I probably would have done this where ever I just happened to be and currently I'm out in Cambodia.  Being a bit of an internet junkie some kind of broadband connection was essential. But with the spate of seemingly reliable value centric 3.75G mobile broadband that’s just become available out here could a mobile broadband connection really be a serious alternative to in home land bound broadband? We'll this takes a look at a couple of the most value centric providers out here and so far the quality and reliability of service for both has generally proven to be very good. So if it comes down to a case of being one or the other what will it be? The extreme convenience and flexibility of an over the air 3.75G (within the city area) "pay as you go" mobile broadband connection or the raw unparalleled light speed of a fixed land bound in home/office optic to cable connection?  Well I'll start off with the conclusion for the two service providers to take the lime light for this test. The results for the conclusion are listed after it if you can be bothered looking at it. 


 
 
Conclusion

Generally Smarts 3.75G broadband at this base level is a decent alternative to land bound broadband if you're not a hardcore fragging gamer since ping rates generally stayed under a very low and very impressively fast 10 ms on Digi for the most part with the lowest on Smart sometimes being around a still relatively higher 65 ms for obvious reasons of the types of networks being used. But generally having the Smart modem means you can bring your connection with you whilst on the move, but obviously it'll drop down to edge whilst out of the city or generally in areas where there isn't 3G/3.75G coverage. Plus you could potentially still keep going for a little while longer if there was a power outage if you're on a laptop. If it better suits your usage and spending patterns it might be worth considering. Also 3G/3.75G download rates and general performance of the modem were better when using it with the TP-Link TL-MR3220 router, however doing it this way obviously requires you to have a mains source nearby to power the router.

 If I'm still out here I'll see if can get hold of the Smart branded modem (that pins 7.2mbps maximum potential downlink speed to its abilities) at some point and get some results together for that. If it can get anything near 4 to 5 mbps I reckon it might be something worth considering as an option. 



Raw speed? Simple science really, light Speed vs. microwave radio frequencies?!
 
In pure data through-put performance and speed without bandwidth throttling that the optic company impose it was obvious that the optic broadband would win. But in the comparative throttled sense for most general users needs (of the none online gaming kind) against the context of best value for money, convenience and reliability of service provision they're very comparable as alternatives either way depending on your specific needs. Smart mobile 3.75G broadband in the financial sense is obviously much more flexible since it operates on a "pay as you go" basis that allows you to spend as little or as much as you like with no fixed term payments that have to be made. There isn't any complicated long drawn out process that involves telephone calls or visits to an office to do this either. It's as simple as entering a short pre-defined network operator assigned GSM code after topping up. As far as the speed thing goes most general users (not actually looking to game online) won't really notice the difference in speed whilst generally using it for internet browsing, general internet video streaming and webcam chat. 

Although this was designed to see how they compared this generally isn't really a fair comparison in the purest sense. I might also point out that Digi doesn't have an outright owned 3.75G mobile network just as Smart does not run and own an optic broadband network/service. they're two very different segments i.e. a mobile voice and data communication connection vs. a single location land bound broadband connection. But I'm certain that if Smart decided to get into the Home optic broadband business by leasing in bulk from a larger core optic company (if not create their own in home optic network outright) their service would be just as fast. Digi do have a small Digi branded 3.5G mobile data service too however their stand-alone data packages are generally much more expensive then those available for Smart's 3.75G data service. I'm also guessing Digi are most likely leasing mobile network usage from a larger mobile provider that own their own actual mobile network for their Digi 3.5G mobile data service. No doubt the Digi 3.5G performance would be comparable if not a little worse based on the network performance of other 3.5G providers that I've used out here against the performance Smart's recently opened 3.75G service for general consumer use. 




Short term visitors and holiday makers might also be interested to know (...I guess this would also apply even if you were staying long term)

I guess in such scenarios ease and convenience is always preferred. But here's a break down of the initial setup process.


 
Digi optic broadband

Initial cost -  The first months subscription. The modem is free to use during your stay with digi.

Requirements - You obviously need a permanent address at which you'll be staying.  Its just a case of going into the Digi branch and giving them your details by showing some ID, filling out a few forms, and selecting which service plan you'd like to use, After which you pay for it a month at a time. 

Speed of service activation - The connection is usually set up for you with 2 to 3 days. After the engineer has finished setting up for you its pretty much ready to go with no further waiting.

Moving between data plans  - This involves visiting the office and signing papers. It also requires 1 month prior notice.

Frequency of payment - Once a month. However you do have to wait till the following month before they un-throttle your connection again if you've used up all your data allowance for the current month on your subscription. 

