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Mobile connections (GSM/GPRS/3G/UMTS)

More and more people are using Your Freedom via mobile connectons (GSM, GPRS, UMTS, 3G services). While Your Freedom works across mobile connections too (though not yet on mobile devices), there are some restrictions that need your consideration. This page tries to answer the most common questions and tries to point out the caveats.

If you are from Nigeria or another country where people usually connect to the Internet through phone networks then this page is for you!

 

Will Your Freedom replace my Internet connection?

No. Your Freedom can only work across an existing Internet connection. Your Freedom is meant to remove restrictions that your current Internet connection imposes on you, it is not meant to replace it completely. We are not a reseller of some network operator or the like, and we do not operate any mobile networks.

 

Do you have your own SIM cards?

No. We are not a local loop provider, we do not operate access connections and we do not operate mobile networks, nor are we a reseller of any mobile network provider.

 

What modem/phone do you recommend?

You should ask your mobile network provider, not us (and you probably shouldn't mention "Your Freedom" when you do). We just provide a service on top. You wouldn't ask us about the right type of keyboard or a recommendation of a screen either.

 

Will Your Freedom let me browse for free?

Maybe. We do offer a free service (and it's of course free as the name suggests) but unless your mobile provider's network has holes that permit the YF client to connect to the server without paying for the service you still need to pay your mobile provider for data access. If you think you can use the Internet for free through us then you may be right with some providers; check out blogs and forums on the Internet. We've seen public wireless access points that could be fooled and there might be broken WAP gateways.

In short, we have found that in some cases the answer is "yes". See the country information pages. Please keep in mind though that this is a side-effect of Your Freedom's intention of bypassing censorship, not an intentional, guaranteed property of our service. If it works, fine.

 

Will Your Freedom make my mobile Internet connection faster?

We cannot make your connection faster than it physically is, but we may be able to use it more efficiently, for example if your provider routes traffic in a sub-optimal way. More likely, however, the connection will be slightly slower because of the protocol overhead.

If your uploads and downloads hit the physical limit of your Internet connection, there is nothing Your Freedom can do about this. If you are connecting through a GSM network your typical speed will be around 50 kbit/s and the round trip time will be around 700 ms, with Your Freedom as well as without. UMTS/3G generally provides higher data rates and faster response times (a typical rate is 250 kbit/s and a typical round trip time is 200 ms, but your provider and/or mobile device may have other limitations). You'll find more details further down the page.

You may have heard that Your Freedom actually improves responsiveness for some. The only thing Your Freedom can do something about is sub-optimal routing by your provider. If your provider has good connectivity to our servers but bad connectivity to (for example) gaming servers, using Your Freedom may actually improve your connection to these servers.

Let me tell you a bit about mobile Internet connections. No matter what your provider says, it's not a real Internet connection (i.e. it is not using TCP/IP). Mobile networks emulate some protocols from the TCP/IP protocol suite, among them TCP, UDP and ICMP. They only do it to a certain degree and in most cases the emulation is not entirely transparent (for example, many providers reduce the quality of JPEG images when browsing Internet web pages to conserve bandwidth). To avoid applications running into timeouts all the time, many signal a successful TCP SYN-SYNACK-ACK handshake even though an end-to-end connection hasn't been established yet. They are not doing it to pester you, but to ensure the best possible service over a network that is not very well suited for the TCP/IP protocol suite. This may all sound very technical to you but the bottom line is easy to understand: it's not a true Internet connection and you should not expect it to do miracles. You can use Your Freedom to turn the emulated Internet connection into a real one (from the protocol perspective) and this may improve your "Internet experience", but trust me -- it won't be faster. It might work better though.

 

But if I buy a package the speed will be better, right?

Let me make this very clear: a GSM user has no speed benefits from buying a package, it will only remove the time restrictions. The only package type that makes sense for most mobile users is the BasicFreedom package (unless you require a server port forward or you are connecting through an HSDPA enabled UMTS network). Details further down the page...

Before you buy, make sure you have thoroughly tested the package type you intend to buy. Log in to our web page, click on ACCOUNT, then click on Try before you buy. If you need more testing and the page won't let you test anymore, send an email to support@your-freedom.net and we'll enable your account for additional testing. Only buy a package if you have verified that you benefit from it.

 

What kind of speed can I expect? Should I buy a package?

People ask very often whether buying a package will make their mobile connection faster. The answer is: it highly depends on the way you connect. If your phone or modem establishes a GPRS connection, the answer is: clearly no. If your phone or modem has an EDGE connection the answer is: probably at times. If your phone or modem gets connected using UMTS (also called 3G) the answer is: yes, but more than BasicFreedom won't do you much good. Only if your connection is HSDPA (and possibly also HSUPA) the answer is: clearly yes.

