A Tale of Two SIMs, Two Devices, and Internet Connectivity

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Wifi Access Point

In the Beginning
There was once a SIM-locked MiFi (mobile Wi-Fi) device from MTN. Being network-locked meant that all I could use it with was an MTN SIM card. But using it was a royal pain in the posterior! Connecting to the internet on my phone via the Wi-Fi service, WhatsApp didn’t work on the phone for the post part. On PC, webpages loaded slowly and in part, and most of the time images wouldn’t load. See my recent article, MTN Internet Users Cope by Swearing and Cursing?.

On the other hand, there was also an Android smartphone, an LG E400, used with an Etisalat SIM card inside it. Etisalat 3G fluctuated like crazy on this device, so much so that I began to get frustrated.

Trading Places
Earlier today, I unlocked the Mi-Fi device so that I had the freedom to use any SIM with it. The first thing that I did was insert the Etisalat SIM in the now unlocked Mi-Fi device. Guess what? It holds on to that network’s 3G signal better than I experienced when it was inside the Android smartphone.

Even more surprising is the fact that when I switched things and put the MTN SIM in the Android phone, the MTN internet service became almost incredibly usable. Connecting my phone via Wi-Fi, WhatsApp messages now get delivered instantly (the same MTN network that wouldn’t deliver messages for hours when I used it with the MiFi), and all webpages load faster and in full. Images now load properly. I mean, incredible!

Yes; it must be pure sorcery.

Of course, jokes aside, there must be technical explanations. One could be that certain networks romp better with certain devices. You know, radio frequency and attenuation issues. Bla, bla. I shall leave that to the network and radio engineers.

Compatible Networks and Devices?
Apparently, it is not enough to just purchase a 3G device and be sure that your network’s mobile internet service will behave nicely with it. What is the possibility that many of those griping about MTN’s internet are plagued with this very issue? I remember an article years ago in which someone complained of being unable to use the built-in browser on his device with an MTN connection, though it worked with alternative connections? Remember the Opera Mini issues too?

Just what are the chances? Shall we have to require rocket science screening procedures to determine what devices work better with what mobile internet services? You take a look at this feedback that I got on Twitter and tell me:


See? Stability in one device, but superb performance in another. There. It isn’t just me, and I’m betting that more scenarios like this abound.

The End Is Happiness
Like I keep saying, marriage, jobs, children, money et al are not the end. They are all means to the end. That end is happiness. So, whether my Etisalat 3G subscription works better in an MTN MiFi device, or my MTN subscription works like a dream in an Android phone contrary to the poor service it provided in its own network-locked MiFi, so long as I am happy, all is well.

Am I? Yes; for now. May this honeymoon persist.

Update: October 12
Yesterday when I wrote the first part of this article, all was well. The day before was a mess. Today, WhatsApp messages are not being sent or delivered over the MTN connection.

It is official – MTN mobile internet is schizophrenic. I give up. The Y’hello network needs a psychiatrist. For real.

5 comments

  1. I too have a similar experience with an mtn locked zte modem. It goes gaga once in a while by not connecting at all & whenever it does pronto i insert it in my Zain usb unlocked modem which delivers breath taking speed. That’s not all at times all my modems do conspire to frustrate my browsing with my laptop the way i get around such is simply to insert the sim card into my tablet & am on line once in again.

  2. Strange things do happen.

    this reminds me of a time when Windows XP could not detect a particular PIC device. all efforts were fruitless.

    On removing it in frustration, Windows now suddenly detected it. Incredible!

    Magic. Well, technology is MAGICal anyway..

  3. Additionally, I once had a Sendo handset that would show a single bar of signal.

    putting the SIM in another phone gave fully signals. Consistently. it was an MTN network locked phone. I eventually gave out the phone then, concluding that it was just inferior….

  4. This happens to me too. While everybody complains about mtn being terrible, schizophrenic and suchlike, I happen to be having a very pleasant experience with them. You see, I use a Nokia internet stick that’s open to all networks. For some reason, it’s only MTN that seems to work perfectly on it. GLO and ETISALAT 3G connections usually are very unstable on it, causing the modem to disconnect often. AIRTEL 3G is almost always absent in my area (Owode-Onirin, Lagos). I’m beginning to agree that the GSM network quality is also affected by the device being used. Perhaps it could also be a power consumption issue?? MTN 3G consumes power at a steadier rate than ETISALAT 3G or GLO for that matter. That’s the conclusion I’ve come to.

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