Kill GPRS to make Virgin Broadband fly

Munir Kotadia

After struggling with Virgin Mobile's broadband over 3G for a couple of weeks, I discovered a modem tweak that has completely changed my Internet experience.

Virgin Broadband uses mobile phone networks to provide users with an Internet connection and the equivalent of a land-line phone number.

One feature of the service is that, depending on the strength of the signal in the user's area, the modem will switch between three different mobile standards -- GPRS, UMTS and HSDPA.

GPRS is technically 2.5G and offers an experience similar to dial-up. UMTS is starter 3G, providing a slight step up with downlinks of 384Kbps while HSDPA, known as 3.5G, is the most desirable, with a current potential download speed of 3.6Mbps.

This switching feature does have its uses -- when you are in an area outside 3G coverage, the service will drop down to GPRS and still remain connected to the Internet.

However, one issue -- and, after speaking with the tech support team at Virgin, an issue that affects lots of people -- is that the 3G signal is relatively weak inside buildings, causing the modem to stick with a "safe" GPRS link instead of risking a more challenging 3G connection.

On my modem's connection status page, the signal strength floats between -85db and -103db.

I hate GPRS. It makes downloading large files painful and I struggled even using Web sites like Gmail and Facebook -- YouTube was impossible.

An important fact is that a very weak 3G connection is still about six times faster than GPRS, so in most cases it is better to kill the GPRS altogether and force the modem to stick with 3G.

Luckily, Virgin's modems can be set to do just that.

The process takes about one minute and for me, it made a world of difference.

Follow the steps below and see how you go:

  • Connect to the modem management console (192.168.1.1) and log in.
  • Make sure the Internet is not currently connected (either press the connect button on the top of the modem or click the disconnect button in the console).
  • Click on the Connection Settings icon.
  • Click Network Connections.
  • Click WAN Cellular.
  • Click on the Settings button.
  • Scroll down to "Network Type" and select "UMTS only".
  • Click the Apply button. When the page reloads press OK.

Now your modem will ignore the GPRS signal so you have to beware of two things.

Firstly, because your modem is now set to ignore GPRS, it will only connect in 3G, which means if your 3G signal is extremely weak, instead of switching to dial-up speeds, the connection will cut out completely.

Secondly, watch those download limits. When my signal was mainly GPRS the amount of bandwidth being used was minimal and it seemed I would never be able to use up my 4GB limit. But with a continuous 3G connection, those megabits just fly through the sky.



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Dspenc20 posted a comment   
Australia

Easier way to do the above process

*Disconnect wireless broadband in the Virgin mobile Connection manager
*Click on Tools.
*Click on options
*Click on Network
*Change Network Type to UMTS only.

 

RedAlert602 posted a comment   
United States

i don't get how to do the whole process.

 

RedAlert602 posted a comment   
United States

This might sound like a dumb question but where can you find all of this because ive already clicked on everything to see if i could see the Connection Settings icon but i cant find it. can someone help me? thanks.

 

****ty internet reception posted a comment   

I have a virgin broadband internet stick 50 a month for 7gb its hopless i live in surburbia and it has little or next to no umts reception its slow and overpriced get lan line!!!

 

Nick posted a comment   

The more customers they signed the worst the service got so don't recommend you neighbors. The modem is some $20 cheap eastern block made product which only give 2 bars max all the time making there service next to useless. Unless you buy a good modem with a booster you will get a perfect product with four to five bars, but they will still shape you internet. If you can't afford a real modem use you old Nokia phone at least you will get four bars and a phone call which will not drop out after 2 minutes.

 

Flash posted a comment   

I live in Forest lake, Brisbane and 3G is totally unreliable here so wireless broadband sucks AND they charge for uploads as well.

 

Nickster posted a comment   

How do you connect to the modem management console?

 

ron g posted a comment   

just getting better all the time.
virgin is great! best value i have seen anywhere. just keep those prices down for your loyal
customers.
cheers

 

Havoc posted a comment   

using just UMTS does help, but I've noticed that even thaugh the signals are high, the download and uploads are still slow. Reason could be the ports being used or USB interface. I am gonna test my theory.

 

tone posted a comment   

Is there a way to connect to connect to the modem management console on OS X (10.5.6)?

I've tried reaching it on 192.168.1.1 but this is timing out without a response.

Any help greatly appreciated


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