Milhouse

Femtocell, Microcells, Picocells & Boosting Cell Phone Signal

Recommended Posts

Milhouse    355

Whatever happened to Femtocells?

My parents live in a relatively densely populated area that is served by very few cell towers resulting in really poor reception (particularly indoors).

My mum is on O2, my dad on Tesco (so basically both on O2) and I've enquired with O2 and BT (I've just switched from EE to BT and would switch my mum too on a family deal) but neither of them are offering any type of Femtocell or signal booster.

Does anyone have any idea which network operator is providing a magic box for those in really bad reception areas? Or is there a third-party option available (that's reasonably priced)?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hass    8

I think three still do but they have moved to an app now to use your tariff connected to a wifi

Sent from my STV100-4 using Tapatalk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Milhouse    355

Thanks - I guess I'll have to look into Vodaphone SIM only deals, hopefully they've got some fairly cheap ones. Probably mean switching both of them to Vodaphone though.

Looks like the cheapest SIM only deal is £9.50/month (12-month deal) or £11.50 (30-days). Something to ponder, thanks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Milhouse    355

So tomorrow (Tuesday) I'll be ordering a 12-month £9.50/month SIM-only deal from Vodafone for my mum (currently on O2, costing me about £15/month), plus a Sure Signal (£69 one-off from Vodafone shop). We'll see how that goes, and if it's all good then we'll switch my step dad over to Vodafone from Tesco.

@mcgrad I assume the Sure Signal is easy to configure and works well? I suppose ideally you shouldn't even know you're using it.

Although the economics of the femto cell solution is a bit odd when you think about it - you're paying to use (in this case a Vodafone) network that doesn't actually exist, and because it doesn't exist you have to pay extra to use a box that allows you to use the non-existent network over your own internet connection. WTF! You'd think there would be a discounted rate for users that are forced to overcome the lack of infrastructure investment by the network providers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
deebo007    15
7 hours ago, Milhouse said:

So tomorrow (Tuesday) I'll be ordering a 12-month £9.50/month SIM-only deal from Vodafone for my mum (currently on O2, costing me about £15/month), plus a Sure Signal (£69 one-off from Vodafone shop). We'll see how that goes, and if it's all good then we'll switch my step dad over to Vodafone from Tesco.

@mcgrad I assume the Sure Signal is easy to configure and works well? I suppose ideally you shouldn't even know you're using it.

Although the economics of the femto cell solution is a bit odd when you think about it - you're paying to use (in this case a Vodafone) network that doesn't actually exist, and because it doesn't exist you have to pay extra to use a box that allows you to use the non-existent network over your own internet connection. WTF! You'd think there would be a discounted rate for users that are forced to overcome the lack of infrastructure investment by the network providers.

1

I complained to Voda about poor signal and they put £69.99 credit onto my account so I could purchase a Sure SIgnal instore. Funny thing is the signal issue was resolved and the Sure Signal remains unused in it's box. Might stick it on eBay...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
mcgrad    74
8 hours ago, Milhouse said:

So tomorrow (Tuesday) I'll be ordering a 12-month £9.50/month SIM-only deal from Vodafone for my mum (currently on O2, costing me about £15/month), plus a Sure Signal (£69 one-off from Vodafone shop). We'll see how that goes, and if it's all good then we'll switch my step dad over to Vodafone from Tesco.

@mcgrad I assume the Sure Signal is easy to configure and works well? I suppose ideally you shouldn't even know you're using it.

Although the economics of the femto cell solution is a bit odd when you think about it - you're paying to use (in this case a Vodafone) network that doesn't actually exist, and because it doesn't exist you have to pay extra to use a box that allows you to use the non-existent network over your own internet connection. WTF! You'd think there would be a discounted rate for users that are forced to overcome the lack of infrastructure investment by the network providers.

Mine cam pre-configured by my employer with my mobile number setup. Otherwise you need to login to your Vodafone account page to set the Sure Signal. Once configured, it was as simple as plugging into wall. It has a pass through socket, so you don't lose a plug, if sockets are limited near your router. Connect the eithernet cable from your router into your Sure Signal, it will automatically connect after about 5 minutes,

My only comment is that it takes 5 minutes to reconfigure itself when you turn off at the mains, so i would leave it plugged into a socket that you do not turn off. Once configured it works really well, and pretty seamless.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Milhouse    355

Thanks chaps. Now looking at Three SIMs - £10/month on a 12-month contract with 1GB data. My 80 year old mum isn't likely to be a huger data user, but right off the bat that's a better deal than Vodafone who offer only 250MB for £9.50/month. A bonus is Three "Feels At Home" as my mum spends 6 months of the year in Cyprus so this might save her from using a local Cyprus SIM - I know they throttle data but that's no big deal for my mum. I think I'll phone Three CS and see if I can get the Home Signal for free with the SIM, otherwise order the SIM then call back later in a few days for the Home Signal.

