An In-Depth Look At Wireless Broadband (HSPDA/3G)

Being a Lowyat.net Forum Moderator is fun and at the same time its challenging. Over the past few months , the demand for Wireless Broadband users in Malaysia is tremendously increasing (This is based on the number of threads . I am guessing this is because most of us are looking for a portable broadband service or that our location is not under Telekom Malaysia (TM) Coverage zone , hence TM weren’t able to service us. Nevertheless , some of us are glad that finally we can enjoy what has broadband has to offer. For instance , lightning fast speeds ,fast downloads and most importantly a fixed charge for unlimited usage – 24/7. Now let us take a look at the realilty of Wireless Broadband. No , this is not one of those rants post out there that condemning  on Wireless Broadband Providers. 

 

For your information , I was an ex-user of Maxis Wireless Broadband. The service was great but then eventually it did not cater for my needs as Maxis have imposed a lot of restrictions to ensure that they can live up to their expectations Few months ago , I did a speed test and I was shocked that my connection could get 1.2Mbps to 2.3Mbps (Keep in mind that it is not consistent/stable at all). If you compare it with your ADSL (Streamyx) connection , you’ll notice that Maxis performs far better then your streamyx connection in terms of download speed and possibility upload speed 

Speed Test
Speed Test – Maxis Broadband 3.6Mbps

 

Speed Test - TM Streamyx 512Kbps

Let us now take a look side by side comparison (well not side by side - it was just for a figure of speech). Anyway for an average consumer computer user, he/she will automatically say that Maxis Broadband 3.6Mbps package  > TmNet Streamyx 512Kbps. It is true when it comes to the download and upload speed. Do keep in mind that Wireless connection aren’t consistent , meaning that today you might good speeds and tomorrow your speeds might be sucky. This is because of the nature of the technology itself and also the carrier (wireless service provider) has to prioritise between data and voice. Usually they’ll set the voice packets to a higher priority – in other words that if there are lots of users who are calling or using voice services in a tower , the data connection will be affected. Do keep in mind that a tower (Cell tower) can only cater up to 10 HSPDA Users at a time. This is another reason why Wireless Broadband users are complaining as their connection gets interrupted when the transaction occurs from HSPDA to 3G or wise versa. For gamers , you’ll never want to choose Wireless Broadband. Just take a look at my speed tests above , empathise on the term Latency . It clearly shows that my 512Kbps streamyx connection has a better latency then my former Maxis Broadband. An gamer should know by know that 300ms latency is bad (Heh , that is from Malaysia to singapore. Imagine it takes 0.3 seconds to say Hi). Of course an average user wouldn’t feel it but gamers certainly it would be bad. Especially when it comes to first person shooter. Another disadvantage is that just like the speed goes , the latency also is not stable. It may go as low as 70-80ms (for local connections) and high up to 1000-1500ms (for local connections). This is even bad when you’re planning to use Skype or any other application that requires a stable throughput and a low latency connection. This are the realitly facts of Wireless Broadband. I am not scaring anyone away or discouraging anyone. i am just merely explaining to you on what is it all about. On top of that , Wireless broadband such usually comes with a monthly data cap which is not suitable for kaki torrents (Heavy BitTorrent users) and those who of you who loves to lurk YouTube/Metacafe. So let me summarise it up and put it in points form so that it would be easier for you to take a look at it. I’ve generalised the whole thing and simplified it !

 

Pros

 

  • Portability - you can carry it anywhere you like and you can pretty much be mobile wherever you go even in the rural areas. As long there is a cell phone signal then you can hop in and surf the internet
  • No Fixed Line – You don’t have to worry about singing up for a fixed line and all other stuff. In other words hassle free
  • No more messy wires and all those connections - I mean you dont have to pull a long phone cable or LAN cable to link it up with your modem/PC. Just plug and play – Mostly these Wireless Modem will auto-configure and allows you to surf the Internet just right out of the box 
Cons
  • Inconsistent Speed – Not ideal for VOIP conversation or for video streaming. The speed is not consistent at all. 
  • IP Address & Restrictions – Some ISPs such as Celcom Malaysia groups their users into 1 big Public IP address which is bad when it comes to downloading files from a file sharing service as they allow only 1 IP at a time. On top of that if you are a regular IRC lurker then you might face problems too. Some other ISPs such as Maxis do provide users with a Public IP address but then they block all external ports so that the user can never host anything which is bad – Think of it as a restrictive firewall

 

 

My Final Verdict :  Wireless Broadband is suitable for people who don’t have any other choice (i.e No streamyx) or if you are always on-the-go person. As for you gamers out there or for heavy p2p users stay away from HSPDA/3G Broadband as there is a bandwidth cap that would discourage you from p2ping. Some mobile carriers (providers) have taken a step further by blocking all p2p connections and allowing to run only at a certain period of time. Maybe in the up-coming blog entry, I’ll be writing more on Wireless Broadband. Do stay tuned for it !

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