3G Network Engineering: When Operators Cripple Their Networks

Several years after the start of 3G and some operators still
struggle with their 3G network engineering. Unbelievable but true.

example: Wind in Milano, Italy. I’ve been using the Wind network already last
year in Roma for several weeks and enjoyed great 3G coverage and performance. A year
later, I am in Milano, a city in Northern Italy, and the situation is
completely different. Last week when I was here the 3G network was completely
unusable, due to packet drop rates of 30% or more. This week the situation has
improved but it still is nowhere where it should be.

Over the weekend I had some time to take a closer look what was
going on. While at first I suspected that they had some timer and threshold
problems that makes the connection switch between dedicated and common
channels, I quickly saw that this was not the case. Instead, there is frequent
measurement control messaging, traffic channel reconfiguration and active
setup updates. Every time the channel is reconfigured, packets are either lost
or delayed for a second or two which slows down the connection considerably.
After a while this starts a chain reaction as sometimes web page downloads
become so slow that the network decides to switch the connection onto a common
channel. This again provokes packet delays. It doesn’t seem to be a single
mobile issue as it happens with three different phones. Very strange as I am in
a place with excellent network coverage. So Wind, please get out there and fix

But then, Wind’s also got EDGE coverage in Milano, which
works very well… Shame I have to fall back on 2.5G because their 3G network
engineering is flawed…