I lent my newly upgraded Roam Mobility SIM card to my sister for a 2-day trip to Michigan. I told her I would foot the bill for her service if she would report back with some speed test screen shots. We both have an iPhone 5S and I was curious to see what kind of speeds her phone would get.

I double checked the locations in Michigan where she would be staying. According to both Roam Mobility’s website and T-Mobile’s site (the network Roam Mobility is actually using), they claimed LTE service would be available to her almost all of her trip.

Here are the results:

Detroit, Michigan

iPhone 5S on Roam Mobility in Detroit, Michigan - Map iPhone 5S on Roam Mobility in Detroit, Michigan - Speed Test

Outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan

iPphone 5s Roam Mobility, Outside Ann Arbor, Michigan - Map iPhone 5s Roam Mobility, Outside Ann Arbor, Michigan - Speed Test

Ann Arbor, Michigan

iPhone 5s Roam Mobility, Ann Arbor, Michigan - Speed Test

 

The 3G speeds are actually great…for 3G. But Roam Mobility now supports LTE. Why is the phone showing 3G?

Ok, my sister is pretty good with technology, but she could have messed something up, right?

We started some basic troubleshooting…

Is the iPhone 5S supported? Yep

Roam Mobility LTE 4G device list

Maybe LTE is turned off? Let’s check that because maybe changing SIM cards somehow turned off LTE.

No LTE option on iPhone with Roam Mobility

But where is the LTE option? I’m pretty sure that screen should show “enable LTE” not “Enable 3G”.

I checked Roam Mobility’s support documents and found this potentially useful page: How to enable 4G LTE on your iPhone or iPad

Roam Mobility - How to enable 4G LTE on iPhone

…but I don’t have an Enable LTE switch. At the bottom of the page:

If the feature is not available on your iPhone 5/5c/5s device, we recommend that you contact Apple customer service to troubleshoot and resolve the issue.

You can do this by visiting this Apple Support Article or visit your local Apple Store or Apple Authorized retailer.

If you have any further questions with other issues, please contact our care team via email or phone so we can ensure you have a great experience with our service.

I went to the Apple Support page and asked my sister to try some of the more reasonable suggestions. (Erasing the iPhone to start fresh is NOT an acceptable troubleshooting step for getting cheap US data roaming. It is a little more reasonable if you are at home, on Wi-Fi and you are trying to get your Canadian carrier to work.)

I contacted Roam Mobility support on August 7, 2014, first by email and then, after waiting a few hours, via Twitter.

Twitter conversation - Roam Mobility no LTE option iPhone 5S

So they are trying to blame this on Apple? Come on!

There are a number of people with the same issue on Twitter and Roam Mobility’s Facebook page.

I’d be perfectly happy if they would just acknowledge the issue and say they are working on it. I’d be ecstatic if they included a timeline. But blaming Apple? That’s pretty sad.

I did finally receive a reply to my email support request, 13 days later. Did I mention my sister’s trip was 2 days? It was an automated message that contained a link to the LTE support sections on their website.

Sigh.

For even having the ability to use LTE on Roam Mobility’s network I was forced to pay a $1.99 fee per SIM to “upgrade” my SIM cards to support LTE. I try not to think too hard about why this is even technically necessary because it’s only $2.  I don’t actually need LTE speeds, but since I’ve paid for the privilege, I want my iPhone saying it’s connected to their LTE network!

Despite their lack of LTE, I still need data when I travel to the US and I still don’t want to pay my Canadian carriers’ horrendous rates, so I’m sticking with the lesser of two evils, Roam Mobility on 3G, at least for now.

 

 

The following is a table showing how fast a Rogers user could eat through their monthly usage limit. Note: the numbers do not reflect a user’s actual usage and I’m not saying Rogers should let us download 10TB+ a month but I do think that the current plans are unreasonable. If we are not constantly monitoring our usage we could accidentally go over our limit in a matter of hours. I think all plans should start at 500GB a month and the highest plan should be somewhere around the 2TB mark. I also think the plans should increase by a couple hundred GB per year as more streaming services like Netflix become our primary media source.

Package Download Speed Usage Allowance How long will it last? Max. Potential Download
Ultra Lite 0.5 Mbps 2 GB 0.37 days 162 GB
Lite 3 Mbps 15 GB 0.46 days 972 GB
Express 12 Mbps 60 GB 0.46 days 3,888 GB
Extreme 24 Mbps 100 GB 0.39 days 7,776 GB
Extreme Plus 32 Mbps 150 GB 0.43 days 10,368 GB
Ultimate 50 Mbps 250 GB 0.46 days 16,200 GB

Point of interest. Running at full speed, no rogers plan will last more than half a day.

