 3 and Pixel 2 both supports 4×4 MIMO, as are the HTC U11 and HTC U12+, the Huawei Mate 30/20 Pro and the OnePlus 6T/7T/7T Pro.

Essentially, a number of flagship (high end) smartphone in the past 2 years will probably support 4×4 MIMO.

Switch to 3G for a Consistent Internet Experience

Generally, 3G in Malaysia have better coverage than 4G networks. Telcos such as Maxis and Celcom don’t offer Voice over LTE (VoLTE) service on 4G and due to this limitation, customers need to rely on 3G and 2G to make calls.

In some cases, using 3G could offer you a better Internet experience compared to 4G, depending on location (and time). If you are not able to get good 4G signal or if your 4G Internet speed is extremely slow, switching manually to 3G could possibly offer a more stable Internet speed (although may not be faster) and consistent Internet experience. This would also help conserve smartphone battery life as poor signal would increase power consumption.

Android-Network-Mode-4G-3G

Depending on phone, you can switch your network by going to Settings->Connections>Mobile Network->Network Mode->Select 3G(WCDMA)

Don’t forget to switch your connection back to 4G LTE/3G/2G once you no longer need the 3G-only connection.

Conclusion

For users who have already tried the steps above but still not able to get enjoy a good Internet experience, the best option is to switch to a different mobile operator.

There are 6 mobile operators in Malaysia- Maxis, Celcom Axiata, Digi, U Mobile, Unifi Mobile and Yes4G. All these Telcos offer prepaid services allowing you to try out their network before you commit and port your actual phone number.

If you are extremely loyal to your current Telco, you should make an official complaint on the poor 4G coverage or Internet speeds and hopefully they are able to resolve it, probably within a week or up to a few years.

About Kugan

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