Dialog Telecom made its name when it took the the risky decision (at that time) to go GSM when then the leading provider CellTel had practically monopoly on the mobile market with CDMA but was late taking up GSM by which time Dialog has successfully grabbed the market share.
The battle after GSM was the constant battle of who has the highest data network, with 3G then 3.5G and then 3.75G, so on, and now it has boiled down to who will be first with LTE as the earlier option of WiMAX has lost ground. All in all whichever version of 3G you had and marketing teams blazed away on high theoretical download speeds, real download speeds did not differ that greatly and depended heavily on the coverage and area data consumption.
While the question who trialed LTE first may vary, Dialog has managed to get the LTE network coverage started in two cities, and offers as a fixed line service offering than a mobile offering presently.
However the fixed line offering is provided via a rather portable LTE Broadband router, which requires power but is still handy enough to be carried with you.
UPDATE (3-may-2013): Dialog have now launched a mobile LTE service but the coverage still limited understandably.
UPDATE (2-Feb-2014): Dialog mobile LTE coverage seems to extending to main cities rapidly and the speeds are remarkably different. Interestingly the upgrade to LTE has also enable high 3.75G capabilities as well, but when compared to LTE there is no comparison on the speeds of downloads.
I just got the package more with the interest to see how LTE speeds were, as my recent trial of Etisalat with their fast internet highlighted that without the dual-band modem their speeds were still around the 3mbps at max, even though the modem could do 7.2mbps, only slightly faster than the performance i used to get from a Dialog 3.5G connection. However owners with dual-band dongles have indicated they get very good download speeds.
Dialog had marketed the LTE as 4mbps upload/download, but my test easily surpassed this and the real world performance was also far better, however i am sure once there are more clients Dialog may put a cap on the speeds to the stated SLA.
However if we were to compare LTE performance of Dialog against what is on offer in other markets, the story is different and here i think its the bandwidth limitations main links the cause of the stifling.
The device provided by Dialog is the Huawei LTE CPE B593u-91 model. A bit more study highlighted that the B593 comes in many flavors (Refer http://www.4gltemall.com/huawei-b593-4g-lte-cpe-industrial-wireless-router.html) and has been available since 2011, and was also regarded as the first commercial LTE TDD wireless router. The version provided by Dialog only supports two LTE frequencies.
The device is a fully featured broadband router, including 4 LAN ports and 2 x USB 2.0 ports (one on the side, one on the back). Supposedly the USB ports which supports external storage devices. Hence you can create yourself a file server with ease by hooking a flash drive or external portable hard disk. Based on setting on the USB management option, the only system file formats supported are NTFS and FAT32, which should serve well with Windows folks, but users with other operating systems may not be as happy! The FTP server feature can then use the connected drive as the store for the FTP file server.
The device also support Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, though the test show the LAN cable performance to be better than the Wi-Fi performance.
Dialog sales chaps indicated the device only works with 4G / LTE networks, however based on the specifications the device should also connect to 3G networks in the event there is no LTE network, however i need to test this 🙂 I did check the admin web app, and yet the modem does have Auto, LTE only, WCDMA only and GSM only.
UPDATE (3-may-2013): I took the device on an outstation visit and my fears were confirmed, Dialog has locked the device to be used only within an area and it does not work in other areas. In addition the device does not connect to 3G networks even if you give the correct APN.
A bit more research also indicated that this maybe a firmware block on the device requested by the telco.
UPDATE (20-May-2013): The dialog support team to dropped by said once the customer base for fixed LTE goes to 5000 they intend to merge the LTE and 3G directories, which will allow LTE connections to fall back to 3G when there is a problem with LTE. How this will impact the performance of the connection will only be known when this merge is done.
UPDATE (2-Feb-2014): The Huawei LTE CPE B593u-91 only supports fixed line LTE protocol, hence it cannot work with the Mobile LTE or mobile 3G channels. Hence the story of LTE falling back to 3G by the Dialog staff is “horse-shit” to say the least.. integrity.. yeah :D. However on the mobile LTE front this is definitely applicable and relevant as your LTE device can fall back to 3G and 2G.