Cancellation of service  - There is no fixed period for which you have to stay with them. However you need to inform them a month in advance if you wish to terminate the service. The process just involves visiting the office and filling out and signing a few more forms.



Smart 3.75G broadband

Initial cost - $1 for a 3.5G "pay as you go" Sim card. (useful if you already have your own unlocked 3.5G modem or 3.5G cell phone with built in modem that you can connect to a computer). 

Or you could alternately buy the Smart 3.75G modem (locked to their network) for $30. Also includes 2GB of data each month for the first 3 months. 

Requirements - Some form of ID is required to fill out and sign a form. Usually a passport is sufficient. 

Speed of service activation - immediate. If you just bought a sim card only you just need to put it in your chosen device, top up and choose which data plan you want to use. 

Moving between data plans - This is done instantly and directly from your phone or computer via the use of pre-assigned GSM short codes. Top up with enough credit, choose a data plan that suites you best and enter the GSM short code to activate it. The data allowance for your data plan has to be used up within 30 day. However its perfectly possible to start a new 30 day cycle with another top up at any time if you should use all you data up before the 30 days is up.  

Frequency of payment - whenever you like or when ever you run out of data. 

Cancellation of service -you can if you want to. But it's usually a case of just not using the sim card if you don't want to use it anymore.

If you're staying long term it could quite easily be possible to use and retain both due to the greater flexibility of a Smart connection.





Comparison of similarly structured stand-alone data package costs:


Digi home (only available in the city) landline Optic service

3 Mbps-07GB $12 per calendar month cycle
3 Mbps-10GB $17 per calendar month cycle
3 Mbps-15GB $25 per calendar month cycle
3 Mbps-25GB $35 per calendar month cycle
3 Mbps-35GB $45 per calendar month cycle

You have to wait till the cycle is over before data allowance returns. You also have to inform digi a month in advance if you plan to move between data plans.

Smart 3.75G (only available in the city) Over the air 3.75G Mobile

3.75G  - 01GB $03 30 days to use up the data from the point of data plan code entry
3.75G  - 02GB $05 30 days to use up the data from the point of data plan code entry
3.75G  - 05GB $10 30 days to use up the data from the point of data plan code entry
3.75G  - 10GB $15 30 days to use up the data from the point of data plan code entry
3.75G  - 20GB $25 30 days to use up the data from the point of data plan code entry

You can start a new 30 day cycle at any time if you run out of data or possibly don't start one at all if you don't have the funds. You can also quickly move between plans by entering a different short code for a different plan.


Digi Mobi (only available in the city) Over the air 3.5G Mobile

1 Mbps-2MB/1c-no monthly cost ($25 initial cost for modem) @ 2MB/cent it works out @:
-01GB for $005
-02GB for $010
-05GB for $025
-10GB for $050 (If you think you're going to use this much data on this digi plan you might want to consider the unlimited package)
-20GB for $100

1 Mbps- 05GB $15 ($20 initial cost for the modem)

1 Mbps-Unlimited $48 per calendar month cycle ($10 initial cost for the modem)

I haven't tested this 3G service although they do actually provide a 7 day trial for this 3G service.  They also provide a number of other 3G data packages for customers already subscribed to their optic broadband service.


 
2G confusion when activating your Smart mobile data plan? 


 
When topping up and activating your chosen data plan with Smart mobile it will tell you that it has been been applied for a 2G connection. However if you are using 3G/3.5G/3.75G capable hardware and there is a signal available the Smart APN will automatically figure out that you are using 3G/3.5G/3.75G capable hardware and establish a 3G/3.5G/3.75G connection if there is a 3G or above signal available.

The entry field where you had entered "GPRS" for the Smart APN settings is just name and not an actual switching conditional that would affect any local settings. Smart have already configured the auto detection process on their servers. As stated before if you are using 3G/3.5G/3.75G capable hardware it will auto connect you via a 3G/3.5G/3.75G signal if available.

You don't have to take my word for it as you can also test this for yourself. If its able to attain a connection of 1 mbps or higher you are in fact connected to 3G and above.

 
 


Testing

DIGI optic broadband service - Stated throttled back user accessible bandwidth: 2 mbps - recently officially stated as being uprated to 3 mbps on their website.

