O2 Mobile Broadband Moan

I knew as soon as I started to tell people how fantastic O2’s new mobile ‘broadband’ (not) dongle thing was that I had put a curse on myself. I’ve just moved to a new house in the wilderness of Leitrim and obviously my first concern was who would give me broadband in such a dark and lonely place so far from civilization. I tried the usual useless suspects of Eircom, Last Mile, etc.. and predictably they couldn’t help. My comfortable existence working from home was under threat.

Then I remembered seeing my partner’s sister’s boyfriend with an O2 thing about 3 miles down the road in a house I used to live in and tried desperately to attract broadband to for 3 years, and it worked perfectly. So off I went to the local O2 store and picked one up. I had the option of bringing it back if I couldn’t get a signal but the coverage map I was shown in the shop indicated I should be within range and surely if a house 3 miles away could get it I could too because mobile signals are strong with a wide range and not line of sight dependant aren’t they!?

About a week later and after numerous calls to O2 data support I still hadn’t picked up a broadband signal but I knew there was something seriously wrong because I had identified the actual mast serving me and gone out in the car with the laptop and sat at its foot and still nothing. Eventually I managed to get through to someone in O2 who had their brain turned on before they came to work and he was able to suggest that I go in to the device’s menu and check to see what speed it what set to connect at. Incredibly the default setting was to connect at the lower speed even though this was supposed to be a broadband modem! So I set it to look for the fastest speed and for the next 2 months it worked pretty perfectly at home, only failing to find the 3G signal a small handful of times.

This is when I made the fatal mistake of telling everyone I knew, which included a group of about 50 local residents from a broadband survey I had done a few years previous, to go out and get one of these great new devices and forget about Eircom. A great new technology is born!

I had been keeping track of my download speeds via an online speed test site and I noticed a gradual decline in speeds which I put down to the fact that a good chunk of the people I told to go get a modem actually did, damn them! With any broadband connection the more locals using it the slower it gets for everyone. Indeed when I rang O2 support (again) and told them how many people I told to go get one of their modems, rather than congratulating me for bringing them extra business, they laughed at me!

Then the modem started acting weird, like the computer telling me the modem wasn’t connected to it when it clearly was so I rang O2 support again and they emailed me a link to go and download updated drivers which they ensured me would fix the problem and make my modem better. I reasonably assumed that this would happen and that the modem would now pick up an even stronger signal and be faster but in the 2/3 weeks since I updated the drivers, I’ve only got the broadband signal a handful of times. Seems the update made the modem worse so now I’m connecting at dialup speeds and trying to run an IT business with that. The horrible nightmares of having to scrap my business and go and find a ‘proper 9 to 5’ like everyone else have come back to haunt me.

Moving house for the 5th time in 4 years in not an option anymore and there are no broadband providers left that I can try so the future is bleak. Nothing has really changed for me since I first moved to Leitrim in 2003 and assumed someone would be able to provide me with some kind of fast internet to help me get my fledgling business off the ground. For me Ireland is still backward outside Dublin.

The moral of the story is, if you have to get one of these Mobile Broadband packages from any of the companies currently offering them, be prepared for serious unreliability in both hardware and connection speeds if you’re outside a major metropolitan area, don’t accept any driver updates and don’t tell anyone about it!

Leon 😦

Published by

Leon Quinn

Multimedia Design company in Leitrim, Ireland specializing in WordPress Website Design, Photoshop and Graphics. www.reverbstudios.ie

17 thoughts on “O2 Mobile Broadband Moan”

  1. hi all hve o2 compass 888 modem live in lispole,near dingle signal isnt great was wondering about external antenna for modem as you can connect it to it,anyone tried one?
    appreciate any advice


  2. my o2 dongle worked fine from feb 08 to apr 08 then started failing. as previous posters suggested. I wait until signal strength grows to almost 100% before connecting to the modem – on average the thing cuts out twice and the I restart the laptop – I have to do this because the modem just wont function – keeps shining blue when it crashes so have to restart to get it to function. After 3 goes it usually works without problem. I am in north county Dublin, but walls in house are 2ft thick – so maybe that is prob. Also am using the booster cable


    1. Try updating the firmware/drivers of the modem. Thats what I was told to do when I rang O2 support and it seems to make it more reliable. Also try bluetacking the modem to the center of your window but only if you have double glazing. The metal holder of the double glazing acts as a booster apparently!



