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Diagnosing Speed Issues on Mobile Broadband / Phone Internet when using T-Mobile UK - Information, Papers and Tutorials - Craig Brass' Corner

Information, Papers and Tutorials

With this question coming up time and time again on T-Mobile UK's forum where I am a regular poster, I thought I would publish a guide on how exactly to go about diagnosing issues (speed, no throughput, unable to connect, stick not detected, etc) and getting them resolved.

Step 1 - Check What Is Available
On a phone, this check is rather specific to the brand / model but on most phones, it tells you when you are connected to a 2G or 3G cell site. On a BlackBerry, it is either GPRS to represent 2G or 3G and if you do a manual network scan, it shows lists separately T-Mobile's 2G and 3G network. Check the manual for more details. For mobile broadband, this is shown in the bottom left of the software that comes with the stick. If only 2G is available, this will explain slow speeds. Your first check would be to make sure that the phone / mobile broadband stick isn't set to 2G Only. Check the manual for details on how to do this. If you are set to use 2G and 3G with no 3G showing, do you remember 3G being available in the area you are in? Check Street Check / Mobile Broadband Checker to confirm where coverage should be if you are unsure. If there was 3G coverage previously, you should leave it 1-2 weeks before reporting it is no longer available as they could be upgrading the cell site or even repairing a damaged cell site which can take this time period, especially if parts are required. T-Mobile keeps logs of average data throughput on each cell site and have monitoring tools to alert them if this drops below a percentage of normal usage so they will know if there is a problem. You should still move onto Step 6 to rule out it being a phone problem, though.

Step 2 - Check Your Plan
If the internet does work but you are only getting 400kbps or less for downloads, it is likely you are getting 3G only. 3.5G / HSPA (HSDPA / HSUPA) can only be used if you have what is known as Web and Walk Standard. T-Mobile currently offer 3 versions of Web and Walk :-
Standard: 1GB Fair Usage. 3G only. Many protocols such as VoIP and Peer to Peer blocked / throttled. Only designed for phone internet.
Plus: 3GB Fair Usage. 3G + HSPA. Less restricted than Standard in terms of protocols but still no VoIP or Peer to Peer possible. Default for mobile broadband.
Max: 10GB Fair Usage. 3G + HSPA. Least restricted and allows VoIP and Peer to Peer. On request only.

As you can see, you need Plus or above to have access to HSPA. It will just max out at around 400kbps if this isn't available as this is the top speed 3G can support.

You should expect to get 1-2mbps realistically as the 7.2mbps headline speed is shared between all users connected to the cell site you are connected to.

Step 3 - Check Settings
This only really applies to phone internet as the mobile broadband software has the settings coded into the software anyway but make sure the correct T-Mobile network is set on install / in settings as they list the networks in each of the countries they operate in. It also only applies when you can't connect to the internet at all.

T-Mobile have a nice tool to update settings on phones. Simple click here to visit the Phone Settings page, enter your phone number, select your phone, select that you wish to update Mobile Internet settings and then wait for the update to be sent to your phone. Depending on your phone, you may have to confirm the update on your phone and reset / restart the phone. I once found taking the battery out for a few seconds was required on one handset due to a caching of settings.

If the automatic update tool doesn't work you should look in your phone manual for details on how to update internet settings manually. You will then need the following settings :-
APN: general.t-mobile.uk
Username: user
Password: pass

Step 4 - Update Software / Firmware
If using a mobile broadband stick, this would be the first point of call if your stick isn't detected or if it refuses to connect. It is also worth a try if you are getting slow speeds as a software patch could of been applied to the cells on the cell site that the current version of the software / firmware does not agree with. You can find more information on updating by clicking here to visit the Find Your Device page. Simply select the Downloads link under the device you have.

For some devices, a single update will handle both firmware for the device and a software update on the computer where as others, such as the Web and Walk Stick (Huawei E170) I have, have a firmware update tool and also a software update tool which updates the software on the device. On the Web and Walk Stick in particular, you then have to unplug the stick, plug it back in and then it installs the software on the computer as the software update tool only updates the software installation tools on the device.

Phones can also be updated. Click here to visit the Settings and Updates page and then click the Software Updates tab. This links to where each of the phones T-Mobile offer can be updated from.

Step 5 - An Alternative Computer
This is mobile broadband stick specific. If you have another computer, you should try using the device in that. This is because something installed on the computer the stick is currently connected to may have anything from a virus to some spyware on which may be causing the slow speeds or you being unable to connect. If this works, as well as a virus / spyare / etc scan, where the device refuses to be detected or won't connect, you should also check the USB port you are using. Try connecting the device to a powered USB hub with all other devices pulled out if possible as the device may not be able to draw as much power as it requires.

For speed issues, one check you should make on the computer is that any software isn't performing an update. Windows Update, security software, etc are often set to auto update and these may be running in the background. You should also check what is starting up when your computer does as any of these applications could be causing a problem. Net Squirrel has a great article on How to use MSConfig.

Step 6 - An Alternative Area
This may not be easy to do if you are having a problem with mobile broadband unless you have a laptop but it really does point you in the direction of what is wrong. Possibly try at a friend's house if you don't have a laptop. Around 4-5 miles away, try using the internet. If a speed problem, does it work faster there? If a downed cell site issue, does it work in the new area? If so, you have proved it is a network issue and move onto Step 7. If it doesn't, it is likely a faulty phone / stick and you should phone T-Mobile about it explaining everything you have tried.

Step 7 - Reporting a Network Issue
If you have arrived at Step 6 and proved it is a network issue, the next step is to report it. If it is a downed 3G cell site, I would advise waiting 1-2 weeks as they may be working on it (upgrade / repair) which can take this period. If you don't wish to wait, send a direct message to TmobileUKhelp on Twitter with your postage asking them to check for any issues. They may be able to give you more details on any issues and when it is expected to be resolved.

If you have waited this period and the issue is still occurring, send an email to the technical director by clicking here. You should include your account number / mobile number and account password so they can open your account, a description of the issue, what you have tried (basically everything in this guide) and, if reporting a slow speed / no throughput issue, 5 speed tests (I use SpeedTest.net and Think Broadband for an automatic speed test as well as the Zen File Download site for a manual speed test) which should also include the date + time as well as the postcode you were at when performing the test. The issue will then get forwarded to the networks team with the resolve process generally not taking longer than a week.

I am a technology enthusiast living up in Carlisle, Cumbria in the UK and am the managing director of Its Elixir which sells Henna Hair Care Products and Ear Candles, Craig Brass Systems which creates and custom develops quality software and LonsdaleNET which delivers high speed wireless and fibre optic broadband in Cumbria.