This site uses cookies to enhance navigation. If you continue with your visit, you accept the use of cookies and privacy policy. Accept


We are upgrading to 5G but do not discard 3G (or 4G) yet

  • 21/08/2019

Whilst we are upgrading to 5G a couple of things become apparent:

1) that there is still not an agreed billing system for roaming, and so do not expect 5G roaming any time soon, but

2) that in doing this testing we needed to separate out 3G traffic from 4G/5G and we found something else: that unthrottled wholesale 3G is in the real world, on average about 10 times faster than 4G.

For months now we have been travelling using various 150Mbps+ upstream / down stream devices on various MNO and our own wholesale services and one thing becomes very apparent: to get the universal roaming dream prices; there have been constraints. Without naming names, none of our MNO 20Gb per month plus devices were able to deliver a usable service, or over about 500mb to 1gb per day...

The extent of this throttling of roaming packages to bring us "roam like at home" packages at first started affecting video, then audio, but now even means even the meagre instagram images can take longer than is even remotely usable to load, and this is about 5gb into a 20gb per month allocation...

when 4 bars of 4G on roaming will not even load an instagram picture

However: Plug in a 10 year old 3G USB dongle to an equally old 802.11b/g router and we moved over 7Gb in just a few hours on 3G... food for thought the next time you read that 5G hype... or that 4G roaming super bundle promise...
3G Upload old Huawei Dongle
So what does this mean? Is 5G redundant? Well no - it's progress towards faster networks, and genereally means networks finally have to unclog bottlenecks along the way that had been festering for years under ever-slipping project plans, and it also comes with other goodies in the back-end this article will not get into, and in general obviously the trend is for faster access. However, we have to keep in mind the reality of congestion: just because there is no speed limit on the German Autobahn, or if your country ups the speed limit from 120km/h to 240km/h - you will not necesarilly go twice as fast. In fact, the faster a connection of any speed is, the more the REAL speed tends to vary, and this is where, at the moment at least 3G is great as at present it lacks the congestion and therefore can deliver pretty predictable, highly usable speeds.

For the MVNO, MVNE and MVNA, this means a lot of premium opportunities in 3G, while the big fish are fighting over 5G - a fight it's never wise to get caught up in.