24 Dec 2012

Vodacom LTE Network tips

I recently activated a Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE to try out Vodacom's next generation LTE data network - Here are a few hints and tips I picked up along the way:
  1. LTE is not available on prepaid - You need to have a Vodacom contract to activate LTE.
  2. You can activate LTE on your contract yourself by logging in to vodacom.co.za or calling 111, but...
  3. You can't activate LTE on a 32K SIM card (this is not a problem on micro SIMs)
  4. You can activate LTE on a data SIM that is linked to a primary Vodacom contract as long as your primary number is on a 64K SIM card (or higher). I had to do a SIM swap on my primary 32K SIM at a cost of R63 (and activation of the linked data SIM cost R90).
  5. It may be helpful to set the 'Network mode' to WCDMA or GSM only and then manually 'select a network operator' while you are trying to get set up. My test phone could not locate a data signal for the first time while it was in 'Auto mode'. I think it's because I didn't have LTE coverage at the time, you can check Vodacom LTE coverage here.
  6. There is a glitch with a batch of the LTE version of the Samsung Galaxy S3 where the phone will prompt your for a 'network unlock code' at first boot (unfortunately I got one of the bad batch). You need to phone Samsung SA (08607267864) and have your IMEI number handy to get this problem sorted.
  7. LTE is fast, 46% faster than HSDPA in my initial speed tests, so you might like to set your device to only update apps over WiFi if you can (under Settings in the Play Store) - Otherwise your updates could run while you are out (and all your data will be gone) before you have a chance to realise what's happened. Alternatively you can control 'Automatic updating' at an individual app level in the Play Store as well. I'd recommend a fairly strict approach as Vodacom LTE really tears through data.
  8. You can extend your battery life (and manage your data consumption quite well) by setting your 'Network mode' to 'GSM only' for day to day use as this setting is fine for most web browsing and email type tasks. Only switch over to WCDMA or LTE for specific data hungry tasks like downloads and watching YouTube, then switch back to GSM when you are done.
Hope you find my tips helpful. Please add any additional ones you may know in the comments...

23 Dec 2012

Vodacom 4G LTE data network speed test results

I have been entrusted with a gorgeous Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE handset from Vodacom to put their new LTE data network (also referred to as 4G) to the test. Here are the results of my initial speedtest.net tests conducted in the Emmarentia area, Johannesburg, South Africa....

Note that the signal strength indicator dropped to 3/4 bars during the '4G'/LTE test so I will need to find a location where I can get full strength and then retest to reveal the full potential of the Vodacom LTE network. (Update: I have since located an area with full Vodacom 4G signal and I actually achieved less impressive results than with 75% signal, but I will keep scouting...)

None the less, I am already impressed by the speed on offer by the Vodacom LTE data network in spite of not having full signal - LTE download test results are 46% faster than HSDPA and LTE upload test results are an amazing 432% faster than HSDPA (at the same location).

You can also get a feel for every day Vodacom LTE performance here or get Vodacom LTE network tips here.

Vodacom 4G/LTE speedtest.net results, Emmarentia, Johannesburg


Vodacom HSDPA/3G speedtest.net results, Emmarentia, Johannesburg

For what it's worth, I got about 2.5Mbps download and 1Mbps upload on Vodacom LTE with 1 bar of signal strength, so network performance is better on full signal HSDPA than average / low signal LTE.