Test hardware configuration
DigI optic to cable broadband modem/TP-Link TL-MR3220 3G/3.75G router/host machine/ie9


Round 1 - hosting server pinged - Phnom Penh - Metfone
test 1: 7.82 mbps (local test server ping response time: 12 ms) - Initial ISP caught off guard test.
test 2: 1.62 mbps (local test server ping response time : 6 ms) - prepared and throttled back?
test 3: 2.68 mbps (local test server ping response time : XX ms) - Third prepared for test.
Round 1 average speed:  4.04 mbps

Round 2 - hosting server pinged - Phnom Penh - Mekong net
test 1: 1.09 mbps (local test server ping response time: 6 ms)
test 2: 1.70 mbps (local test server ping response time: 6 ms)
test 3: 1.84 mbps (local test server ping response time: 9 ms)
Round 2 average speed: 1.54 mbps

Overall average down-link speed: 2.79 mbps

Notes: Not sure why but as you can see an anomalous result was acquired for round 1-test 1 peaking at very near 8 mbps on the downlink. As far as I'm aware on a fair number of these types of systems (not all), you can't increase the uplink rate without increasing the downlink rate too despite what the downlink speed gets capped at. Also the uplink speeds stayed consistently high (3 to 5 average to spike quite frequently at 7 mbps) although lower then the first test and also despite the fluctuation in down-link speed results.  

Strangely a further test during off peak hours at around 4.30 am that day gleaned more uniformly consistent results nearly every time of almost exactly 2 mbps downlink and 3 mbps up-link. The ping times were all under 10 ms.




Smart mobile 3.75G service - Stated throttled back user accessible bandwidth:?? (advertised 7.2 mbps Smart branded modem)

Time of commencing : 14:38 (...peak hours) meaning potential heavy network load would also adversely affect performance

Test hardware configuration : E153 USB modem/host machine/Virtual machine/chrome


Round 1 - Host server pinged : Smart Mobile
test 1: 1.22 mbps (local test server ping response time: 075 ms) UL: 0.20
test 3: 0.78 mbps (local test server ping response time: 141 ms) UL: 0.35
test 2: 0.88 mbps (local test server ping response time: 071 ms) UL: 0.22
Round 1 average speed:  0.96 mbps

Round 2 - Host server pinged : Smart Mobile
test 1: 0.92 mbps (local test server ping response time: 099 ms) UL: 0:32
test 2: 0.98 mbps (local test server ping response time: 141 ms) UL: 0.35
test 3: 0.82 mbps (local test server ping response time: 143 ms) UL: 0.35
Round 2 average speed:  0.91 mbps

Notes: spikes at just over 1 mbps on each test.

Round 3 - Host server pinged : Smart Mobile
test 1: 1.28 mbps (local test server ping response time: 147 ms) UL: 0.32
test 2: 1.08 mbps (local test server ping response time: 137 ms) UL: 0.36
test 3: 1.10 mbps (local test server ping response time: 142 ms) UL: 0.30
Round 3 average speed:  1.15 mbps

Overall average downlink speed: 1 mbps







Test hardware configuration : E153 USB modem/host machine/ie9

Round 1 - Host server pinged : Smart Mobile
test 1: 1.07 mbps (local test server ping response time: 065 ms) UL: 0.33
test 2: 1.16 mbps (local test server ping response time: 104 ms) UL: 0.36
test 3: 0.42 mbps (local test server ping response time: 065 ms) UL: 0.35
Round 1 average speed:  0.88 mbps


Round 2 - Host server pinged : Smart Mobile
test 1: 1.16 mbps (local test server ping response time: 135 ms) UL: 0.36
test 2: 1.19 mbps (local test server ping response time: 125 ms) UL: 0.36
test 3: 1.10 mbps (local test server ping response time: 135 ms) UL: 0.25
Round 2 average speed:  1.15 mbps

Test hardware configuration : E153 USB modem/host machine/Chrome

Round 3 - Host server pinged : Smart Mobile
test 1: 1.23 mbps (local test server ping response time: 134 ms) UL: 0.31
test 2: 1.25 mbps (local test server ping response time: 119 ms) UL: 0.34
test 3: 1.27 mbps (local test server ping response time: 129 ms) UL: 0.36
Round 3 average speed:  1.25 mbps

Overall average downlink speed:  1.09 mbps

Notes: It gleaned better results for downlink speeds using chrome then explorer. Also the fact that it was running from a host OS instead of a VM also helped. Overall results so far would suggest (predictably) that if you're a hardcore gamer wanting that extra edge to help you reduce your chances of getting fragged, you should steer well clear of this as a broadband solution due to the extremely high ping rates. The reason lower ping rates are essential for online gaming is that it provides faster response times. Also the relatively high upstream bandwidth that seems to stay solidly and consistently above 3 mbps will also help with high speed lag free online gaming. generally it hangs around about 5 mbps. 

