Vodafone UK – 4G

Vodafone

All the Providers are talking about their 4G Coverage in London. Of course the 4G Services is only available to Contract numbers, not Pay As You Go or Top Up lines. In my case I have a contract line and upgraded to 4G contectivity with a max of 8GB per month for 36 GB per month, you can change from month to month, but only stay on 4G.

I was happy and thought I would get the same service as I do in Kuwait. At full signal I was getting 50+ MB/s which was impressive. Out of all the companies – EE, Orange, O2, Vodafone, & 3 – I read that Vodafone has the best 4G coverage in London as well as the fastest.

It seems their definition of coverage is similar to swiss cheese, lots of holes in the network. 4G was fine as long as I had 4G coverage, spotty would be putting it nicely. The coverage in London’s main metropolitan area is a disaster. Every building I go into, there is almost little to no coverage, and even when we are outisde it is max one or two bars. Rarely do I see full bars, I don’t know how they planned their coverage but Vodafone falls far behind Zain or any of our Mobile Companies in Kuwait. Zain has spoilt us, our expectations are too high.

Zain 7 KD – Data Roaming

Zain

There has been a package for GCC Data Roaming since the beginning of the year by Zain. Sometimes it works with the carrier and sometimes it doesn’t, but I would say that it works 70% of the time which is pretty good. 150MB for 7 KD across the GCC which I thought was perfect, honestly you don’t use too much and it doesn’t cost as much as a car if you use too much data, I remember some bills going over a 1000 KWD because of mistakes with billing which are insane. So these packages for data roaming are reasonable if you didn’t purchase a local land line.

To my surprise when I went to London they also had a 7KD package but it was for 100 MB on Vodafone, honestly that wasn’t too bad. I was pleasantly surprised about it. I switched on my data roaming and within minutes it was working on Vodafone’s network in London, truth be told Vodafone’s network isn’t too great but no one really is in London. But it was just enough data to get WhatsApp working as well as a few emails through as needed, it does the job and I’m happy they are making these deals with other telecom companies, at least now Zain is taking advantage of their size and influence and working out deals with other telecom companies to benefit the customer. I’m not sure if that package works for all of Europe or not, but those people traveling during Eid will know when they get there.

Fasttelco – All Data Caps Have Been Lifted

Ethernet

The first of the ISPs to come to their senses from this debacle, after a little digging both from the commercial and technical side Fasttelco are not applying any Data Caps, none what so ever, not even throttling torrents at this point. At first I wasn’t sure but from two different sources I thought it might be true, then I thought to test it out to verify the information. It seems something official might come out soon but at this point this is what I have managed to dig up and I hope they continue on this route.

I have started a 200 GB download plus one steam update and several other machine updates to test my Fasttelco 4MB Connection. I’m at 42 GB since I heard the news and it still fluctuating between 380 KBs to 490 KBs which is pretty good and I hope it holds at that. So it seems to be true at this point, I’m running Torrents, FTP, Software Patches and normal surfing, and everything seems to be working.

I was initially singled out by Kems for being an abuser even though I have been a loyal customer even at their very expensive days, and when they increased their prices. But it seems they seem to be stuck on Caps and continuing to apply it.

QualityNet has removed the meter from their login screen so you can’t tell if you hit your daily cap or not but they won’t clearly answer if it has been removed. I managed to hit the caps every once in a while whenever I go on my downloading binge.

As I said before the MoC is just as much as fault as the ISPs, and the announcement made months ago by the MoC and the Member’s of Parliament is just BS as usual and I didn’t expect much from it. It sort of “I will believe it when I see it” type of situation. Even when you tell ISPs that the MoC said they were supposed to stop all sorts of Caps from 1st of August as promised from the front pages of Al Watan Newspaper, Al Aqabas Newspaper, and Al Rai Newspaper, they just tell you that it was just an article in a newspaper and no law has been enacted and the ISPs were not contacted. The MoC promised to lower prices to ISPs so that in return they would lower their prices but that hasn’t happened yet either.

  • Fasttelco – No Caps
  • QualityNet – Still applying Caps
  • Kems – Caps still seemed to be applied
  • GulfNet – Still crap and the worst of the bunch, avoid them even if your connection is free
  • Mada – No Caps and I hope that continutes

More will be forthcoming in another post.

Vodafone vs. Zain Data Roaming

Vodafone

I have been planning to write this post since I was getting fantastic service from Vodafone UK while traveling in Europe. And the funny part is the day I landed in Kuwait I get a text msg from Zain stating “Welcome back your loved ones are waiting for your call”, then an hour later my phone gets disconnected, luckily it isn’t my primary phone.