Edit: Just read the small print: "You can’t use your minutes allowance to make calls to local or other international numbers, as you can only use your inclusive minutes to call UK numbers, whether you’re in the UK or a Feel At Home destination." so a local SIM/second phone might still be a good idea for local calls, but "Feel at home" would at least eliminate any worry my mum has about contacting the UK (as I pay her phone bills).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Milhouse    355

So that's the order with Three placed. No Home Signal as they think there's a good 3G/4G signal where my parents live so we agreed to test the SIM and follow it up if necessary.

I ordered the £10/month SIM, and they offered a discount of £2/month plus 2000 extra minutes/month (!) if I ordered the same SIM for my step-dad, as I mentioned we'd be switching him to Three if Three gives a better signal (zero bars) than his current Tesco (O2?) SIM.

So that's two SIMs I've ordered, for a total of £16/month, each with 2600 minutes, unlimited texts, 1GB data and "Feel at home". I think I've been paying about £15/month to O2 just for basic voice+text so it definitely pays to shop around...

Hopefully they work fine without the Home Signal, but if not I hope there won't be any issues getting hold of a Home Signal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Milhouse    355

Fcking three!

So. When I took out the contracts I explained I was interested in the Home Signal. The Sales guy convinced me there would not be a problem with the signal at my parents post code, but if there is I can get a Home Signal. I also needed a Nano (iPhone 5C) and a Micro-SIM (iPhone 4S), and the sales guy stated they only issued Nano SIMs but would send me a Pay-as-you-Go Micro-SIM adapter. He also quite clearly stated I would be getting "2600 minutes" of call time.

Problem 1) I never received the Pay-as-you-Go adapter with the SIMs, so I called up at the beginning of March and they sent me a Micro-SIM replacement.

Problem 2) I also pointed out that it only said 600 minutes on my invoice letter, and it was explained to me that the extra 2000 minutes are three-to-three only. Since 600 minutes is more than enough I'm not that fussed, but I made the point that it was not made clear these were three-to-three only minutes at the point of sale, and this is misselling. My "point was noted", but I doubt anything will change.

It's now 16 March, and I still haven't received the Micro-SIM replacement.

I wanted to post both SIMs to my parents who leave the country next week for 2 months, and as I won't now be able send both SIMs in time (and talk them through installing the SIMs, plus transfer existing phone numbers) I'm now stuck with 2 accounts that can't/won't be used for 2 months.

I called Three today to find out where the Micro-SIM had got to, only to be told it had been delivered on 7 March (it wasn't) and after explaining the situation regarding parents etc. and that it would be better if I cancelled both accounts I was swiftly passed on to escalations.

The escalation team are sending another Micro-SIM and cancelling the payments for the next two months, which is fine. There are also charges starting 8 March on the undelivered Micro-SIM but she couldn't explain what those charges are for as the full bill hasn't been generated - since that SIM will be cancelled/blocked now that a new Micro-SIM is being issued I agreed to leave that problem for later. I think that was probably a mistake on my part.

However at the end of the call I casually mentioned the possibility of eventually obtaining a Home Signal if the indoor signal is found to be bad in 2 months, only to be told (and she was adamant about this) that they don't provide the Home Signal any more. WTF??! It's still on their webite!

I'll activate the SIMs when my parents return to the UK in two months (it might even be 3, feck!) and if their signal is shite and I can't get a Home Signal I'll be cancelling both Three contracts (which I've been assured by the escalation representative will not be an issue despite them being 12 months contracts - I hope she's not wrong about that!)

