Friday, July 22, 2016

4G issue with Optus and Galaxy S7

Screenshot_20160722-075102

It didn’t take too long for me to find a problem with my new handset. At work, I was getting marginal 4G strength (like 1 bar and it sometimes dropped to zero bars) and the browsing speed was terrible. It would take seconds to load a simple website like Google.com. But when the signal strength drops below some set threshold, it would automatically switch to 3G as it should (I think the data is HSPA+ as it shows an H near the clock) and the speeds returned to being very good. I’m only talking about browsing speeds here, not SpeedTest speeds.

Getting lower 4G speeds than 3G speeds is a messed up situation to begin with. The Galaxy S7 wasn’t helping to make the situation any better either. I wish I could override this fallback threshold, but it is not possible. The only way to get good speeds was to manually limit Network mode to 3G from the Settings app. Once that’s done, it works pretty well. But I lose features like VoLTE because of this. Whether or not it is a useful feature is yet to be seen, but it is a feature the network and the phone support, so I would like to make use of it.

Near the office, these are my LTE and 3G Speedtest results.

The S7’s software has some location based automation capabilities built in, but it does not let me switch the Network mode. That’s a shame, otherwise I could do this automatically based on my location.

This was a non-issue with the Nexus 5 because I have never seen it operating in 4G mode at work. Either the radio transmitters aren’t good or that fallback threshold is higher than what’s set in the S7. Either way, I still got good speed with the Nexus 5. Good speeds in the sense, there was no perceptible lag.

I asked about this on the Whirlpool forums and one guy said he also gets only 1 bar of 4Gsignal strength but his speeds are still very good. He was convinced that this issue was not a signal strength issue but a congestion issue. I don’t know what’s the percentage of 3G to 4G users is, but I wouldn’t expect 4G to be already congested.

Last night I had a chat with a Optus Network agent last night and I tested the Speedtest results against my wife’s Nexus 5 which has a Vaya SIM in it but it uses the same Optus network. Here are the results. But this is at home, and 4G is actually faster than 3G around here.

  LTE Download LTE Upload 3G Download 3G Upload
Nexus 5 19.81Mbps 12.43Mbps 8.28Mbps 2.33Mbps
Galaxy S7 13.36Mbps 6.28Mbps 7.60Mbps 1.64Mbps
 
Note: You can click on the links to see SpeetTest results. You’ll have to ignore what the network indicator shows near the clock though. I couldn’t take the screenshots soon after running the tests and I had already switched the network to what I was going to try next. I did not want to redo the tests because it eats up a lot of data.

It does not look right at all. How come the S7 have lower speeds than the Nexus 5? The Optus agent scratched his head and asked for my phone number. Then he had a voila moment and said he’ll be back in a few seconds. When he came back, he said that the Cell tower in Huntingdale, which I was connected to, was being upgraded at the moment and the speeds should improve after the 23rd.

Still does not make sense why the Nexus 5 was faster. I bet it was using the same Cell tower. Perhaps not. No way to check though.

What the agent said was true about the Cell tower being upgraded though. Probably the frequency the Nexus 5 was connected at and the S7 was connected at were different and only the Nexus 5’s frequency was stable. It sounds as if I am trying to defend Optus or the S7.

Cell tower upgrade

Nearest Cell towers for me

Cell tower upgrade info

Cell tower info for the Huntingdale tower

Looks like I will have to come back to this article after the 23rd to see if the upgrades made any improvement. Hopefully it does, because I don’t want to restrict the network. According to the map, it is very close to my workplace.

BTW, this is the Cell tower in question. I took a photo of it on the way to work.

20160722_082624

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