Calculations:
Megabytes per second = Download Speed / 8
Assuming 0 upload per month (which is impossible)
Assuming 30 days per month.
Assuming 1TB = 1,000,000 MB.
Assuming 1GB = 1,000 MB.
Number of seconds per month = 60 X 60 X 24 X 30 = 2,592,000
Maximum potential download amount = Megabytes per second * Number of seconds per month
Number of days internet will last = Monthly Usage Limit (MB) / Speed per megabyte / 60 / 60 / 24

I was very close to dropping Rogers altogether and switching to TekSavvy for cable internet so I could finally be free of Rogers stupid Usage Limits. The only thing holding me back was the limited speeds of TekSavvy and the $99 fee to have someone come look at my line is something goes wrong. I was toying with the idea of having 2 cable connections (if there was a problem with my line Rogers would fix it for free) but it was going to cost way over $100 a month combined.

Then Rogers released their new plans and usage limits on Wednesday. (The title of their article should be “Rogers takes a tiny step in the right direction to meet customer’s needs with new Hi-Speed Internet Tiers”) While they still stink compared to TekSavvy they are more reasonable. I have no complaints with Rogers service. It has always been excellent and in my experience their tech support and technicians are friendly and get the job done. They just won’t give us reasonable plans at reasonable prices.

The first company to offer me > 5Mbps upload speed and unlimited or 500GB+ monthly usage will be getting my business immediately. Although I despise Bell I would jump at the chance to switch to their Fibre 25 plan with 7Mbps upload if that service was available in my area.

So now I have upgraded to the Ultimate plan to take advantage of the new 250GB usage limit for $99 per month. The 1Mbps upgrade in speed is nice but I am not happy about the price. I don’t care at all about the 50Mbps speed. I have been using their SMC modem in bridge mode for over a year now and it works. I refused to touch the router functionality though.

Oh Canada, why are our internet plans so horrible?

I can’t say I learned a lot at school, but I did pick up a few tips that helped me polish up my self-taught coding technique.

During my study of software engineering, my instructors always stressed two things: modular design and documentation. Simple, yet excellent concepts that will save you–and anyone after you–hours and hours of time. I’ve been applying these principles to all of my code ever since I learned about them, but I’ve only recently begun to understand just how important they really are.

I’ve been working with some very unmodularized and undocumented code recently, and I’ve begun to develop an immense dislike for the original author. I’m supposed to add simple little features here and there. By themselves, the features are simple–around 10 to 100 lines each–and would take maybe 10 minutes each to write. To add them to a well-documented, modular coded project might take an hour or two including some testing. But incorporating these tiny features into an existing project base consisting of unmodularized and undocumented code takes 10 to 20 times that. Believe me, I know from experience. I am faced with the constant urge to rewrite the entire code base from scratch. I know it would take longer to rewrite everything, but I have to say it would be much less painful.

Logical code is easy to follow and easy to change. If something is a little strange, then you fall back on the documentation to figure out why. But when the code is an absolute pile of garbage with no documentation, looking like it was written by a first-time coding high schooler, you spend most of your time trying to figure out why the previous author did what they did, how they did it, and why they were ever allowed to touch a computer keyboard in the first place.

 


The problem increases exponentially when dealing with web projects, especially ones coded in PHP. Modular design in web projects has always been possible but somewhat awkward, considering that up until PHP 5 we had very poor object support. Only in the last few years have there been any decent frameworks to use that employ an MVC structure. My favourite one, of course, is Zend Framework. Before the Zend Framework, I personally had been working on an MVC-like PHP framework of my own to help alleviate the somewhat cumbersome structure that even my PHP projects were sometimes taking. After trying the Zend Framework, I never touched my own framework again.

Having come to realize the power of a good PHP framework and the importance of documentation and modularized code, it just makes me want to cry–and wish horrible things upon the original author whose code is making my job so much more difficult than it should be.

When I lived in Hamilton, I used Mountain Cable (now Shaw) as my Internet Service Provider. The service was excellent, very fast and there were no usage limits. I could download hundreds of gigabytes per month and no one cared. I have since moved to Kitchener and been forced to be introduced to the wonderful world of Rogers. I should note that I dislike Bell and anything Bell-related, and that I’ve never had a positive experience with DSL. So Rogers high speed it was.