So, a pretty p1ss poor experience thus far. Lies and mis-information. I really think I should have just cancelled both contracts and then tried this again in 2-3 months time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Rvn    103

As mentioned earlier, don't Three use an App to connect to WiFi instead of a femtocell?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Milhouse    355

Yes, and the Sales guy mentioned the app but I'd rather my parents didn't have to mess about with an app if they can just use their mobiles as they would normally (which would be the case with a Home Signal). So I pressed for a Home Signal and he said that getting one wouldn't be a problem if I needed one...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Milhouse    355

There's also the possibility that my mum might stop using the iPhone as she doesn't like it and prefers her old Nokia (got great taste, my Mum!) and the Nokia has no app capability.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
normal    346

Sounds like pretty poor CS :(. I've almost given up with UK networks. Only O2 were any good and they've offloaded CS. I choose on value only now as I presume sh!the service from the start 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Milhouse    355

So. Finally, this is now done!

My parents recently returned to the UK and then my 80 year old mum had to be rushed into hospital last Monday night (she's fine now - spinal stenosis, very painful - but don't get me started on the NHS, what a nightmare!). I went down there last Wednesday intending to stay a while and give my step-dad moral support in between hospital visits.

While there it gave me the oppurtunity to get them switched over to Three and, as expected, it was "No service". Not one bar, not zero bars, but "No service" (I did discover that if I stood by the plant pot at the foot of the garden I might get a sniff of a 3 signal after a few minutes). This however was totally expected, so I gave Three CS a call to request my Home Signal box...

CS: "We don't do the Home Signal any more".

Me: "Well I was assured I could have a Home Signal if needed, I specifically requested one when taking out the contracts, so you'd better put me through to cancellations"

CS: "Well there might be an exit fee as your on a 12-month contract"

Me: "No, there won't be any exit fee, there won't be a charge of any sort as these contracts have been mis-sold".

CS: "I'll put you through to Escalations"

And eventually, after about 3 hours on the phone to CS on Saturday, I managed to get a Home Signal that arrived on Wednesday.

I then started to port the two numbers across from Tesco and O2, which I'm sure took longer than the Ofcom required time period of up to two working days - I requested the ports on Saturday, they both completed late on Wednesday, although there was a Bank Holiday in between (however this is an automated process so weekends and bank holidays should be irrelevant). Possibly a bit of a risk porting the numbers before the Home Signal arrived but I had to get my mum off her basic O2 account as that has been costing me a small fortune thanks to her recently acquired iPhone 4S which eats data - the O2 account has no data allowance, while the new Three account has 1GB/month that I'm hoping will be enough.

The Home Signal arrived Wednesday as promised. Dead easy to connect, just plug it into the router. Three CS had of course already added the two Three numbers on the Saturday, so I had to change them both to the new ported-in numbers which required another phone call to the dedicated Home Signal CS support line (extra numbers, up to 32, can be added via an online form). The change took effect within 30 minutes, after which both phones went from "No Service" to a full 5 bars. Terrific!

I did ask the network person why they no longer make the Home Signal easily available and they replied that they'd rather push people towards WiFi calling etc. which I can understand, but when you just want a service "that works" with any phone (smart or not - my mum has an iPhone 4S but hates it) then a femto cell is by far the best option.

To be honest, Three CS have been pretty good. The network woman I spoke to (UK based) that eventually agreed to send me a Home Signal was great, as have been most of the front-line CS people I've spoken with (India based). Only one has been poor, UK based, that I had to deal with when getting the missing SIMs replaced.

Other (somewhat related stuff): My parents only have a really cr@p 512KB ADSL "broadband" service from Sky which I've been meaning to get sorted out for a while (the Home Signal needs a minimum of 1MBps but actually works fine on 512KBps), so after a quick call to Sky I got them on to Sky Fibre Unlimited for an extra £1 and 1p - they already pay £10/month for unlimited broadband, and can have Sky Fibre Unlimited for £20/month, but as they're long term customers they had an £8.99 discount on their account so that was a total no brainer. Minimum 20Mbps on 13 June. Happy days. New Sky Q Hub too (though it has only two Gigabit ports and not four Gigabit ports like the old Sagem so I had to nip out to Maplin and buy a 5-port switch).

I also installed Homeplug 1200-AV2 to upgrade the existing 85Mbps Homeplug network from the router to the computer room now that they'll be getting a decent internet connection, and as that room has no WiFi coverage I installed a Homeplug socket with 11ac WiFi. Works a treat.

One downer was that, if you recall, I mentioned the following a while back:


It's now 16 March, and I still haven't received the Micro-SIM replacement.


Well, we worked out what had happened there.

