4G Coverage – GCC

KuwaitTelecoms

Kuwait is one of the first conutries to roll out full 4G coverage, and we are tough customers, I honestly was very critical and abusing it when possible and it has survived my torment and still it is doing well.

4G in the GCC & UK are the same and I’m assuming the Europe would be the same as UK in regards to 4G specifications. But the coverage across Europe is spotty at best. I was in Germany and drove a good amount outside and inside of Frankfurt to see how it works, then there was Amsterdam which we extensively used their network. The connections weren’t that great, and sometimes very disappointing, surprisingly Amsterdam was much better then Frankfurt in terms of coverage.

4G Coverage in Kuwait is fantastic in comparison to Europe, it seems that Europe has fallen back in comparison to us. Our terrestrial data speeds are a disappointment in Kuwait and improvement does’t look like it will happen any time soon, they have been talking about Fiber for the good part of a decade now. But due to this lack of development the wireless data providers have stepped in and so 4G such as Zain, Viva, and Soon to be Wataniya are providing for what the customers are asking for.

Kuwait is even better then the UAE in this aspect, Etisalat has coverage but the speeds are honestly crap and even much worse when you head out of Dubai with little to no coverage, and Du is worse then Etisalat in this regard. It seems that we are more then a step ahead of Europe and Kuwait is leading the pack in GCC. And I have yet to see someone in the GCC to match our coverage and overall speeds, we are spoiled and I honestly hope we have more developments in regards to wireless & LTE internet.

Link: Flickr

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.

WIMD – Constant Service

WIMD

With the introduction of Zain’s 4G Router people had options for their homes and remote locations. 4G has drastically changed people’s options, even with the caps it isn’t too bad. But at this point the links have gotten somewhat saturated still it’s faster then land lines, you get between 10 to 20 MB on a constant level when nobody’s online you might get 25 to 30 MBs.

For my case I can only get up to 0.5 MB on my land line so that isn’t an option and fiber has been promised since 2008 and I wouldn’t be holding my breath for that. WIMD has been the best and most consistent option for me, they are company who are genuinely trying to improve their services.

I have had a 20 MB subscription with them since they first opened over a year and a half ago and after about a year it would get as far as 14 MB and wouldn’t come close to 20 MB. That was after February when my subscription was renewed. The service would go down every once in a while but no longer then 30 minutes at most and their support is very responsive. But that happens at most once a week sometimes the whole month is fine.

In June of this year I was contacted by WIMD Sales for my 20 MB Subscription to reduce it to the 15 MB Subscription since they couldn’t retain the 20 MB Speed, and they refunded my the difference right away, even discounting the period from February until June which is very surprising for an ISP. So instead of the 1250 KWD that I paid, they refunded me the difference of 400 KWD down to 850 KWD even though it has been four months since the subscription started. Then on top of that since June onwards my connection which would hit between 16 to 18 MB on downloads consistently without any issues.

They do have some technical issues but they are working through it and the issues aren’t repeated, they are growing their bandwidth because the service speeds in my case has improved. And their service has been constant, unlike what I have seen from Mada who came out strong out of the gate but invested in the wrong technology and failed to improve upon it, ending up with some very crappy services. In my opinion WIMD has excellent service and for some people I know they have had bad experiences because of their location, but in my case honestly it has been fantastic and I hope they keep this up and gain more subscribers because of it.

TEP Wireless – Data Roaming in Europe

Recently while traveling in Europe I wanted to see what options I had to get a data roaming packages and I always annoyed with overcharges. Looking around TEP Wireless seems to have the solution I needed, I wanted a Mifi type device that I could take with me wherever I am going and have internet the moment I land. They used the Huawei device for the connectivity which is standard use by telco companies.

What they are good for?

If you are traveling through multiple locations through Europe and need internet connectivity, they provide a good solution. Keep in mind that the service is based on the carrier such as Vodafone, Orange, or O2, not their own native network. If you want a smartphone when you travel you can also rent it from them but there are a few short comings which I will point out below. Overall for mobile network they did the job.

What they aren’t good for?

I was looking to get a chip for an iPad or iPhone, or a chip for BB service while roaming. They don’t provide this service which would have been very useful, they provide you a full smartphone or blackberry but not the sim card by itself, so with a Blackberry its useless, your groups and emails are synced to the device not the sim.

Overall:

For 75 GBP I had roaming internet at a very 2 to 6 MB speed which is very good, but when the cell service is bad you don’t get any connectivity. I had it working in a few remote locations which isn’t bad, and the device worked fine but after a few hours of being on it would hang so I would have to restart it every few hours but thats a problem with the device. I think its worth it if you are roaming a lot and need data connectivity, but if you are only based in the UK you have other options.

Western Digital Livewire

Internet throughout the house, thats one of the biggest annoyances people have when at home. You are usually stuck where the router is, and that is probably where you have the most powerful signal. In my case I went to an insane extent to wire up different rooms throughout the house so I can spread the wireless signal coverage. Most cases your stuck with the wireless signal you have, but in this case you have powerline networking. I have always been a bit skeptical about this technology, it usually doesn’t produce that speeds that I am looking for and I’m always thinking that it just won’t do. But there have been a lot of successful kits and this is just the latest development. If you are having internet coverage problems and putting ethernet cables through what little space you have in your walls is not possible then the WD Livewire Powerline Networking Kit is your best option.

There are drawbacks with powerline networking but it’s a simple solid solution when don’t have a wired option. You have four ports with the WD Livewire, the throughput is around 200MB/s which your machines will interpret as 100 MB/s since it’s not a Gigabit connection which is 1000MB/s. Sometimes with sound there is interference but if you need to this get your network where you need it to go. You would have to buy it from Amazon UK to get the right plug with it, but you can change it you buy it from the US as well.

