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A look into SMART’s prototype LTE Dongle by HUAWEI and my first speed test

Written by Jayvee Fernandez

Greetings from Boracay! I was able to borrow a special LTE USB dongle from HUAWEI. There are only 5 of these in the world made especially for the event and from what I heard HUAWEI really had to rush these to SMART. I have one of the four (oh wait I think Jen Juan also has one). The others are being used in stations around Boracay, shared over WiFi. You may wonder why we’re on the island. It’s because ever since before, Boracay has become a test bed for new technology. I was here in ’07 for their Mobile TV launch and now I’m back for their LTE deployment.

The USB dongle is in no way a representation of the final product. LTE will launch soon and will be deployed across the country. A bit of a technical info here: current SMART cell towers running 3G can easily be upgraded to accommodate LTE and later on, LTE Advanced. You will need “4G” enabled phones to access the higher data network so in the meantime, while the phones are not yet here, let’s be content with the dongle.

I will be doing a series of speed tests throughout my stay. This is the first.

From my hotel which is in a more remote location (and indoors) I am getting 15Mbps. This afternoon, the LTE booth was pushing 69Mbps (LTE promises 50Mbps) and while everyone was sharing over WiFi and stressing the network with HD video streaming, they did a decent ~ 30Mbps, which is still very fast.

Let me put into context what “fast” means. At my current speed I am downloading a 7GB game from the Steam Store at 290-400kbps, streaming the 720p HD version of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead without buffering (full screen) and uploading a couple of files (over 4GB) using my FTP to my server. Plus Facebook, Twitter and Reddit.


So funny! It says “faster than 99% of the Philippines!”

By the way guys, Mbps is not MEGABYTES PER SECOND but MEGABITS. Here’s an explanation. It is confusing so if you still can’t tell the difference I would really just use real world examples which everyone can understand (like the actions I just made above).

I’ll be doing more tests tomorrow as I would like the “real world” challenges such as being indoors / outdoors to affect the performance of speeds. So far I am very content.

LTE dongles will have a separate price compared to the 3G / HSPA ones currently available in the market. LTE is backwards compatible but not vice versa. The name of the LTE service is SMART Evolution.

Oh, just one more thing. The LTE dongle runs on Snow Leopard as well. Here’s a shot of my MenuMeters upload/download:

Wow.

About the author

Jayvee Fernandez

Jayvee Fernandez is a tech enthusiast, EAN certified SCUBA Diver and underwater photographer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. His photos and videos have appeared in various international and local publications including Random House Germany, Discovery Channel Canada, and CNN.

41 Comments

  • wow! drooling now after reading the speed results. i wonder how much these would cost once their out. one thing’s for sure, i want one! ^_^

  • OMG. When would this be commercially available? Any “price quotes” I hope to see this before the year ends…

  • “LTE is backwards compatible but not vice versa. The name of the LTE service is SMART Evolution.”

    what does that mean? i hope it means if there is no LTE signal but a 3g/3.5g signal is available, the dongle can use it too

  • I’m really intrigued 🙂

    Are they similar to MyFi routers? Or they’re only like USB dongles?

    I’ve been thinking of having a MyFi + iPod Touch set up instead of getting an iPhone/Android phone. I personally think MyFis less risk of getting ridiculously high phone bills.

  • really nonsense article, how much u earn in smart comm.? for this fucking article, just create a article on how to fuck the very slow connection of smart bro not this for all materialistic people like u!

  • @ Lia and @Vince

    LTE is a step up from 3.5G and 3.75G (or what we call HSPA). If your mobile phone / USB dongle is 4G ready it means that you will be able to access LTE AND the lower networks including 3G, EDGE and GPRS. As far as I know only a few phones are 4G ready including the Motorola Atrix, HTC Thunderbolt and several USB dongles. Oh and Lia, I honestly prefer investing money on a phone you can tether so you carry less things.