The device back panel can also support two external antennas, these are not provided with the package by Dialog, however extra antenna(s) can help improve signal strength, and would have a nice inclusion.
I tested using the telecom operators favorite tool Speedtest.net, however making a few changes to avoid getting two fake results. Remember when testing make sure its not connecting to the local server, as in this case you are testing the local network speeds as opposed to your real download speeds.
Speedtest.net usually connects to a server close by and for Sri Lanka it usually picks up Chennai.
I also picked up a server from US, NY and tested it to see if the speeds were different and there was a market different.
Interesting that on all test the upload speeds were great, when in my usual 3G broadband the results were other way around.
One improvement compared to 3G over a dongle was that the LTE network was maintaining its speed even if many downloads were coming down, however this could also be due to the fact that the LTE network is still to get loaded, and there would be ample bandwidth to go around the current customers.
|Machine/Device||Browser||Connection||From||Connecting Server||Download Mbps||Upload Mbps|
|Windows 8 Desktop||Chrome||Network cable||Dialog Telecom PLC||Chennai||6.42||5.35|
|Windows 8 Desktop||Chrome||Network cable||Dialog Telecom PLC||New York City||3.71||5.22|
|Google Nexus 4||Speedtest Android App||Wi-Fi||Dialog Telecom PLC||Chennai||2.69||8.86|
Interestingly the actual download speeds with multiple connections per downloads were even greater. For example when i had JDownloader setup with 10 connections and used a mediafire and a YouTube links to test, I was getting a solid 2-2.5MBps.
UPDATE (3-may-2013): Something i missed earlier and have to update is that this is 2.5MBps, not Mbps, which means the speeds are 8x times that in the normal way we indicate speeds. So this means the speeds were 16-20Mbps, which is
blinding fast compared to all other forms of connections. I used an unlocked dongle on my 3G dongle, and found that even on normal 3G Dialog can go up to 12-13Mbps when i was running similar downloads at around 4-6AM in the morning, this is without LTE mind you, however unlike the LTE line these speeds drop to 2-3Mbps at best during the day.
UPDATE (2-Feb-2014): Dialog Mobile LTE seems to be even faster, specially during off peak times when you can speeds surpassing 30-40Mbps. Not sure if the performance of fixed line LTE has also improved, any subscribers who can confirm this?
UPDATE (Oct-2016): Now that i am back with an Dialog 4G LTE as my primary data connection, the speeds are still very good, though it drops during the day. While not as fast as the the initial days, the speeds in the night are pretty darn good in my area.
UPDATE (20-May-2013): The speeds and all have gone shattering, when i noticed a regular drop in connection, and loss in speeds. I have been in contact with the dialog support team, and they had guys come over and check the device, and they seem unable to diagnose the problem, which is scary indicating that they may not be still experienced in troubleshooting the problem. The pages timeout, and i am unable to download anything more than than 10-15MB at a time, before the connection drop and i have keep starting the download again and again. In addition the connection is so patchy i can’t get mail to go through using my official exchange in web mode. The final word is that they need to check the entire set of stations to identify the cause, as there are other in the area also reporting similar problems.
Word of advice if you have this problem, and the support team says test a YouTube HD video, and it works it does not mean much. YouTube is a streaming protocol, and hence small breaks are acceptable, but this will not work for a direct download. Test it by downloading multiple files (large ones) at the same time, that will show the problem.
UPDATE(27-May-2013): The tech team who were scheduled to come to sort my connection problem called into say they were unable to come because i have not paid the bill. This was shocking since i had already paid in excess through the Dialog web portal. Checked with the customer service and they confirmed the payment had not been reflected, but they re-enabled my connection since i had my payment reference no. Later on they called to say that they had a problem with LTE payments online, it seems the system accepts the payment but is not sending the payee detail and account no 🙂 so they had not been able to find who had made the payment. I have been requested to call once i pay online (if i am brave to do this thing again!) to the support line to make sure the payment has gone through. Disappointing.