Check out the Review at WeGotServed.com
Link: Amazon

Libratone Beat

For that wireless speaker you have been looking for the Libertone Beat has the answer. I really like the style of this speaker and its different forms of connectivity. A wireless speaker with a 50W bass and two 25W tweeter/midrange drivers. Just plug in the USB transmitter to your PC or the bundled 30-pin connector to an iOS device and you’re good to go. Plays audio from iPod, iPhone or iPad using the wireless 30-pin transmitter (range 10 m) or from a USB equipped MAC/PC using the wireless USB transmitter (range 30 m).You can even have a wired option if you would, you can play wirelessly over your iPad, iPhone, or iPod and controller multiple Beat Speakers. I think this is the best wireless speaker I have seen yet, and for $595 it’s worth for those who need a speaker such as this.

Link: Libratone


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Network Access Points

DLINK_AP

There are a lot of access points out on the market, and I have tried quite a few, been through 2 Netgear, 2 Linksys, 1 Belkin, and 3 D-Link. Out of all them I would avoid Belkin, probably the worst out of all the products, was horrible out of the box, worse support and I would avoid all their products period. Linksys are good but not what it used to be, I still prefer the older models then the new consumer models. Netgear is nice when its working but after a while it would hang, I would have to plug it and unplug it, and one of them just stopped working. Overall the best solid products with little nonsense and high features are D-Link products.

Models

  • D-Link DAP 1160
  • D-Link 2100 AP
  • D-Link 7100 AP

What I like out of them is full security features, MAC Filter, DHCP control, simple setup, and reasonably priced.

Sonos S5

I have been an advocate of Sonos products for some time now, showing it to friends and how it integrates into your system provides for the perfect music playing system as well as all the other streaming features it has. I haven’t done a review Sonos yet probably because I have been too lazy to get to it and I want to do it justice. But now I’m talking about the perfect all in one Sonos unit which they are now offering, the Sonos S5. One thing that should be known about Sonos is that they are sound guys before anything else, they care about the quality of sound that is why they have always had solid products with perfect sound more then anything else and they have never lowered that standard. Now they have came with the integrated all in one solution which is the Sonos S5, previously their other units had to have separate speakers which works for certain situations.

It can connect to all the streaming options such as Pandora, Rhapsody, Last.fm, Sirius, and more. Then you can easily integrate into your iTunes music library and you get to see all your playlists, as well as other music databases, you just have to point it and it will play it. If its the only Sonos unit then you have to wire it into your network but if you have other Sonos unit in the house then you can connect through the wireless network as only one needs to be connected physically. You can control the Sonos S5 through a desktop controller on your computer, through the Sonos iTunes App which can be installed in your iPod Touch or iPhone, and through the Sonos SC100 or SC 200 controller. An amazing product that every music lover should have, the best part is getting those music services to hear all those new and different tunes which you might enjoy. Technically this is one very powerful product, it is a five driver speaker system – two tweeters, two 3” mid-range drivers, and one 3.5” woofer. Each driver of the product is individually powered by a dedicated amplifier ready to play music at volumes ready to break windows. All of this priced at $400 which isn’t too bad considered the quality of the product, Sonos products are never cheap.

Link: Sonos

ADSL Modem/Router

I have to ISP coming in and I have two different technical setups for them, but both of them are the same idea. An ADSL modem which is a attached to a router which handles the network. For past couple of weeks my internet from Qnet has been acting up, I have done pretty much every possible conceivable solution to try and remedy this but to no avail. I have decided to do some testing with my modem, I have feeling that its life has come to an end after 6 years of good service, its a Thompson ADSL Modem but I can’t really do any configuration on it when I try to access it, so I wanted to replace it. Called my Qnet and all they offer is the Linksys ADSL which was crap from Kems, I asked for a Cisco modem but they said that it is only for corporate customers and they don’t have that in stock.

I’m judging these modems by a few of the points listed below, the main point is stability and no issues then I go on to other testing.

Key Points for successful modem:

  • Faster Connection, with the newer modems surfing is substantially faster due to the better architecture, a Cisco modem is much more stable and faster the a Linksys modem and I have tried that first hand
  • FTP and VPN access without any issues
  • Extra features such a Port Forwarding, VPN configurable, Black or White Listing IPs & MAC addresses, DynDNS, and Wireless options

I have taken the options into my own hands, and after reading up online I decided to do some testing on affordable regular ADSL modems to post it up later. All the below have decent reviews and had their own problems and what they were good at, I’m going to test it to my preferences and see what I come up with as a winner.

  • D-Link ADSL Modem/Router/Wireless
  • D-Link ADSL Modem/Router
  • Actiontech ADSL Modem/Router/Wireless

Two Tier Solution

I had the Belkin ADSL which worked all nice and dandy for only a few days before funky things started happening. I wanted a one box solution which I could use for all my needs instead I got another bunch of headaches. If I left my desktop for more then a day it wouldn’t be able to access the internet, I would have to manually restart the router. If a laptop was put into standby I wouldn’t be able to connect to the wireless connection, again I would have to reboot the router. Another thing which really bothered me was that for some reason the connection was a bit slow whenever I did a traceroute there was always a long delay with a multiple websites, so after going through this hell for a couple of weeks I went back to my old solution.

I brought back the Cisco Modem and D-Link Router, as soon as I plugged it everything was back to normal. Browsing felt very fast and stable, I was downloading and browsing faster then before. Even when I was sharing the connection with the main PC I was having issues with it hanging. Now with this solution its working perfectly, my only gripe is that I can’t really do any configurations with the Cisco Modem, if I try anything from the console I will probably crash it, I can’t even access its web based interface, until I find somebody that can I will leave things as is.