    I work in I.T. and class myself as pretty much on the ball when it comes to gadgets but I have to say my O2 experience took me to the outer limits of my common sence theory.

    Anyway, here are some tips which might not have crossed your mind. First, I live in a basement flat, second: My PC (Normal workstation, not Laptop) is at a table 3.5 metres away from my window which is 2 metres below ground level in a basement stairway.

    I connected a 5 metre USB extension to my computer. Dongle at one end and USB Power Booster Cable at the other with both USB plugs inserted into the PC. I put the dongle onto the window ledge right up to the glass… and Bingo! I got a massive 3% signal on GPRS and could hardley load the google start page, let alone do a search or visit a website.

    After hours of experimenting, here are the notes which brought me up to 60% Signal strenth on 3G with a stable connection!

    1. Do not lay the dongle on its side. Keep it upright at all times (Upside down is ok! But the unit must remain virtical).
    2. Keep the dongle positioned in the centre of the glass!!! VERY Important! You will loose all of your signal if you move the dongle to the top of the frame. Yes you gain a little extra hight… BUT, If your window has double glazed sealed units… The aluminium bead which runs around the edge of the glass (The silver shinney bit) will act as a Radio shield and absort the signal acting as a blocker).

    In my case, I made a loop in the USB extension and placed a picture hanger hook at the top of the window frame. Now all I need do is hang it up when I want to connect. I get a fabulouse signal and it works every time.

    Also, I changed the prefferences to connnect “ONLY” to the 3G network. That way if the signal does drop a little, if won’t push me over to GPRS (Which is short for “Turn your computer off as your wasting your time).

    Hope these tips help.


  4. I’ve been using the power assist cable from the start and both cables have usb extenders so I can hang the thing in the window. The window faces the transmitter at drumsna and I’m about 2.6 miles from it by road. It surprises me that the range of these things is only about 3 miles so I’m right on the edge.

    The guy who told me about the glass helping (he was here yesterday) also said not to use usb extensions but single long usb leads.

    To be honest I don’t think anything really matters – with everything set perfectly I don’t have a broadband signal as I’m writing this! There are higher forces at work!


  5. Hi Leon. sad person suffering insomnia so working late. I had not used the double (power assist) cable while O2 was working fine and had forgotten about it. Installed it and downloaded AVG8 from US site, 50.9Mb. It downloaded so fast that I forgot to time it! Approx 6-8 mins I think.

    A while ago someone recommended using a USB extender cable to assist as an aerial but didn’t find it made a difference.

    Lately Fri night Sat morning was almost a dead loss but the whole connection/authentication is now double quick.


  6. Hi! The dongle in the window will improve things if the window faces towards the mast, even double glazing is less obstructive than concrete block walls. I have two cavity blocks and stone so the kitchen window is better. Not sure about the glass improving reception tho’.

    I’m about 1.5 ms from the mast at Ardcarne on the N4 (between Boyle & Carrick o S) and almost line of sight. On the O2 coverage map it is on the border of best transmission & reception.

    Are you far from the mast?


  7. Thanx for the tip, will certainly try that and let you know how it goes..I got another tip today from someone who knows a lot about these things. Try blue tacking your dongle to the window (glass) – apparently the pane of glass helps with the signal in some way!


  8. Sympathies for the poor O2 speeds. Mine worked perfectly from Oct 2007 to the New Year. Since then it has been poor to unusable depending on time of day. Waited three weeks for response from tech support. Went and fiddled.

    Try setting connection type to 3G only and band selection to GSM900/1800/WCDMA2100. It worked for me and the connection speed at “youtube & facebook” times has returned to good enough. Also worth checking the network properties for the Huawei and making sure the interface speed is set to 921600 (fastest I can get)

    Better than tying an email to leg of pigeon, mine crashed when I tried that!


  9. Hi Leon

    I have the same problem. I live in the sticks where there is a fairly rubbish signal, but I do a lot of work in Dublin, so I try to get as much done offline and then upload when the Broadband kicks in. Otherwise it’s like using two yoghurt cartons attached using string.


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