Unlimited for only $25 $50 more per month? no thanks

I signed up for the Rogers Extreme plan which includes 10 Mbps down, 1 Mbps up, and 95 GB of usage. I was a little concerned about the internet usage limit, but I wasn’t worried because I also noticed that additional usage was billed at $1.50/GB to a maximum of $25. $25 more for unlimited internet? Sounds good. I generally was under the 95 GB mark, but if I went over I made sure I went way over to justify the extra charge.

Unfortunately, at some point without my knowing it, Rogers increased the maximum additional usage charge to $50, which means my total internet bill could be over $110. That’s too high for me. I noticed Rogers had 2 more faster plans available: Extreme Plus for $69 (25 Mbps/1 Mbps/125GB) and Ultimate for $99 (50 Mbps/2 Mbps/175 GB). I figured I would just upgrade to the Extreme Plus and pay $10 for an extra 30 GB–that should be enough, I thought. I phoned up Rogers and upgraded my plan. I was a little unhappy that I was told I would need a new modem to take advantage of the faster speed, but I was more concerned with the extra $7 per month I’d have to pay just to rent the thing. Also, the new modem was actually a Wireless N gateway. That’s nice, but I already have a wireless N access point and use pfSense as my router/firewall. I was not impressed, but I figured the exta GB and 25 Mbps down were worth the inconvenience.

The swapping of the modem

The next day, I went to the Rogers store and swapped my modem. I also decided that I would purchase the new modem instead of renting–it would be paid for after 28 months of paying $7. I took my new modem home and set it up. The first thing I did was log in using the mso credentials to disable the gateway nonsense. I’m very glad they let me do that, although it’s a waste because I just paid $199 for features I’ll never use. It was really easy to set up. Once the gateway features were disabled, pfSense was able to get my public IP from the modem instead of the 192.168.0.10 address it had previously been assigned. I then excitedly went to speedtest.net and ran a speed test (see below).

I’m about 15 Mbps short…?

…hmm, that’s nice, I thought, but I’m paying for 25 Mbps. I ran it again, and again, and then tried the official Rogers speed test, plus a bunch of other ISP speed tests and even thespeedtest app on my iPhone. Each showed very similar results. None would go over the 10 Mbps barrier. I knew it was incredibly unlikely that a busy network would give me these consistent results and I knew that being so close to 10 Mbps couldn’t just have been a coincidence, so I called technical support. I actually was going to use the live chat technical support, but when I read the disclaimer about closing windows on your computer that you didn’t want the tech support guy to see, I immediately picked up the phone. I’m probably more qualified than most of the tech support at Rogers, so there’s not a chance I’d let some newbie touch my precious Mac–assuming they even support Macs.

I had to resort to calling tech support

Tech support was helpful and figured out my problem right away. The genius that upgraded my account the day before hadn’t checked properly to see if the DOCSIS 3 was installed in my area yet. It wasn’t. The tech support guy said it should be coming in a few months but couldn’t promise anything. Wonderful. I asked the tech guy if I could keep the Extreme Plus on the old speed, but with the increased usage limit of 125 GB. He said that I could not officially be switched to the new plan until DOCSIS was in my area, so I was stuck with my 95 GB limit. Although I was unhappy about this, the tech support guy was nice and friendly and answered all my questions fully. He then transferred me to customer service so I could downgrade my account.

I must say the customer service representative I spoke to was one of the best customer service folk I’ve ever encountered. She was very friendly and helpful, and instead of the typical silence one experiences while the representative types away on a computer, she told me exactly what she was doing and why. I greatly appreciated her friendly approach. To compensate me for my inconvenience, Rogers gave me a $5 goodwill credit–which will barely dent my additional usage fees for the month, but it’s better than nothing. Anyway, I’m on the right plan now and will probably try upgrading to Extreme Plus again when it’s available in my area. Apparently I’ll know when that happens because I will be “bombarded with marketing” according to my friendly Rogers customer service representative. I don’t doubt it.

Disappointed but content

Overall, I am happy with my Rogers service. It’s always super fast (even at 10 Mbps), my 3rd party VOIP works perfectly, and I’ve always had a good experience with Rogers customer service. I just wish the sales guys would not sell services to customers that they can’t use. Oh, and it would be great if Rogers offered a cheap DOCSIS 3 compatible modem with no gateway functions.