Data Roaming Pricing Structure

Zain

  • 0.006 KD per Kilobyte so about 6.144 KD per 1MB

Vodafone:

  • Europe: 85p a MB up to 5MB, then £4.25 for each 5MB after that
  • Rest of the world: £3 a MB up to 5MB, then £15 for every 5MB after that

ZainBlackLogoSM

What Vodafone does better then Zain:

  • There is a charge of 50 British Pounds for data, not including normal call charges
  • This charge cap can be removed if requested by the user, also you get notifications when you are 50%, 80%, or 100% at the Cap where ever you are roaming
  • They disconnect the Data and not your phone line when you reach the cap, unlike Zain who disconnect everything and no notification
  • Also a side note if you have a Vodafone plan then you can also get a package for 40 British Pounds per month to get 25 MB a day to use with your phone line which is very useful and more then enough for your phone

Overall my normal phone with the vodafone line used about 300 MB worth of data in one week, it was my only access to the net so it was very Data intensive period for my regular phone. This cost me a total of 255 British Pounds or 113 KWD, if I did the same type of data roaming on Zain it would have been 1843.2 KWD which is insane. I had my Blackberry on which had a Zain line in it, I would never call from it or do anything with it except replies to BBMs, and as soon as I arrived back in Kuwait they sent me a welcome message and disconnected my phone within an hour, no notification, no call, no nothing. TMobile & Vodafone both manage to contact the customer even when abroad for irregular activities and make sure that the charges aren’t ridiculous but Zain doesn’t mind cutting off the customer in the middle of no where.

I can understand Zain saying that they can’t provide the same prices in Europe as Vodafone has, since Vodafone does cover Europe. But even in the Middle East where Zain is based we get charged insane prices, they don’t have agreements across their own networks when it comes to Data. I know that Kuwait’s international phone lines are controlled by the Ministry of Communication so they can’t give us local calling all over the Middle East but at least Data is controlled by the operator, you would think they have a system in place for their Data charges or have packages in place, and they would be able to come to an agreement between STC and Etisalat to provide mutual data services across each of their networks, it is a long process but something that would benefit the customer at the end of the day. But with the way things are now we will always get the short end of the stick.

Data Cap Testing – Kems

I tried complaining to Kems Technical and Sales regarding the Data Caps and they didn’t mention this when I renewed my account for a year about a month ago. I paid 575 KD for an 8 MB connection, I told them that I was not informed of these Caps when I first renewed my service, it should not be applied at all. They said they might remove daily caps next month and just keep them as monthly caps. With 8 MB I have a 8GB Cap per day and per month it would be 240 GB, then they told me that the monthly Cap would be 200 GB not 240 GB, it doesn’t add up. I was on the phone for over 20 minutes talking from one useless person to the next which really got annoying. I decided to test the Caps as soon as I got home.

I started downloading about 80 GB worth of shows and thought let me test what would happen and when it would get back to normal. After 27 GBs and the Cap still wasn’t applied, it didn’t drop down to 25% of the speed, it was still downloading between 750 Kbps to 920 Kbps, so I will see what happens further.

Google Nexus One with Zain, Wataniya, & Viva

GoogleNexusOne

Voice Coverage:

  • Zain is good, except for those dropped calls at quite a few locations
  • Wataniya has good coverage, a few problem areas but overall good
  • Viva seems to go from bad to spotty coverage, pretty much the worst of the bunch

With the new Google Phone its a very Data oriented phone with lots of different services and integrated items that require constant data usage. You can manually configure the APN details so that you can access 3G/Edge of your network. The biggest adopter and advertiser of Google Android phones currently is Viva, the other operators haven’t adopted Android Phones yet. Now the surprising part is this, I have used my Google Phone with Zain and Wataniya, the settings work automatically and I’m on the 3G network right away downloading data and it transfers to a wireless network that it recognizes if it connected to it previously. It puts the priority on normal wireless if its available before using 3G/Edge. Now the surprising part is Viva, the settings don’t download right away, speaking to the technical staff they run you in circles and they don’t even know. I even tried explaining to them the exact details but I honestly couldn’t get a coherent answer from them. With Wataniya and Zain they knew exactly what I was talking about and they provided me the APN settings and the exact details, IPs, and ports. Overall for voice services in Kuwait you either go with Wataniya Telecom or Zain.

Zain Data Pricing – 700 KD Blunder

GoogleAndroidPark

There seems to clearly be some details that you are unaware of when you have a data capable phone. With the Blackberry you have packages for data usage in local and roaming networks but that isn’t the case with any data capable phone such as an iPhone or Google phone. In my case the problem happened with my Google Nexus One by the fourth day in Bahrain during GulfRun my cellphone gets disconnected, luckily I have my BB with me so I call in to check whats the reason and they told me I have a bill of over 700 KD with the 700 being just the data bill not the phone bill and I would have to pay the whole thing off to have my phone unlocked. The problem is that a lot of people are unaware of this point, I had to pay right away and check my bill as soon as I got back to Kuwait. It was a ridiculously damaging bill and its a lot more then my usual bill. In this case Zain has no packages for data capable phone, you have to pay 6 fils per Kilobyte or 6.145 KD per 1MB which is extremely high and adds up very quickly. Since my phone was roaming, updating weather data, downloading email headers, syncing my gmail contacts and more over the past 5 days I got smacked with a ridiculous bill. I can’t believe that Zain being in Saudi and Bahrain can’t have an agreement with its own network for a data plan, the users just get destroyed by this pricing. After that mistake I switched off data while roaming and only connects to data when I connect to a wireless access point.

