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Journey with Three's 5G in London

Created on 2019-08-22 in categories network , security
Tagged as: three , 5g , network , mobile broadband , customer service

Description of issues with Three's 5G service.

Welcome to Three 5G

Three rolled out the 5G home broadband earlier this week and naturally as a happy customer of theirs I’ve been one of the first who signed up for it. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for months, excited for reasonable speeds, decreased latency and is a great choice to avoid waits for the engineers to come over and flip the switch in your exchange.

Day 0 : 2008

1 PM Brand new Huawei 5G broadband router arrived midday after placing an order evening before. I’ve managed to pick it up straight from the DPD courier ( Many thanks! Absolutely fantastic service ), connected it straight away, allowed it to boot up - all the lights lit green - I was good to go, at least I thought so. Connecting to the router’s WiFi network, starting the speedtest app and first disappointment of the day - multiple tests showed an average of 0.4-0.6 Mbit/s. Alright, I need to get back to work, will check in the evening.

8 PM Multiple speedtests ran, speeds on the same level, rarely reaching 0.9 Mbit/s. I’ve checked everything on my end:

  • Great signal ( 5 bars 5G, 5 bars 4G ) on the router
  • Reset it to the factory settings
  • Checked diagnostic page ( “stats for nerds” ) for the RAW connectivity information.

8:30 PM - Raised issue with the router on the Three support chat. I’ve mentioned all the problems, symptoms, they called - yet the script reading “support” insisted on basic troubleshooting aka “how many lights can you see, can you check the router dashboard page” and so on. After asking them to redirect me to the proper tech support multiple times, they finally tried to redirect me to the technical support, the call I’ve been disconnected from after picking options. Called the support again, described the situation and they provided me with number 03306866800 - which doesn’t seem to work anyway ( Give it a go, pick any option, listen to “call may be recorded” and get disconnected ).

I gave up for the night with contacting them, decided to do some poking around on my end instead.

Observations at the end of day 1:

  • “Standard” traffic - browsing, wget of ubuntu ISO, so on - 0.4-0.8 Mbit/s
  • Speedtest.net - 0.4-0.8 Mbit/s
  • Streaming of 8K 60fps video from youtube - 160-280 Mbit/s
  • Openspeedtest ( html5 only ) - 160-280 Mbit/s

Day 1 : 2108

8:30 AM. I’ve started the morning with a call to the broadband support (the number found on ThreeBroadband website ), sharing all the findings from the evening before. The person on the other side decided to escalate it to the backend team and promised me the call back as soon as he hears back from them. Before that I’ve been asked to open 192.168.8.1 ( router management page ), I told him I’ll open 192.168.50.1 instead as I’ve changed the network addressing to fit my home setup, he really insisted on me opening the 8.1 instead. That’s the disadvantage of hiring script readers with no understanding or will to listen, I believe.

8:00 PM. Decided to perform more tests due to intriguing discoveries from the previous evening. I’ve noticed that Huawei 5G home broadband thing supports VPN connectivity. Let’s give it a go - as a tech person, who also enjoys travelling I have few VPN accounts with multiple providers ( In case one of them would be blocked ). Connected to the first one, ran the speedtest - boom. 160 Mbit/s. Multiple followup speedtests with and without the VPN connected confirmed my theory.

8:30 PM. Called the support again, hoping to reach them before closing. They haven’t heard anything from the “backend engineers” yet. Yay.

I’ve realised that both frustration and anxiety started kicking in on my side every time I even think about either contacting or being contacted by Three “support” team.

Day 2 : 2208

9 AM. Shower thought - What if I’ll ask my wife, to get Three 5G broadband in her maiden name, and when router arrives I’ll put it next to mine and test the speed & service on both.

10 AM. Call from the Three support, “still investigating”, asked me to reset the router. I’ve asked what’s the point if the router was reset a few times already and I’m actually on my way to work - how can he even expect someone being at home at that time. A bit ridiculous, I’d say. Anyway - I’ve promised I’ll reset the router during my lunch break so he can call me ( for whatever reason ).

I’ve informed the support person that about my plan in regards to the second router, asking him “What are you going to say then?” I have also asked if it’s possible to create a new, blank account for me and assign the simcard to the newly created account which he refused to do so.

1 PM. Came back home earlier to reset the router, just as they requested during the 10 AM call. Not sure what it has changed, definitely nothing in the speed terms.

