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New York, NY

1 edit

Is U600 Modem Unfair To 3G Network?

I decided to post the following message to a Sprint forum as well, located at »community.sprint.com/baw/thread/64828 . It pertains to the persistent problem I started having with my Sprint 3G connection back in September. I've posted voluminous messages concerning the problem in this forum, so I figured that some of you might be interested in knowing what finally appears to have solved it.

Here's my story (and I'm sticking to it).

Last September my 3G laptop connection went into the dumpster, after having functioned very well for almost two years. The download speeds became completely unusable (curiousy enough, the upload speeds were normal most of the time). I could barely download email and most web pages wouldn't even load. As for streaming, what's streaming? It couldn't even complete any of the standard speedtests (Speedtest, Speakeasy, etc. etc.).

I called Sprint and at first they told me to swap to a different modem. I currently had the 3G only 598U. They recommended I switch to the U600 4G/3G modem, since 4G was around the corner in New York, which is where I live. I did so; no improvement.

For all of October and half of November I had no useful Internet connection at all. Finally, when 4G came on line later in November, I upgraded my account to 4G/3G and started using 4G, with which I was generally happy (though I'd still be happier if they would lift the upload 1 mbps cap a bit, since I'd be perfectly happy with a lower cap on the download side, say 8 mpbs, if it meant a 2 mbps cap on the upload side).

Around January Sprint informed me that they had repaired the speed problem for 3G in my area and they asked me to try 3G again, which I did. They were right; the speed problem had been corrected. But that had been replaced by persistent connectivity problems. About once every 30 to 90 minutes, I'd bump into severe connectivity turbulence, usually lasting 5 to 10 minutes. This turbulence would manifest itself in one of the following three ways:

1) My connection would drop from EVDO Rev A to 1xRTT.

2) My connectivity would drop out completely, even though the Smartview stil would claim that I was connected. Anything I tried to download, email, web pages, etc, my apps would react as if I was disconnected, saying things like "This server is not available, did you type the address correctly, etc. etc.

2) I really WOULD be disconnected officially, and would be so informed by my Smartview. About half of the time I would be able to reconnect immediately. About half of the time, this condition would be supplemented by the message "Mobile Radio Off". When this happened, it would be several minutes before I could reconnect.

I reported all of this back to Sprint, who said there was nothing more they could do except to refer it to their tower folks in NYC, a company called Ericsson.

I waited for two and a half months for Ericsson to get to me. Finally they showed up in my apartment, and ran extensive tests, both with my computer and modem, and with their own. They established to their satisfaction that there was nothing wrong with the 3G network.

They then concluded that the three-month speed problem in 2010 was caused by a problem in the Sprint network, just as I had been informed. However they concluded that because the 3G network was down for the entire time from October through the end of December, and because I had not actually succeeded in getting a normal-speed 3G connection EVER with the new U600 modem within that time frame, it was therefore logical to assume that the 3G speed problem from last year and the connectivity problems from this year were NOT related, and that Sprint had been in error when they had so concluded (to be fair to Sprint, I had concluded that the speed problem and the connectivity problem were related too). Furthermore they then concluded that the connectivity problems were related to something wrong with my modem rather than to something wrong with the network in the area.

They then proceeded to test their theory. They created a temporary 3G only account, and gave me a Novatel Wireless PC card with which to connect to it. They asked me to use it for a few days (assuming the connection was usable and I wasn't forced to switch back to my usual 4G out of sheer necessity). I did so.

The results were truly sobering: I had no major problems whatsoever. Yes, there were a few fluctuations in signal strength, in which the signal would drop from a full six bars all the way down to zero bars about once every 3 or 4 hours. This would only last about 2 or 3 seconds however, and performance was never affected. Anyway, I remained connected to the card for a full four days, and my experience never changed; it was clear that the 3G network itself was healthy, hale and hearty in my area. So what to do?

Sprint's powers that be, in their wisdom, decreed that I was to be given a new U600, and that the old one was to be labeled defective. I seriously doubted that they could be right. As far as I could tell, on the 4G side my modem had always operated quasi-successfully, with good speeds and good ping. My instinct was screaming that there was an incompatibility of some sort between the U600's firmware and my local 3G network, and that there was nothing "defective" in my first U600 modem at all. Therefore I needed to be given A DIFFERENT MODEL of modem.

