Troubleshooting: Connection Speeds

T-Mobile cell phone tethering edition

I use my Lollipop as an access point for my devices to “the outside world,” by tethering my Lollipop to a cell phone. After some recent mobile account upgrades, I finally buckled down to do some serious Lollipop work… and discovered my connection speeds are abysmal, at less than 0.5 mbps, with two different phones (an iPhone 5S and an LG K20 Plus) on the T-mobile network.

But when using an iPhone 8 on the Verizon network as a hotspot, the connection speed jumped to 4.5 mbps.

These tests were without a VPN, so I was concerned that Unbound and Pi-hole may have been hindering my speeds. However….

It turned out that my cellular plan only allowed tethering at 3G speeds, even though I was under the impression I’d be getting 4G tethering. (“under the impression” as in “the rep at the store and the rep on the phone two days later said as much.” But I digress with my bitterness.)

After more digging, not only is it not transparent that tether speed limits are a thing, but the “unlimited 4G tethering” plan (AKA “One Plus International,” NOT to be confused with “One Plus” plan) had been discontinued on August 10, 2018: about two days after I ran these tests. See this post from the Mobile Internet Resource Center about T-mobile’s plan changes.

I got lucky: Because the changes to my account over the last several weeks were documented in their system before the retirement of the One Plus International plan, T-mobile was able to reinstate the One Plus International plan and now I’m seeing perfectly respectable greater-than-4-mbps tethering speeds.

If you’re using a Lollipop as your primary internet access point and you’re noticing sluggish network speeds, you may consider running some tests to compare your cellular connection to a non-cellular connection (such as home or coffee shop internet), and checking with your mobile plan to determine if you’re being similarly throttled.

For the purposes of troubleshooting this issue, I used speedtest.net’s Android and iOS apps, and the speedtest-cli (command-line interface), installed directly on my Lollipop with apt install speedtest-cli. (For my novice friends: After it’s installed, it’s very easy to use: just type speedtest at the command line and hit enter.)

And if you’re a heavy mobile user on any network(s), the Mobile Internet Resource Center is a wealth of reliable, unbiased information. Some of it is paywalled but I’ve always found plenty of very helpful free information on their site: https://www.rvmobileinternet.com

I hope this helps you avoid similar hassles,

jmf.