Vodafone Sure Signal: not suitable for mobile broadband

Sigh; it’s been another long, long rugby match length phone call with Vodafone.

Paul from the second line technical was an absolutely star but the reason the phone call was quite so long it that we were trying to untangle why my mobile broadband is so slow when connecting via a Sure Signal box.

The background was a series of emails to and from Customer Services where the common themes were (a) inconsistent information about how Sure Signal and mobile broadband interact, (b) what sort of speeds you can get for mobile broadband via Sure Signal and (c) answering my emails in such haste / with such stock replies that the emails sent to me didn’t actually address the points I’d raised in my emails.

What seems to be the case is that there is widespread ignorance amongst Vodafone staff as to how Sure Signal and mobile broadband work together. Unfortunately, rather than therefore there being lots of people who say “I don’t know”, there are lots of people who give wrong or incomplete answers to questions such as, “What speed can I expect if my mobile broadband is being piped via the Sure Signal box?” or “Does the data I use count against the data volumes with my fixed line broadband ISP as well as counting against the data volumes for my Vodafone mobile broadband contract?”.

So here’s what I’ve finally learnt, with the help of Paul:

  • If you are using mobile broadband with a Sure Signal box, the data goes down your fixed line broadband. Therefore any congestion on the ISP’s network will have an impact. In addition, data downloads will count against your total downloads with your ISP.
  • The connection speed will be much, much slower than that of your fixed line broadband. At first I was told that it would be a bit less (because some of the connection is used for managing the Sure Signal box) and also could be reduced if you have other devices using the fixed line at the same time (e.g. a desktop computer).
  • However, that’s not really the full story. Both are true – but in fact the limiting speed factor is the design of my Sure Signal box, which only provides a 3G signal with a 384 kbps download speed.

In other words, far far slower than a mobile broadband connection from Vodafone should be.

So rather a shame that the person in the shop when asked “Does it work with mobile broadband?” said “Yes” rather than “Yes, but…”. Rather a shame too that the people in the Sure Signal support team, when having their own customer service meltdown with me, never mentioned this issue either even when checking that my portable with mobile broadband SIM had registered correctly with the Sure Signal. Also rather odd that none of the documentation I got with the Sure Signal box made this clear. After all, we’re all used to the small footnote that explains how your broadband speed may well not be the advertised headline figure.

Ah well. Given how hard it was for Paul to dig out the answer, credit to Paul for that but the conclusion surely is – don’t use Sure Signal for mobile broadband.

7 responses to “Vodafone Sure Signal: not suitable for mobile broadband”

  1. Question. Why on gods green earth would you use a 3G device, which by its very nature is limited to 384kbps, when you have a fixed broadband line?? I can’t see any plausible reason. The VSS was designed with one purpose in mind… To give those who get a poor signal 5 bars of signal. Does this mean you have 3G data capabilities? Yes. But that is never what it was designed for. Your 3G dongle being limited to 384kbps is a limitation of telecommunications technology in the UK. Not of your dongle, the VSS or virgin. If you buy a new car and you ask if it will go fast and the dealer says yes, do you hold the dealer responsible when it doesn’t break the sound barrier?

    The VSS emits a 3G signal and the data packets are then sent via your network, so of course this data will count against your virgin quota.

    Why are you not using wifi??

    Sorry if I sound miffed but I work for a tech company and it upsets me when people load the blame onto the the providers of their technology. The very fact that a company can provide the solution of setting up a mini cell mast in your livingroom, pumping out a signal, which it can then send via the Internet back to a mobile network is awesomely complex technology, and it is simplified to the point which you the user and Paul the tech guy can just get your heads around it. Of course things will go wrong. Of course it won’t work perfectly. But nothing new does. Like it or lump it.

  2. AA: The answer’s simple – I had a fixed broadband line, but no WiFi. My hope (and question) was that getting a Sure Signal box might therefore do two things in one go – both improve the mobile phone signal at home for use with my phone and also improve the mobile broadband signal at home for use with my portable.

    *If* it were the case that the Sure Signal box could boost mobile broadband without introducing a lower speed limit that would have meant one piece of equipment doing two jobs rather than two separate pieces of equipment to pay for, configure, sort if they ever have any problems and so on.

    I think your analogy with the car dealer is a bit misplaced, because a better one would be if you ask a better analogy would be if you ask “Can it pull a caravan?”, are told “Yes” and then subsequently discover the coupling to the caravan is so weak the car can’t pull a caravan at more than 5 mph. The “Yes” wasn’t really a full and useful answer in that situation was it?

    Giving an answer that doesn’t tell the full story, and other mistakes such as supplying an instruction leaflet that doesn’t match up with how the device behaves, are it seems to me completely fair things to blame Vodafone for. What upsets me about some providers of technology is the idea that such poor customer service should be what you expect 🙂

  3. Just wanted to take issue with Anon Amos on Vodafone download speeds, He said “Your 3G dongle being limited to 384kbps is a limitation of telecommunications technology in the UK” This is utter rubbish and has been for some time. Google HSDPA. VF have theoretical speeds of up to 14.4Mbps. You wont get anything like that outside of a lab though. But 3, 4 or 5Mbps should be acheivable. The HSDPA speed depends on where you live, Major Cities will have it. Towns will be getting 7.2 and if you live in the sticks then 3.6-7.2 is best you can hope for.

    For the author, buy a WiFi router and a WiFi USB and your problems will be solved.

  4. I have an Android BT Mobile as part of my Total BT Broadband deal as well as two other Vodaphone provided mobiles. The BT Mobile service provider is actually Vodaphone. Guess what: the Vodaphone Suresignal box I have will not let the BT Mobile use the Suresignal box because the BT Mobile SPID (Service Provider ID) is not Vodaphone…….Groan. Naturally the Vodaphone answer is to have the number and new contract transferred to Vodaphone. Might be worth raising this as part of the Mobile Coverage review. I am quite happy to have a Femtocell in my house to get a better signal – however I want it to be use it with *all* networks and service providers. My view is that the current arrangement whilst not strictly anti-competitive is designed to make competition more difficult. The regulator should insist these devices are required to be made open and that would be to the benefit of all customers as well as getting improved coverage across the country.

  5. Hi
    I work for a Vodafone Platinum Partner in Mobile and IT Support Desk, i would never recommend a Dongle (mobile broadband) to be linked with a sure signal, there not designed for that, they are only designed to work with your mobile to give you access to make and receive calls inside when normally you would not be able to, not to download to a laptop or desktop through a mobile broadband.
    if you have a Fix internet, then use that.

  6. @Mark Pack but a Access Point there cheap and would make sure home fixed connection Accessible.

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