Vodafone has packages for anyone roaming in Europe in its network, and different packages for roaming outside of Europe. At least you are aware of all these details, and if you aren’t subscribed to it then the service isn’t switched on. If Zain switches off the service someone can easily call in to activate it but instead people get caught in this dangerously quiet pricing plan.

Using BBM 5


There was a lot of problems with the pre-release of BBM 5 months ago, contacts were being deleted and the chat program was crashing. This time around its Blackberry that had the official release of BBM 5 with all the new features. After using it for over a week and a majority of my usual contacts have switched over the change is interesting.


Pros:

  • You can see details of the other person’s contact
  • Enlarging the contact’s photo
  • Associating BBM contacts with your phone book, the picture from BBM gets associated with your Phone book
  • Groups are a great edition you can share pictures, lists, dates and conversations between the group and its very organizing unlike inviting people to conversations such as before. Also you can have the group symbol on your Blackberry Homepage so you won’t have to go into the BBM to see it.
  • Barcode scanning makes it easier and unique to add people to your list, you always notice people looking for their BBM PIN no matter how many times you explain it to them.
  • Backing up contacts remotely and locally.

Cons:

  • The one major con that I think BBM 5 has is when your trying to send images. It’s not as easy as before and you have to transfer a picture, it doesn’t compress it and sends a simple small picture as it did before. Takes time to transfer the image so the half the time it fails.


Overall I think Blackberry did an amazing job with BBM 5, the only problem is with sending images but still its a huge step forward. Maybe they will be able to adjust it at a later point, but the benefit of the groups and shareing details are enourmous.

Review: Zain E-Go 21.6 MB/s

I was contacted by Zain to try out their new 21.6 Mbps E-Go and put it through the loop and see what its all about. The packaging seems to be nice and small, got a post-paid chip to try it out, took it out of the box getting it ready to plug into my HP Mini 5101. Just to keep in mind the 7.2 Mbps connection of Zain would get around 200 ~ 300 Kbps, so I kept this in mind when I was testing it out.

Its the usual plug and play scenario that everyone is used to, and piece of equipment is even a little better with the new setup. Its a sliding USB connection so its nice and compact, this is the Huawei HPSA+ Slider Model, fits nicely in any bag or pocket even. When you plug it in the USB emulates a CD so your software is installed and launched right away. I went into the technical details of it and trying to mess around it a bit, I had a few places in mind to test it out. When I first heard 21.6 Mbps I took it with a bit of skepticism and thought why not try it out and see what results I get.

Plug it in, configured the connection for the 3.5 G connection and went to my FTP Server which is co-hosted in Europe(Secret Location) to see what I could download a few large files and see what I would get in relation to numbers. I picked a 2.4 GB file to download and it started off at 450 Kbps which is faster then a 4MB land connection, I was impressed right away, its faster then the old 7.2 MBps E-Go right away. As I gave it time the speed fluctuated between 480 Kbps to 960 Kbps, and then I took it a step further, I got into my car and start stopping in different locations to test it out from the 6th ring road to Bida’a to Salmiya and back. I was impressed, there is a fluctuation in speed but it held solid between a 4MB to 9MB connection at 4:00 pm on Friday which is peak pressure time on the network, and so I’m assuming that late night surfing or downloading is going to be even faster then that.

This isn’t a long term test, so I’m going to try it a little bit longer to see what else I can get out of it. Now Zain has an excellent product on their hands with the possibility of great service, they will be giving Internet Service Providers a run for their money but they have to do two things, price it at an acceptable price and keep the service level at a high level. (Click on some of the images to get larger version of the graphs)

ZainSC2

Continue reading…

5 TB More

More Downloads, More Bandwidth, More Expansions, and More Hard Drives. I have needed to upgrade my InfrantNV+ Ready NAS for some time now since it has reached 96% capacity, I have just been using the hard drives on my main server. I’m going to have to rethink the roles of my NAS on my network once they are combined.

For the Infrant to recognize space, the four discs must be four of identical space, it will always take the lowest space of all the drives. If you have 3 x 1TB Drives and 1 400 GB drive, then it will assume all four drives are 400 GB for the sake of redundancy if you have X-Raid running.

I went to Hawally and found that they had the Western Digital 1 TB drives available which is my best choice for about 70 KD a piece, which is lower then the 91 KD I purchased the first couple of hard drives a few months back. The prices keep dropping so I picked up 5 Hard Drives, four the for the NAS and one for the Server. The process of upgrading the NAS Storage Space is a step by step process, so it takes sometime to change the space and retain the current data on it.

Continue reading…