4:30 PM. I’ve been waiting for the promised call ( “between 2 and 3 PM” ) from the Three support, with the update on my case. 1.5h after the deadline I decided to call them instead just to hear they need 24h more to come back with the solution and that they haven’t heard back from the backend people yet. Quite weird for communication company to have such communication issues internally. Decided to record screen capture of symptoms.

Day 3 : 2308

9:30 PM. After whole day of waiting for the call ( which never happened ) I’ve decided to call my favourite tech support number again where quite nice consultant performed “diagnostics” again and said that she’s going to escalate it to the technical team. I thought it happened on day 1, so turns out that I’ve been lied to as nobody even heard of that escalation ( according to my account notes ). This gets even more ridiculous now. Anyway - technical support is supposed to call me within 24 hours and I need to be present next to the hub ( for some weird reason, probably to reset it for the 5th time ). They don’t even understand that THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THE HUB, THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THE SIM CARD, THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THE SIGNAL - if any of those components would fail - either openspeedtest or VPN connectivity would definitely show that.

## Day 4 : 2408 6:15 PM. Random call from the “2nd line support” expecting me to be next to the router to use the app for diagnostics. Probably the same app Relish used before, just rebranded. Of course I’m definitely going to spend WHOLE SUNNY SATURDAY at home waiting for someone to call me. I’ve asked him to call me within an hour as I’m driving back home. Reply was “I finish my shift soon”. We’ve scheduled another call for tomorrow between 12 and 3 PM. Surprisingly someone from Three replied to my post on their Facebook, thumbs up to -Jacq for at least trying.

8:45 PM. Got bored and decided to perform a little comparison test, before anyone says “it’s definitely the signal issue”. Yes, according to the Three map I live EXACTLY within the signal area, also - signal does not explain VPN / No-VPN behaviour mentioned before.

Speed tests performed at the same location, within seconds between.

## Day 5 : 2508 12:20 PM. 15 minutes call from the 2nd level of support. After going through the “please download the app, press this and that” which allowed them to receive additional debugging information, then asking me to connect my computer via cable to the router and run the speed test. Result: “I’m going to escalate it to the network team and will call you back in few hours”. 2nd line support person said I’m not the only one with this problem. Well.. Good to know, but should I be happy about it? On my question on “Why Three 4G works just fine ( on the other device ) but 5G broadband is just a display of 90’s speeds I’ve heard that they’re not really related to Three and are separate company.

4:45 PM. 2 minutes call happened, with information on “brave networking team going to investigate”

Day 6 : 2608

Enjoying bank holiday day out, sun and fresh air, no contact from ThreeBroadband.

Day 16 : 05/09

Came back from short holidays, still no contact from the ThreeBroadband or Three itself. Received an e-mail with first bill for my “amazing” 5G broadband instead. Download speeds are the same as before, upload speed doubled to 40mbit/s. I’ve decided to contact Three on support chat asking them about the progress, called their customer service at the same time. just to hear the popular story about “problems with tower” - funnily enough, nobody was able to provide me with explanation why upload speeds look reasonable, and download is just fine when I’m connected to the VPN and what does it have to do with the tower.

I have refused bill waiver offer, I have also refused additional 14 days to cancel my contract “after the issue will be resolved”. I have refused both offers as it’s almost 3rd week into 8 weeks of waiting time until I can refer the case to the Communication Ombudsman Service. I’ve been promised the call back within 24 hours.

Day 17: 06/09

Issue resolved but I will closely monitor as speeds became reasonable 32233, with midnight drop to 2514 (which could be a temporary issue). I’ve received call this morning to confirm issue being fixed on the mast side (still, have no idea where the weird VPN/Non-VPN behaviour came from). I’ve asked for another call back in the evening so we can verify that speed and connectivity are stable.

This post will be updated regularly, whenever something new comes up and/or issue will be sorted.

Discoveries so far ( updated as the case progress )

  • “Standard” traffic - browsing, wget of ubuntu ISO, so on - 0.4-0.8 Mbit/s
  • Speedtest.net - 0.4-0.8 Mbit/s
  • Streaming of 8K 60fps video from youtube - 160-280 Mbit/s
  • Openspeedtest ( html5 only ) - 160-350 Mbit/s
  • Whole traffic over VPN - 160-200 Mbit/s ( vpn provider limitation )

Summary & theory

Three’s 5G traffic in my case ( and few other people on twitter from what I’ve noticed ) is filtered and limited for no reason and goes through unspecified location which is definitely immoral and very possibly illegal. Three’s support is not able to figure this out and playing the “basic troubleshooting” game to buy some time.

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