Vodacom LTE: an opinion in progress

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LTE

It’s a great time to be a gamer… provided you have fast enough internet speeds and enough bandwidth. But not everyone can use Telkom’s services. Not to fear, other players have appeared on the market and are promising to save us with high speeds and portability. Vodacom has entered the world of LTE – but how do they stack up?

Idiot-proof

LTE dongle

First of all, I got a box that included the LTE/4G dongle, as well as a Huawei wireless router. I was a bit worried that installation or set up would be an issue, but it was ridiculously easy. Any software that you might need is already built into the dongle – as soon as you insert it into a computer you get all the easy prompt to install the connection software and then you’re good to go.

The router is similarly easy, with a clearly demarcated port for the USB modem, easily converting your dongle into a WiFi hotspot. I was worried that this also might require some extra setup, but it was really as simple as plug and play. So, with all the necessary software set up, I fired everything up and prepared to jump on the information superhighway (ah, remember when people used to call it that?).

Location, location, location!

Location

The first rules of real estate dictate that it all comes down to location, which is of course true. The same is true of LTE. Before the company asking for my opinion would send me the dongle, they asked me to check on the coverage map if I was in an area with LTE. I knew that I could sometimes get 4G through Vodacom on my phone, so I was fairly confident that I’d have decent reception. However, the map showed that I wouldn’t have LTE at home. Not to fear, I figured I could head to my nearest coffee shop and sit online there if it didn’t work at home. Confidently, I took delivery of the devices.

First things first, just because you have LTE on your phone does not mean that you will get LTE through the Vodacom LTE service. I first tried LTE in my study, but I know reception is less than great there, so I wasn’t surprised when it could only pick up 3G. However, I was surprised when I proceeded to take the laptop with dongle to various areas around my house and complex only to discover that I still had no reception, despite the fact that everyone on Vodacom had 4G/LTE through their phones.

I thought that I might be an idiot, so I decided to venture down the road to where the coverage map promised full LTE coverage. Perhaps it was because there was load shedding, or maybe it was due to some of the previous inclement weather, but whatever the reason, there was no LTE there, either. My phone still flew on Vodacom’s LTE network, but the dongle simply couldn’t connect to anything other than 3G.

Speed of Sound

Speed

I was primarily excited to check out Vodacom’s LTE because I figured that I’d at least have some crazy fast internet for a few days. LTE delivers the fastest speeds in the country, and I was excited to see if I could stream some gameplay or at least watch Twitch with the highest resolution settings. Unfortunately, I couldn’t jump on the LTE, so I couldn’t test those things.

I was on the 3G network, though, so I thought I’d test those speeds. However that was also a flop. 3G through that LTE dongle is completely unusable – I was barely getting 11 Kb/s. In fact, it was so slow that I couldn’t even load a website, let alone a speedtest. This means that if you can’t get full LTE, you might as well not bother even trying with whatever other connection the modem can pick up.

I know that I live in an internet black hole. It is just the nature of where I stay in Joburg, and might not be representative for other people. While the coverage map is a lie and other areas that promised to have coverage didn’t, I know that my experience might just be unique to me. As a result, I’m going to ask Vodacom for permission to extend our testing period and pass the device off to one of the other guys – perhaps they will have a better experience. We will keep you updated if I’m the problem and not Vodacom’s LTE network.

That said, if you are looking for an internet alternative due to connectivity issues or a need for speed, you will need to test if your LTE coverage is real. Phones are not a reliable means of checking, and the coverage map proved less than accurate. As a result, before you build your gaming dreams around the super speeds of LTE, you might just want to check if they can be a reality in your area.

Last Updated: November 24, 2014

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. You can read more of my words over at www.borngeek.co.za, or just follow me on all the social networks to get the true range of my sarcasm and wit.

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