Once I'd activated the Nano SIM for my mum I was able to access the online account and discover a) the account had been upgraded on 21 March from 1GB to 4GB (costing me an extra £5/month) and a £3 rolling weekly subscription to "Badoo" (apparently a dating site of some kind) had been set up costing me £12/month, all active for Mar/Apr/May.

I called Three CS, mentioned there had been fraudulent activity and was put through to their fraud team (possibly based in Scotland, judging by the accent).

It turns out that Three send out their SIMs already activated - he didn't know why, but really wished they didn't as it would avoid situations like this. After he ran various checks and viewed where the undelivered SIM had been used he could see it was geographically nowhere near me (or my mum) and had obviously been intercepted in the post and then used, and he was happy to refund all line costs prior to 21 March, and also refund all Badoo charges (and contact Badoo on my behalf to ensure those rolling subscription charges now ended).

Although the charges are still showing on my account (I'll follow it up next week - I have his direct dial number) I really couldn't fault him for the way he handled the issue. So props to Three CS again.

It's been a long process, which has been partly my fault for not being able to use the SIMs immediately and having to wait 3 months etc. But I've got there in the end - hopefully the Badoo charges will be dropped soon - and overall I'm very happy, and it's been worth it to get the Home Signal installed and ensure my parents have a reliable mobile signal.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Milhouse    355

I guess the moral of this story is: persevere.

Three might not like to admit it but they will give you a Home Signal ("while stocks last") if you a) live in a signal deadspot* and b) don't use an iOS/Android smart phone as that means means WiFi calling via an app is not an option

Admittedly I did have to fib a bit about the WiFi calling, but it was only a white lie as my mum might go back to her old Nokia which she prefers to the iPhone and the Home Signal means she can do this if she chooses to do so.

*Unlike the front-line sales team, the network support person I spoke with - that issued the Home Signal - could see my parents post code is a signal deadspot

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
normal    346

Blimey!

All seems a bit of a pullava, but glad you got exactly what your parents needed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Rvn    103

Not a badoo result in the end. I've not had to deal with poor signal reception for my parents, so giffgaff is ideal. But Sky are absolutely looting them and their routers are pathetic. They are on some fibre deal but it's still a very expensive service for what they get with TV and phone services. I wish they were savvy enough to use kodi etc. Those home plugs are brilliant and allow them to surf the net and print wirelessly from anywhere in their house from their iPad.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
normal    346

I use homeplugs. The only complaint I've got is having to sometimes switch my wifi on /off when wandering between rooms as handover doesn't work very well.

I've looked at the mesh solutions, but the price puts me off.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Milhouse    355

I spent quite a while testing the WiFi handover which worked pretty seamlessly (at least on Android, forgot to test iOS!)

The Sky Q Hub has both 2.4GHz and 5GHz, and is supplied with both configured to use the same SSID by default (which I changed to the old Sky SSID rather than reconfigure everyones phone & tablet). I then configured the Homeplug WiFI SSID to match, it also has 2.4GHz and 5GHz, so in the end I had one SSID configured twice on 2.4GHz and twice on 5GHz (all with identical WPA2/AES security etc.).

Moving about the house from one WiFi "zone" to another using an Android WiFi analyzer I could see the WiFi client automatically dropping off one access point and joining the other as it discovered a stronger signal.

The Homeplugs I purchased were from Solwise.

My parents were on a bad telephone deal - they have Sky, but were paying through the nose for local and international calls - up to about £50/month in call costs (my mum is a talker...) so I got them International Talk Extra (or something like that) which costs a flat rate £12/month but ultimately should save them £40+/month as it gives free local/international calls (up to 1 hour). I also swapped the Sky Variety TV package for Sky Original which saved another £10/month, but did then upgrade them from a single Sky Sports 1 channel (£14/month!) to the full Sky Sports package (£20/month for 18 months, rising to £27.50, which my step-father wanted). All in all, with TV upgrades, telephone extras and Sky Fibre, their monthly bill dropped from a variable £140+ to a fixed £95 (for the next 18 months). As a whole, still bl**dy expensive though. But I doubt I'll find cheaper unlimited fibre broadband than £11.01 (not including line rental).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
normal    346

I set up my homeplugs in a similar configuration, but maybe it's because I'm using Tp-link that I'm having problems 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Rvn    103

I don't even know what wifi handover is but I configured TP-Link plugs the same way with no issues. Devolo plugs didn't work at all though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now