Sensation-friendly Telecom XT

, posted: 20-Jul-2011 12:23

Telecom New Zealand XT is the country's only totally 3G, legacy-free smartphone network. There's no 2G GSM backfill so you get UMTS (WCDMA/HSDPA) connection speeds wherever you get a signal. In fact, having both GSM and UMTS together is actually running two networks in parallel for no benefit to the smartphone user.

So Telecom XT sounds like the biz, but a little extra background might be informative.

What the heck is 2G and 3G anyway?

In a nutshell, they're shorthand for whatever's the 'current' technology. 2G means "second generation", 3G means "third generation". It's a kind of marker to indicate a specific state of available technology, and the newly arriving fourth generation will be known, unsurprisingly, as 4G. It's simply a convenience to track the advancement of mobile technology.

What's GSM then?

Basically GSM refers to "Groupe Special Mobile", a European mobile telecoms standard that became a worldwide standard, so the name changed to "Global System for Mobile Communications".

What happened to the "C"? Beats me. This technology, bringing as it did full duplex voice capability, was nicknamed 2G and the nickname stuck. Data transmission was later added and has been referred to as 2.5G. Daft, but there you go.

Okay, got that, so what's with UMTS?

UMTS stands for "Universal Mobile Telephone System" (don't you love acronyms?), and is what we informally refer to as 3G. It incorporates technologies and standards which are better performing than the GSM ones that preceded it.

But you wrote WCDMA/HSDPA... where do they fit in?

WCDMA is an acronym for "Wideband Code Division Multiplexing Access" and is the underlying technology in UMTS. So when you're talking about WCDMA, in theory you're discussing the stuff that makes it work. However, the two have become interchangeable except to the purists and telephony engineers who are too boring to pay attention to anyway. Except for any of the previously mentioned who show themselves to be interesting and dinner-party-worthy by reading this blog.

The most interesting thing about WCDMA is that it's faster than GSM. If you add in HSDPA, a subset of WCDMA, you make it faster again. HSDPA stands for "High Speed Downlink Packet Access", a technology that allows greatly increased data transmission speeds of currently up to 21 Mbps (megabits per second which is the standard measure of the "speedosity" of hurtling data bits) and with the theoretical maximum data speed of 84Mbps.

That is travelling some.

So you can see why Telecom New Zealand's investment in their WCDMA-only XT network is a very sound one.

How's that working out for ya?

It's working very nicely, as it turns out. But...

My home is, unfortunately for me and my near neighbours, in something of a black hole. On Telecom New Zealand's coverage map, we're firmly located in a block sadly hued in the manner that confirms my suspicion that my mobile reception is rubbish. At least, compared to many other people including my fellow testers.

That means my HTC Sensation's signal is poor, which in turn means that the noise component is outstanding. It's a matter of physics that as your signal decays, so does the speed of your data and the quality of your calls, but there's a wrinkle here that needs a little exploration.

Well, get on with it then...

The reality is that even with the signal poverty I experience at home, voice call quality remains apparently unaffected. I know this because I've spent many a pre-pay draining hour making and receiving calls with the HTC Sensation to and from our landline, my Samsung Galaxy S and the better half's Apple iPhone 3Gs. And the irrefutable outtake is that the Telecom XT network compensates incredibly well for its poorer signal availability in this neck of the woods.

I'm going to annoy the Vodafone fans here by stating that with a similarly weak signal, the SGS and iPhone 3Gs suffer from stuttering and drop-outs while the HTC Sensation never has. A sample of one, but it's a fact.

Was it a handset thing? A network thing? I can't tell, but the combination delivers a better performance in poor signal conditions than the other phones and their network.

Out of curiosity, I tried the HTC Sensation on the Vodafone network and got a higher signal which tends to suggest that XT's better performance on voice can't be put down to a better signal locally. Perhaps it's a technology edge with Telecom's hardware or software, but I'm not qualified to comment so I'll just say that in a poor signal environment, the HTC Sensation on the XT network delivers an outstanding experience.

And where the signal's good?

As you'd expect, in good signal conditions Telecom XT and Vodafone both deliver crisp, interference free, solid voice call experiences.

Now, smartphones are not known for their excellence in radio reception, being the compromise that they are in terms of their functionality. And who hasn't experienced their smartphone getting zero signal where somebody's trusty old feature phone makes calls with no issues at all?

With the HTC Sensation, I can confidently predict that your featurephone-wielding buddies will no longer be snickering about your beautiful new gadget.

The dreaded 'Black Holes'...

As anybody on the Vodafone network travelling from St Heliers in Auckland via Tamaki Drive and up to the Auckland hospital via Grafton Road will tell you, there's a black hole just before Okahu Bay and another just before the Port turn-off on Grafton Road.

By 'Black Hole', of course, I'm talking about a zero signal anomaly where calls drop completely. In the course of my voice call testing, I made a point of making calls in those areas as a comparison. Of what, exactly, I'm not sure as the variables are legion. However, I'm able to confirm that on voice for the entire trip both ways, the HTC Sensation on Telecom XT never dropped a call.

Coming up after the break...

I'll be having a close look at the data performance of the HTC Sensation on Telecom's XT network in an upcoming post, so I hope you'll drop by for what should be an interesting expose.

And for those who were on the edge of their seats with anticipation over my promised video post, the weather has frustrated the effort so it'll be a future feature (sorry, couldn't help myself), as soon as I'm able to get it completed.

About the author:

Andy (ArtooDetoo) may be a relative noob in comparison to his fellow HTC Sensation testers, being merely an "Ultimate Geek" in Geekzone, but it hasn't prevented him from commenting at length on numerous topics and forums, with a prolific presence in the Geekzone 'Android' area.

An advertising creative in his day job, he also possesses a passion for tech stuff - software and hardware - and besides having a number of gadgets to keep him interested, he also has a background in software development.

These attributes should at least give him the kind of analytical slant to temper opinion with reason. He and his fellow Telecom Ambassadors have already been hard at work testing and benchmarking so you'll get all the info without the effort. At least, that's the theory. Judge for yourselves.



Other related posts:
HTC Watch on HTC Sensation in New Zealand
HTC Sensation: The Story So Far
Testing mobile data speeds with HTC Sensation






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Telecom New Zealand
Auckland
New Zealand


Telecom Tech is a different type of blog. We're sponsored by Telecom New Zealand, but most of the posts here are from every day users like you.

We choose tech savvy Geekzone users to "test drive" the new handsets from Telecom New Zealand.

The team will post firsthand reports on using these smartphones on New Zealand's smartphonenetwork. Make sure to keep an eye on this blog. Who knows who might be our next "test drivers"?

   

Catch up on previous Telecom Tech reviews - read about the Nokia Lumia 1020Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Nokia Lumia 800, Nokia Lumia 710 and HTC Sensation.





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