Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Personal Experience with 4G LTE

Steve Berry, BIDMC's Director of Academic and Research Computing, wrote this guest blog entry, about his experience with 4G LTE:

"I've had the Verizon MiFi 4G LTE card for 6 months.

In a 4G network area, the access and speed is incredible.  It is so good that you can exceed the 5GB monthly service cap in 4-5 hours!

Once you limit your new found flexibility, it is like having your Ethernet access everywhere. It even worked well while driving long distances.

In a limited 4G network (like the commuter rail line between Boston and Worcester), it is very problematic.    When the 4G signal is low and a 3G is available, the device switches modes. This drops the existing connection and  3G takes 20-30 seconds to activate.  If you happen to come back into a 4G area (signal level above the 3G value), it switches modes again taking another 30 seconds to establish an active link.  In the 1 hour Worcester to Boston route, I used to lose 3G connectivity twice and lose about 2 minutes while the SSLVPN and MiFi resynchronized.  Since moving to the 4G, I lose 30 minutes of the 1 hour commute due to continuous mode changes.

There is no ability to force the unit into 3G or 4G only mode. There is no standard for setting up a new connection before dropping an existing connection.  Recent firmware updates have not improved performance.

If you have not yet upgraded to 4G LTE, it's important to first study your usage patterns and the 3G/4G coverage in your area.  Moving through a mixed area is actually the worst of both worlds.

On my recent vacation, my daughter found that the iPad easily linked to the MiFi (all LTE in Tampa). She happily watched her Netflix videos for several days and I was none the wiser until a month later when the monthly bill came and I was being charged for 25GB of data activity. I had no idea what caused the overage until I reviewed the dates!"

Thanks for your insights Steve.

My iPhone 4S arrives soon and should not have this problem because it does not yet support LTE.  By the time Apple releases an LTE phone, 4G wireless should be more ubiquitous in Massachusetts.


Anonymous said...

Using an Android 4G LTE phone you'd be able to connect your laptop via Internet Pass Through Mode and the the phone would allow you to configure LTE/CDMA or CDMA only. Up until a few months ago unlimited data was $30/month. But they did away with that option. The only downside I can see with a 4G LTE phone at the moment is the battery life. Presumably this will improve as more power efficient chipsets and other enhancements appear.

Jeff F said...

The Novatel MiFi 4G LTE offered by Verizon can be forced into 4G or 3G only operation. There's a bunch of links that explain how - here's one of the more straightforward.

Anonymous said...

Does the 4g/3g cross over effect phone calls?

Anonymous said...

I've been using a Thunderbolt for months and have never noticed any impact on phone calls made on Verizon's network when moving back and forth from 3G to 4G.

It might impact video calls on Skype or GTalk just because those sort of applications use so much bandwidth and really need 4G.