One of the great joys of modern life is sharing experiences with people who aren’t in attendance.
From Christmas Day Skype calls to real-time social media discussions about live TV, the internet has given us the ability to communicate wherever we happen to be.
That is unless we’re in a crowded public location, like standing on football terraces trying fruitlessly to get sports apps and fan forums to load.
Similarly, it’s not uncommon to see people in concert halls struggling to send WhatsApp messages to let friends know where they are.
The reason? 4G dropouts caused by too many devices attempting to connect and distribute data via a limited number of available masts.
The UK’s 4G network can cope with normal mobile data volumes. But herd tens of thousands of people into one location, and network operators simply can’t support traffic volumes.
The results usually include websites failing to display, protracted Loading messages and considerable consumer frustration.
How do phones react to 4G dropouts?
Smartphones will always try to find a way to connect to the internet.
If 4G dropouts are preventing normal data transfer, they’ll look for slower networks like GPRS and EDGE.
These legacies of the 2G era are still pressed into service when 4G networks get overloaded. Their use is indicated on your handset by the letters G and E respectively.
However, while it’s technically keeping your device online, GPRS has a maximum transfer speed of 0.1Mbps.
EDGE is twice as fast, but still yawningly slow by modern standards.
What can I do to improve matters
One obvious step is to avoid internet data in crowded locations, and communicate via voice calls and SMS messages.
These services will be unaffected by bandwidth issues. Rather than trying to send someone an Instagram message, phone or text them instead.
If you must look something up online, accept it’ll take a while for results to display on your device.
This is not the time to be surfing social media sites or trying to watch YouTube videos. Stick to basic text services like webmail and search engines.
If a webpage is loading slowly, leave the handset unlocked for a few minutes and it will hopefully display.
Refreshing the page is a bad idea, since it means requesting every byte of data that’s already been delivered all over again.
Leaving a venue often helps; the bowl-shaped design of outdoor stadiums makes it difficult for 4G signals to get in and out again.
Finally, a longer-term solution would be to invest in a 5G handset.
Always-on connectivity is one of 5G’s key promises, using a mixture of high and low-frequency bandwidth to ensure devices stay connected to your chosen network.
If there are 5G services in the areas you regularly socialise and attend events in, a 5G-compatible handset could ensure you’re never pushed to the EDGE again…