John Galea's Blog

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Bell Vs Fido/Rogers LTE coverage in the Go Lakeshore West corridor

Back when I was in university we learned a valueable lesson. The shorter the question, the more likely it was that it was hard to answer. In this vein I thought to myself … hmmm … I wonder if I ought to change from Fido as a provider to Bell. Maybe there coverage is better on the Go Train? That’s where I use my phone a fair bit for surfing and generally amusing myself on the commute to and from work.

So let’s start with some basic stuff.

Network speeds:
LTE theoretical 75 Mb/s actual 21-55 from what I have heard/seen
4G also called UTMS theoretical 21 Mb/s (oddly Bell’s comes up 14Mb/s) actual 3-7 Mb/s from what I have seen/heard
3G theoretical 384 Kb/s
GSM also called Edge or 2G theoretical 220 Kb/s actual around 56-100K

Rogers/Fido are the same network. Rogers bought Fido some years ago. Rogers has all 4 types of networks listed above.

Telus/Bell/Koodo are all on the same GSM network. Bell and Telus have there own older CDMA network but that’s not a consideration for me because my phones are GSM. Bell/Telus does not have an Edge network.

My older article on power consumption can show you how much of a premium you pay for the speed in decreased battery life.

If you recall I had a bit of a fiasco with Fido getting an LTE phone/SIM so I was hoping my experience would be better with Bell. Over the holidays they had a promotion on that would allow you to get a data only SIM, no activation fee, 2 months unlimited (read fine print) data for a promotional fee of $5 a month. So I jumped at the opportunity so I could decide whether to stay with Fido or not. So I walked into a Source store, there was a line up at the Bell store and ordered a SIM. The person comes back with a 3G/4G SIM. So I tell them, no I need an LTE SIM. They argue with me and tell me the 3G/4G SIM is just fine on LTE. So I take there word. Walk out wander around … no LTE. A quick call to Bell tech support, low and behold nope, you have to have a SIM that is for LTE. DOH. So back to the store I go. Seems Bell (like Fido) still haven’t educated there folks on LTE.

As a point of reference, neither Bell nor Fido charge extra for their LTE network. Not sure about the others at this point.

To do this article I used Network signal info Pro (I had to buy the pro version to get logging :() as well as . I also found a neat tool Net monitor that shows you the exact cell tower your connected to including the exact street address of the tower. Cool in a geeky kinda way 🙂

So first up what I tried to do was to measure signal strength and data speed at distinct station locations as well as my home and compare them. Of the 7 locations 3 were better on Bell and thus 4 better on Fido. So for this one the edge goes to Fido. One of the locations. Long branch I could not even get a data connection on Bell. Which was odd because the signal was only showing -89db which isn’t the worst I’ve seen. And this one data point given how small the sample set is, is enough to throw off the results.

Data points and comparison.

So next up what I decided I would try and do was log the signal strength along the path once a second and compare Bell/Fido. I did this twice once on the LTE network and once on the 3G/4G network. When the phone can’t get an LTE signal it dials down to 3G/4G trying to keep the connection. Signal strength can be different between LTE and 3G/4G. I’m not sure if this is because not all towers are upgrade to LTE or exactly why but I have definitely seen a difference in signal strength.

First off on the treck I found Bell had LTE for 62% of the time Vs Fido 88% of the time. So the nod on this one goes to Fido. This is based on over 900 data points. (This is a straight calculation of data taken once a second and noted whether it had LTE or not.)

Next up comes a straight signal strength comparison. So what this is is a simple calculation of how many data points was the signal strenghth below the threshold. Of course one of the questions you have to ask yourself is how much is enough? What I did notice is the tool marks it green for good, blue for not so good and red for bad. Red seemed to be below -100dB. Blue seemed to be below -90 but this is guessing.

What I found is the two are VERY similar when looked at as a whole. Individually you can find points that the signal strength is better on one than the other but on the whole it’s the same. The numbers below show no dramatic difference in signal strength in this corridor between the two. So all in all it seems like a wash.

data points and comparison.

So I had fun doing this. Learned a bit and in the end came to conclusion it just doesn’t matter which your on unless there is a specific place (like your home) that you can’t get a signal from one of the providers.

I did this test using my Samsung S2 LTE running on Gingerbread.


December 28, 2012 - Posted by | Android, Uncategorized

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