The speed of GPRS connections never exceeds 55 kbit/s, and you should set the bandwidth sliders to these values AT MOST, especially if you use UDP connection mode. This is shared bandwidth between all data users in the same cell -- if more than one user is downloading or uploading, it will slow down the others. To make matters worse, only one station can transmit in one time slot, and if it doesn't use it up the remaining bandwidth is lost.

With EDGE (a GPRS enhancement) the gross data rate can be up to 192 kbit/s, of which you might be able to use up to 160 kbit/s. But this only works if there are free time slots, i.e. if there are no more than 3 or 7 (depending on whether your connection uses 1800 or 900 MHz GSM) voice calls going on. Again, this is shared bandwidth, similar to GPRS, the only difference is that it uses up to 3 time slots.

UMTS/3G can provide 384 kbit/s gross data rate. You can get close to this value but you can't exceed it. Most likely your speed will be around 250 kbit/s. In other words: BasicFreedom is the right choice and higher-speed packages won't do you any good.

If your UMTS/3G network uses HSDPA/HSUPA enhancements it can provide up to 1.8/3.6/7.2 Mbit/s (ask your provider and/or check what your connecting device says!). These networks are fast if your reception is good. Only if you get this type of connection you will benefit from EnhancedFreedom.

Scotty reminded Captain Kirk in Star Trek: "You cannot change the laws of physics." We cannot make your Internet connection any faster than it is, we can only use it more efficiently. We cannot turn a GPRS connection into DSL. If you experience bad performance, experiment with different YF servers. Also, try to ensure your GSM/UMTS connection is as good as it can be, i.e. place your modem or phone carefully for best reception. Subtle changes can make quite a difference! Set "RTT measurements" to 2000, then watch the message log. The RTT values logged provide an indication of connection quality -- aim for the lowest possible values. (Once you're done change the configured value to something higher again or remove it completely, it will cut into your bandwidth if you don't.)

If you really want to measure maximum throughput, check out the FAQ. The YF client has a built-in speed test function described in the FAQ. Please do not ask support about it, read the FAQ!

 

I've got a package and now my connection is even slower!

If this really is the case then you are overloading the underlying network. For example, if you have a BasicFreedom package and connect through a GPRS network using connection mode UDP, this can easily happen. The YF client and server will happily send UDP datagrams (packets) at a rate that requires 256 kbit/s of available bandwidth but your underlying network will only forward at most 55 kbit/s worth of packets and it will first queue and then drop the remainder. This will require the YF client and server to retransmit and resync a lot, and this cuts into your net bandwidth too. The result is a sawtooth pattern of throughput.

It is VERY important that you do not overload the underlying network. No matter what package you may have, set the bandwidth sliders in the status panel to speeds that the underlying network can actually support. For fine-tuning the downlink speed, it is often helpful if you lower the uplink speed a bit.

Another thing that you need to consider is that an unreliable transport protocol like UDP that maps to another unreliable transport protocol on the mobile network is not designed to provide maximum throughput, but minimum delay. If you connect the YF client to the YF server through UDP you can't expect throughput miracles even if your connection is pretty good.

Please don't blame us if your underlying network cannot provide the same speed our servers are willing to provide to you. All our servers in Europe and the US are well capable to deliver the speeds we offer.

 

If I replace my GSM SIM with a 3G/UMTS SIM, will this help?

Generally, no. The SIM card will only enable your access to the network. It won't turn your mobile device into a 3G/UTMS device (i.e. your mobile device needs to be capable of using a 3G/UMTS network) and it won't turn your local base station from GSM into a 3G/UMTS base station (i.e. you need 3G/UMTS coverage). Check with your provider whether you have 3G/UMTS coverage where you are, and ensure that your mobile device is capable of using a 3G/UMTS network. If both is the case, you will benefit from a new SIM card and your speed will improve -- with or without Your Freedom.

 

Will Your Freedom make it possible to connect multiple PCs through my GSM connection?

Yes. But then they share the bandwidth, and this will slow down your connection. It's faster if everyone uses their own GSM connection, but only if there is enough bandwidth available on the GSM level -- unless you are the only data user in the GSM cell. In rural places this likely isn't the case anyway. This page will tell you how to do it.

 

Any more hints how to make it more reliable?

Yes, indeed.

If you use the HTTPS, HTTP or FTP connection model and your network provider only uses a single official IP address for all its customers (like for example MTN) you should configure a "keepalive interval" of maybe 3000 milliseconds instead of using the default 20,000 milliseconds. This will ensure your underlying TCP streams will not be re-used for other users after being idle for a few seconds, and if it happens anyway both server and client notice more quickly. Do this if you see a lot of "can't read from server connection" debug messages in the message log.

If you use UDP mode use client version 20090828-01 or newer. (You should always aim at using the most current software version but in this case it will actually improve performance.)

 

 
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