The Agony and Ecstasy of WIND

Agony & Ecstasy

This week I activated a pair of WIND Mobile SIMs for my girlfriend and I on the “Two Countries, One Unlimited Plan” promotion. We haven’t yet had the chance to experience unlimited data roaming south of the border, but I did some fairly extensive testing of the network in and around my neighbourhood yesterday.

Now make no mistake, I think every mobile user in this country has benefited from WIND, whether they’re a customer or not—though I don’t think it’s too contentious to say that their disruptive power has considerably weakened after they pulled out of the last spectrum auction.

Here’s the conundrum that I face with WIND: Do they offer more than the Big Three for less? Yes. Conversely, is service from the Big Three more than twice as good for double the price? Yes again.

By The Numbers

I knew I’d be taking a big hit in data speeds going from 4G to 3G on WIND, but figured that if I could average an upload speed of 1Mbps or more I could make do. This assumption was based on some tests I ran on a friend’s AWS device—apparently my patio is a sweet spot for WIND data. Who knew?

WIND Speed Tests

Yesterday I did speed tests in Chinatown, Kensington, U of T Campus and Baldwin Village. As you can clearly see, that 1Mbps upload didn’t happen. Here’s what the other numbers meant for me:

Ping

Slow ping times kept me waiting for web sites to load in my browser. More than once the call to a web page timed out altogether and I had to reload.

Download

Slower download speeds meant that YouTube videos wouldn’t stream in HD. Ever. Instead I was presented with an option called “HQ”, which on a 1080p screen didn’t look all that great.

Upload

Sustained upload speeds of less than 1Mbps took all options for rich media teleconferencing, like video calling or using VoIP over the cellular network, off the table. Simple as that.

One other thing that may or may not be an issue for others is that battery life on my Nexus 5 took a real hit yesterday. It may have been all the speed tests, it might have been WIND’s network or it could be something unique to my device—I have noticed that, for whatever reason, the battery on my Nexus 5 seems to last longer on Koodo’s LTE network.

And for those of you who still make phone calls, call quality

Agony & Ecstasy

Despite what you might think I’m not trying to troll the WIND forum with this post; my only goal here is to provide some perspective from a former WIND customer who was seduced by LTE and is now spoiled for everything else. In the two years that I was with WIND (2011-2013) I was thrilled to not hand over money to the Big Three every month. I think WIND’s promotions, up to and including this one, have been fantastic deals, and that their fair data usage policy is fair.

After getting reacquainted with the network yesterday I honestly think that the best fit for WIND’s data network is either a legacy or low-powered handset—an older BlackBerry with BIS or something akin to a Moto E. I wouldn’t have thought this before I experienced LTE for the first time; in fact I’ve recommended WIND to half a dozen friends who are using modern devices and seem quite happy with the service.

For me though, LTE compared to anything before it is like the difference between broadband and dial-up for a desktop computer. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can go back.

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