However for general fast web browsing, webcam chat and YouTube @ 240P, 360P & 480P streaming works just fine without issue. (It struggles a little with 720P HD streaming meaning you've no chance with 1080P HD). For general file downloads it should be pretty fast since some of the fastest general servers hosting files for download cap it off at around 300 to 400 kbps per download due to hosting servers restrictions on the servers that you're downloading from. Many hosting servers throttle individual file download speeds at under150 to 100 kbps some much less.   





Test hardware configuration :
E153 USB modem/TP-Link TL-MR3220 3G/3.75G router/host machine/chrome

Round 1 - Host server pinged : Smart Mobile
test 1: 1.58 mbps (local test server ping response time: 110 ms) UL: 0.36
test 2: 1.96 mbps (local test server ping response time: 116 ms) UL: 0.36
test 3: 1.70 mbps (local test server ping response time: 138 ms) UL: 0.35
Round 1 average speed:  1.75 mbps

Round 2 - Host server pinged : Smart Mobile
test 1: 1.70 mbps (local test server ping response time: 138 ms) UL: 0.35
test 2: 2.15 mbps (local test server ping response time: 113 ms) UL: 0.35
test 3: 1.93 mbps (local test server ping response time: 113 ms) UL: 0.35
Round 2 average speed:  1.92 mbps

Round 3 - Host server pinged : Smart Mobile
test 1: 1.57 mbps (local test server ping response time: 112 ms) UL: 0.35
test 2: 2.07 mbps (local test server ping response time: 113 ms) UL: 0.36
test 3: 2.07 mbps (local test server ping response time: 115 ms) UL: 0.35
Round 3 average speed:  1.90 mbps

Overall average downlink speed: 1.86 mbps

NOTES: It seems overall results were significantly better and much more consistent when using the modem in conjunction with the TP-Link TL-MR3220 3G/3.75G router. It spiked at around 2.10 mbps in every instance where it finished lower then 2 mbps. Video streaming was much better when using it with a mobile movie streaming service. The power just cut out. Ok the powers back on and I can say YouTube streaming is perfect and without issue up to 480P, it handled 720P much better but was still prone to pauses whilst buffering. This all makes me wonder if the 7.2 mbps modem that smart provide for their service gives anything near 7.2 mbps at all on the down link based on these results??

Keep in mind that all the above results were attained during peak hours where mobile network load will potentially be high thus adversely affecting data through put performance. DIGI produced a solid 2 mbps every time in testing during off peak hours (@ around 3am to 4am in the morning) despite being said to be capped at 3 mbps. But I must admit it was done at very low ping counts which is expected given the difference in medium of actual data transmission.
 

current time at stopping till power returns : 16:12 (...still within peak time network load)




testing during off peak hours (some time between 8pm to 7am when most people are chilling out before going to sleep) 

Off-peak hours test  time of commencing : 2:45am - 


Test hardware configuration :
E153 USB modem/TP-Link TL-MR3220 3G/3.75G router/host machine/chrome

Round 1 - Host server pinged : Mekong net
test 1: 2.32 mbps (local test server ping response time: 206 ms) UL: 0.34
test 2: 2.08 mbps (local test server ping response time: 200 ms) UL: 0.31
test 3: 2.91 mbps (local test server ping response time: 212 ms) UL: 0.34
Round 1 average speed: 2.43 mbps

Round 2 - Host server pinged : Mekong net
test 1: 2.78 mbps (local test server ping response time: 091 ms) UL: 0.32
test 2: 2.72 mbps (local test server ping response time: 125 ms) UL: 0.30
test 3: 2.70 mbps (local test server ping response time: 128 ms) UL: 0.32
Round 2 average speed:  2.73 mbps

Overall average downlink speed:  2.58 mbps




Test hardware configuration :
E153 USB modem/TP-Link TL-MR3220 3G/3.75G router/host machine/chrome

Round 1 - Host server pinged : Smart Mobile
test 1: 2.79 mbps (local test server ping response time: 148 ms) UL: 0.36
test 2: 2.68 mbps (local test server ping response time: 075 ms) UL: 0.36
test 3: 3.79 mbps (local test server ping response time: 074 ms) UL: 0.35
Round 1 average speed: 3.09 mbps

Round 2 - Host server pinged : Smart Mobile
test 1: 2.79 mbps (local test server ping response time: 148 ms) UL: 0.36
test 2: 3.81 mbps (local test server ping response time: 075 ms) UL: 0.35
test 3: 3.39 mbps (local test server ping response time: 074 ms) UL: 0.36
Round 2 average speed: 3.33 mbps

Overall average down-link speed: 3.21 mbps