    @Val
    I’m a guest of SMART together with Andi9 and I report objective findings on (1) speed tests and (2) actual usage. How Internet connection affects you has more to do on the number of users in your area. If you want good Internet, move to a less congested place. One of the advantages of LTE is that it opens up bandwidth capacity by 400 percent given existing cell towers. So far, only a handful of countries have launched LTE with Verizon in the USA and SMART in Asia being some of the loudest (soon we will also need to launch LTE Advanced).

    IMHO fast Internet comes with a combination of price, location and density. The fastest commercial Internet in the country is located in Rockwell. You get speeds of 100Mbps from Sky Cable. It costs PHP 20,000.00 / month and can only be available to residents of Rockwell condos.

  • kalokohan naman ng smart ‘to. wag na tayong magpagago sa smart peperahan na naman tayo nito. kung kung 3mbps nga na sinasabi nila sa old dongle nila hindi maibigay eh ang kaya lang maibigay eh 20kbps eto pa kayang 50mbps…..

  • This sounds promising. I hope they manage to retain most of that speed when they deploy it to the whole of Metro Manila.:) Not to be skeptical or anything, but the number of test users + size of the test area should have something to do with the speed you’re getting now.

  • @ Javee Fernandez
    [IMHO fast Internet comes with a combination of price, location and density. The fastest commercial Internet in the country is located in Rockwell. You get speeds of 100Mbps from Sky Cable. It costs PHP 20,000.00 / month and can only be available to residents of Rockwell condos.]

    anong ibig mong sabihin lahat ng smart user gusto mo lumipat sa rockwell para lang ma satisfied sila sa bandwidth na promise nilang dapat na ibigay sa mga consumer? ganun ba? lol wag sila mag promise kung hindi nila kayang ibigay.

    sila nagbigay ng presyo sa product nila at sila din nagbigay ng bandwidth na kayang ibigay ng product nila dapat lang na ibigay ng tama ang service dahil kapag nagbayad kami ng bill walang labis walang kulang. lol

  • SMART Communications. You always promise your consumers the best of everything yet. I agree with MEE. Verizon is fast even in congested area. Why cant you develop for the better not boasting around. Youre words are only good at your first strike.

  • magaling sa una, will they carry it through all the way???? sa umpisa lang magaling smart, tapos kulelat nanaman… smart bro-ken

  • Come on you are talking about the Philippines here. The carrier pigeons in the rest of the world get a better speed than this i think. My local free WIFI in McDonnell’s is faster that my Smart & Globe USB Dongle

  • 3g pa nga lang dami na reklamo, mag4g pa kaya, ayusin nyo muna 3g nyo sa buong pilipinas bago kayo magintroduce ng bagong technology, ok lang kahit 3g basta yung mga pangakong speed ay naibibigay nila

  • mahirap kasi sa ga network puno na ang capacity tanggap pa ng tanggap ng subs, kailangan pa magreklamo ng mga subs pag bumagal na, dapat proactive sila at hindi peactive ang response!

  • Hi Jayvee, any idea when LTE becomes available in Manila?

    @everyone
    Guys, let’s throw our pessimism out. This LTE technology maybe the answer of sucky 3G service here in our country.

    Aside from having high data rates, it comes with low latencies. Meaning on HSPA, the fastest you can get is 50ms for latency, now its around 10ms for LTE, huge difference especially when it comes to gaming.

  • @chris you’re the first person to actually mention ping. i was excited too when i heard about the lower ping rates as i usually connect to dedicated gaming servers anyway and download speed isn’t a factor.

    they said soon daw. they wouldn’t want to give out any more info here.

  • Location location location…hopefully, maintindihan ng ibang tao dito na pag sinabing “up to”, it doesn’t mean na yun ang makukuha nila. So far, happy ako sa connection ko dito with DL speeds of 1.6 Mbps sa pinangakong 2 Mbps. Kahit pumatak lang ng 10 Mbps ang makukuha ko sa LTE ng Smart masaya na ako dyan.

    The only question left: Pricing. Kagaguhan ang presyo ng Globe Torque. But I think Smart can lower the price if they can attract a huge chunk of the netizens as long as they can provide the service that justifies the price.

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