Sprint would hear nothing of it, and dismissed my thoughts out of hand. They insisted I do a swap of a U600 with a U600, which I finally did last Monday.

What do you know? The performance was just as lousy on the 3G as before, and the upshot was that after one day Sprint saw the light and FINALLY swapped me with a different model, the Sierra Wireless U250.

I started using the U250 today, and really put it through its paces, browsing, email and, of course, checking out its speed. Most importantly, I activated a 391k video stream, and just let it play for several hours. After six hours of trouble-free continuous play, I've concluded that it is obvious what's going on here. The U250 has no problem with the 3G network in my area. The U600 has a big problem with the 3G network in area.

What the ??????

Anyway, after months of hassle, it appears that I have finally solved this six-month old problem with my 3G network. While it took a ridiculously long and frustrating time to do so, at least it yielded what may be important information, leading to an equally important question, which is as follows:

Have any of you experienced similar problems on the 3G network with your U600 modem, and were they resolved by switching to a different model?


New York, NY
Well, it looks like the problem wasn't that simple.

After a whole week of trouble-free 3G performance on the U250, trouble struck. On the morning of Monday, March 21st, the 3G performance went into the toilet again, exhibiting the same symptoms that had plagued the two U600 modems.

Tech Support immediately told me to stop using the 3G network, and only use 4G unless it wasn't available in my area. They said they would send a ticket to the network team.

The network team came back saying their network was fine, and requested that the local corporate store swap my modem again, this time with an Overdrive, which they did yesterday.

The performance on the Overdrive not only was no better on the 3G side than the U600, it also exhibited erratic speed swings on the 4G side.

So today the store told me that they were no longer guaranteeing 3G in my area due to several outages, and gave me a $10 discount on my 4G/3G plan!!

But the store also told me they had been experiencing 3G problems themselves ever since 4G began rolling out in October, which was just around the time my 3G went into the toilet.

The store also theorized that 3G only modems may have an easier time with 3G than the 4G/3G modems. So they told me to explore with Sprint the possibility of my having two modems, one for the 4G and one for the 3G.

In the meantime, they told me there was a chance they were wrong. There was a chance that the problem I had with the 250 on the 21st, after it had worked perfectly on 3G for a week, might have been an isolated freakish glitch, since overall the 250 had performed better with 3G than any of the other 4G/3G devices.

So they have put me back on the 250 for now. About a half hour after I got back from the store the Sprint rep who's been handling my case called me to ask how things went at the store, and I told her about the store's suggestion that I be given two devices. She told me she would get back to me about that tomorrow. In any event, for now I am trying to stay connected on 3G again instead of 4G, since I am once again trying to establish whether the 250 can work better with the 3G than does the U600 and the Overdrive.

In which regard, I would really like to know if any of you can shed some light on the following question: Have any of you had problems or noticed issues with 3G performance when using 4G/3G modems? Have you had to swap your modems with different models to correct them?

Regardless, at the moment, here's what I'm getting on my 3G:

No, not fabulous speeds, but at least they exceed Sprint's minimum specs of 600k and 350k respectively.

You know, if you think about it, my need for decent and reliable 3G would vanish into thin air if Clearwire would only finish the NYC WiMax rollout. But I'm beginning to suspect that Clearwire is in such deep trouble that that will never happen.


Sunnyvale, CA
I have an Overdrive now, trading up from an older Novatel U727 which I had for the prior two years. Honestly, my 3G speeds have continued to decline, most precipitously over the past 6 months or so. Once 4G "lit up" in my area, speed has been much faster than 3G as long as I am in range.

4G is still spotty, and Clear doesn't seem to have the funding to build out the rest of their area. When I drop to 3G, I have never seen 1Mbps in the last year. The Overdrive is no worse, perhaps better, since I can move it to a better window than I could with the USB stick that was restricted to where I worked on my laptop.

Honestly, Sprint is having serious problems with 3G. My company used to recommend, in fact require, Sprint for company data cards due to their better coverage and performance. That just isn't the case anymore.

Perhaps EVDO was fine until all these smart phones joined, the same problem AT&T had when they had to service all of the iPhones. Now I have no sympathy for either Sprint or AT&T since they are charging a lot every month, and ought to be building out their service to provide what they sold.