UPDATE (22-Jun-2013): After almost 4 weeks of trouble with the connection the problem of disconnection noticed was never resolved. Requests to support through formal channels (call center + web portal) were not followed up by Dialog, and even personal contacts within Dialog said the LTE team seem not interested in sorting a paying client’s problem. I resorted to sending mails to the CEO of Dialog, who was prompt, but it seems the CEO’s involvement too failed to get things working, as only a second mail saying the team never followed up go them activated. However rather than solving the problem the Dialog LTE team resorted to stating false information and statements, which got me totally wired up, and current blinding speed or not, I disconnected the line since the service levels were atrocious and more so what’s the use of of a super fast line if you can’t download anything! Lesson is that the LTE team is nowhere upto Dialog’s support levels in other services they offer, and the technical team not in sync / incapable of resolving issues seemingly the root cause of this. What i did not know was that the initial payment of Rs 7500 is for the connection, and on disconnection the device is taken back by Dialog.
UPDATE (Oct-2016): Competition has reduced the initial payment cost significantly, and if you are a wise buyer, wait for the regular deals where they offer the packages without any connection fee, or a 50% discount. A common benefit by all the vendors is that as long as you have the connection, any issues with the device, they will replace your device free of charge. Not sure how it works with SLT but this applies to Dialog and Lanka Bell to my knowledge. I have experienced this with Dialog, where the support engineer replaced the device which had the downloading issue, and gave me a complete new device.
Being a person up for experiments i will not put down the Fixed LTE offering by Dialog due to my problem, however I do hope that Dialog LTE team will pick their standards and also work out how to resolve technical problems if the fixed line LTE is to grow. If they are struggling now, one can only imagine the standards if the number of connections grows.
Though LTE offers stunning speeds elsewhere in the world, in Sri Lanka with limited bandwidth outside the country, high speed internet will be limited by this fact more than anything else, but we have seen improvement and hopefully this will accelerate as the need for faster and greater data with the smart phone, phablet and tablet era grows.
The LTE performance of Dialog current is far beyond its stated SLA, and that’s very good news, and possibly the fastest you can get from all current connections including dual-carrier HSPA+.
UPDATE (31-May-2013): However in case you do have issues with the reliability of the connection, don’t expect it to be sorted out fast for now, as Dialog tech teams seem to in a “learning mode”, and in my case even after 14+ days the problems have yet to be resolved.
The juicy part of the deal is that it offers 25GB (and it also has a 60GB variant) of high speed internet for the price where most HSPA+ and DC-HSPA+ offers from competitors as well as Dialogs own offer for less than 15GB.
UPDATE (20-May-2013): In addition the price per additional MB and the bulk price for additional high speed 10GB is very attractive.
The downside is that router is not portable and does not work beyond set regions, and also is not capable of switching to 3G when LTE is not
UPDATE (20-May-2013): The portability maybe eliminated when the 3G and LTE directories are merged, but until this is tested i can’t be sure.
While i continue my rotation with vendors to evaluate their Internet offerings, I hope the speed increase also comes with more data, something we are still not seeing Sri Lanka. While speeds are important but with speed your data cap vanishes in no time (e.g. with the new LTE speeds i did 7GB in just 2 hrs), and in an era where all we talk is HD this and HD that, the time has come where Telco’s have to increase their data cap on packages, but that would be asking too much from money conscious telco’s (a trait that is common across all telco’s it seems)!
UPDATE (2-Feb-2014): Seems like SLT has acted in response to the complaints by subscribers and increased the data quota, however i am sure SLT has to do it since their download rates are far slower than the LTE solutions. But one area the SLT ADSL still remains a firm favorite is among the online gaming community where the ping rate matters, and here the wired connection is unmatchable is what my gaming friends confer.
UPDATE (Oct-2016) : A bit late in updating this, but dialog also matched the SLT offer by doubling the data, by adding the same day capacity to the night quota. So if you were on the 25GB package, you now get 50GB. The boost in capacity is definitely good for the customers, as with the solid speeds offered by Dialog 4G LTE, you are going to bust through your cap quite quickly.