Hawaiʻi's Technology Community

I recently bought a Novatel U760 USB dongle from Mobi to use their Hele service.  It's basically internet access over a 3G cell modem, as I understand it.  Lawrence Lee has mentioned it several times here.

I have until Thursday to return it, and after yesterday, there's a good chance that I will.  I'm not sure if I have a defective device or what, but it disconnects VERY frequently.  I tried it in my new apartment high up on the side of the valley in Manoa (wondering if this matters, though I thought it would help, not hurt -- I get great cell phone reception up there), and the longest it would stay connected last night was about 17 minutes and during the day, maybe as many as 30-60 minutes, but I wasn't paying as much attention then.

When it does work, the throughput and latency are fine with me: up to 150KB/s and local latency as low as 150ms with the avg around 220ms probably (to LavaNet or UH machines), but the frequent disconnects are killer.

I've tried it with a Macbook (Leopard/10.5) and various laptops running Ubuntu 10.04 (using both KPPP and Network Manager), Windows XP, and Windows 7.  All with identical behavior.  After looking through /var/log/daemon.log in LInux and, additionally, OS X's error console, the device is clearly switching state and appears to be independent of drivers, etc.

Any stories/experiences?

Please include time/place that you're using it.

I'm going to go somewhere out of the valley tonight and test more.

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Random disconnects shouldn't be tolerated. :-7

Unless you can find a "sweet spot" that isn't susceptible to EMF problems, the disconnects will continue and you'll just get further PO'ed that your wireless provider isn't doing anything to resolve your issues. Unless you know they're building out their network, whatever connectivity is available is what will likely be around for a few years at that service level.

Hele service in Manoa is fine, and I had used it a few times to conduct business when MIC's Internet was having issues. I've got the CDU-680, and it's been an OK dongle. I do get random drop-outs with it, which correlates to the dongle's heat level. (Not able to sustain a connection until the dongle cools down a bit, it seems.)

At one point, I've had HawTel DSL, Mobi-Hele, and Clearwire in the home office to compare performance in my area, and to have (HawTel) dedicated for Netflix on the Big-Screen TV.

Have you tried Clearwire? When everything's working properly, it totally kicks Hele's butt, and is on par with RoadRunner. I literally downloaded the Fedora 13 DVD ISO at 1100 KBps with BitTorrent the day they released. Based on that, I standardized the house on Clearwire, and discontinued HawTel. Unfortunately, Clearwire uses TWTelecom as the upstream, and just like at MIC, the TWTelecom upstream has some nasty traffic-shaping going on. (Sockets start out slow, then "speed up" if they persist for more than XX seconds)

Beyond that, I highly recommend the CradlePoint PHS-300 as a WiFi Hotspot and sharing router. It's the unbranded/unlocked equivalent of the Clearwire Hotspot. That bad boy tethers and shares Hele, Clearwire 4G, and a ridiculous number of phones via USB. I use it regularly with my WiFi-only iPad when on the road, and it works OK.

Stay away from the CradlePoint MBR-1000 (the SoHo equivalent, which offers Ethernet LAN and LoadBalancing/Failover) -- I've got one, fully functional, as a doorstop because it sucked so hard.

Anyway.. yeah, if you can't find a sweet-spot, return it unless you're really going to use it on the road where your conditions can change for the better.

Yeah, at some points it was connecting for almost exactly 3 minutes over several runs and I figured this was due to heat. (Device cools down after disconnecting, then heats back up to the disconnect heat at 3 minutes). Then I put a high-speed fan blowing directly on top of it and it didn't make any difference -- still disconnecting at about 3 minutes.

It's so strange...connecting was easy and the speed would quickly ramp up to over 100KB/s and do that for over 2 minutes....then disconnect. I tried using an extension cable to keep the device away from the laptop to shield it from the laptop's heat, etc...nothing changed its behavior.

Again...going to do some more testing tonight.

Thanks for the input.

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