New York, NY
said by seaprobe:

Honestly, my 3G speeds have continued to decline, most precipitously over the past 6 months or so.

In my case, while I had speeds that were unusable between October and December, outside of that period my speeds have remained relatively unchanged, usually between 700k and 1 mb on the download, 500k to 700k on the upload.

My big problem with 3G has been these connectivity issues.


New York, NY

My Sprint 3G Saga Ends, With Mixed Results

Well, my Sprint 3G saga has come to an end, with a disappointing resolution.

As per my previous message, I decided to give the U250 one last try on 3G.

For three days it was perfectly stable, and with good speeds.

Then yesterday the speed started to deteriorate. I was not experiencing any of the problems that had plagued me since January, like dropping to 1XRTT, suddenly losing all connectivity even though Smartview says it's still connected, or having the connection drop completely. So, to that extent, I still suspect that the U250 is the best 4G/3G modem when it comes to 3G. However the speed drop finally convinced me that 3G is just no longer a viable option for my needs at home, and that it was time to draw the curtain on my long-term testing of Sprint's 3G.

Which left one loose end: The Sprint store had told me they suspected that I might get better 3G results with a 3G only modem, and it just so happened that I still have the modem I used last year on my 3G only plan, the 598U. So they suggested I talk to the resolution person who's been handling my case for the past two months, Melanie, to see whether they would agree to add a third device and/or additional plan at a discount. I followed up and ran that idea by Melanie later that day. She said she would get back to me the next day.

Yesterday she called back and politely said "F**k you." If I want a 3G only plan I will have to pay for it, and I will have to pay full freight for it.

I told her that if I was to have a plan which only gave me satisfactory performance on 4G, not 3G, that I felt I should be charged accordingly.

She offered me a $20 a month cut, to $39.99 a month, not bad. But the condition was that I would have to return the Overdrive.

Well, as I may have mentioned, I do volunteer work about once a week, and need to have my fellow volunteers' laptops on the 'net as well. Sometimes we find ourselves without wifi, which is why I've set up a wireless ad hoc network on my computer for them to use, piggybacking off of my Sprint connection.

Except that wireless adhoc network is VERY unreliable. When they gave me the Overdrive last Tuesday, while there was no improvement in performance, it just so happened I did some volunteer work Thursday night, and discovered the Overdrive accessibility for my fellow volunteers was SIGNIFICANTLY superior to the wireless ad hoc network I'd been having them use.

So I told Melanie I did not want to return the Overdrive. She then made a counter-offer: a $10 monthly cut, to $49.99.

I accepted.

And so ended my 3G saga. Last September 27th, 2010, was the last day I had a reliable and fast 3G connection. On April 1, 2011, I finally accepted that Sprint 3G would no longer afford me a fast, reliable connection anywhere in my travels with laptop throughout Manhattan.

The pluses are that I'm really lucky that I have 4G available in my apartment and at least that is working fine for me at the moment, and I have an apparently reliable means of sharing my web connection with anyone I wish when I travel, and I didn't have to pay anything for the Overdrive. Of course, for the most part, that means depending on Sprint 3G in my travels (since the Clearwire/Sprint 4G network is only about 30% complete around here), and New York's Sprint 3G now offers effectively only an EVDO Rev O connection, with typical download speeds of 400k and upload speeds of 200k.

And that's the way it is.


Winona, MN
When I first got my 598U back 2 Decembers ago my connection was flourishing with -96dbm(coffee can mod), now I use the grid and get -77dbm. I have not had a problem with my speed, but my latency. I think when all the smart phones came out along with broadband2go unlimited, that is when speed has gotten worse. The network became flooded with users, and that's what happens I guess. Perhaps in 3G/4G areas, they slow down 3G to increase 4G performance or something.


New York, NY
said by Dexter1992:

Perhaps in 3G/4G areas, they slow down 3G to increase 4G performance or something.

You know, I'm almost ready to believe something like that myself. I know that on September 28th, when my 3G abruptly and unceremoniously fell into the crapper and has basically stayed there ever since, it was just a few weeks later when 4G went on line here, and I've always thought about the possibility that the 4G rollout here somehow screwed up the local 3G.