How a USB extension cable transformed my PowerTel experience

I have been using the PowerTel mobile broadband package for about two months now, and i am definitely blown away by the experience so far. I know there are many skeptics out there. Many of my friends have used the service and have described it as erratic and bitterly disappointing, whilst others have accused the ISP of throttling download speed, and other users have reached the point of no return and vowed never to use the service again.

I bought the modem a couple of months ago when they announced the 40% promotion. Initially I had sporadic connectivity and was part of the multitude of disappointed customers. The average download speed was always in the 9Kbs – 20Kbs range.

PowerTel modem extended usb cable

All these connectivity problems ended when a friend suggested that I buy a 5 metre long USB extension cable. I got one for US $2.50 at a local electronics shop. Boy did that extension cable change my life! Suddenly my internet connection seemed like it had been touched by the hand of the Prophet. I began experiencing amazing speeds, I could make Skype calls, watch YouTube videos, and stream online audio. All of a sudden I was able to achieve capacity speeds of between to 512 Kb/s to 1Mb/s, all because the modem was significantly elevated as shown in the picture.






Speed Tests
Xfinity Speed testMost consider the xfinity and speed tests to be a definitive benchmark as to how fast an ISP is. When I ran an xfinit
y speed test to a server in the USA and a Speednet test to one in SA, between the two they had an average download speed of 260Kbs.





I am a bit skeptical about these speed tests, as they tend to be wrong most of the time. I prefer to carry out my own tests, by using actual downloads and streaming videos. Below are some of the screenshots of the downloads speeds that I get now when I use the usb extension.

Direct Download Speed

On a good day direct download speeds usually play somewhere around 250 Kb/s.

Average direct download speed
Average direct download speed

Torrent File download

The ISP shuns heavy peer to peer downloads since the service is contended and other users will feel the pinch of other heavy users. If you are a heavy user please be considerate and use it at night when less people are online.

average torrent speed
average torrent speed

It’s quite amazing what a huge difference a $2.50 cable can make to one’s browsing experience. Whilst it may not compare to other faster mobile broadband options, it certainly is worth the $50/month that we pay. Some of my fellow customers who get poor signal from their PowerTel modems can try this hack and fully utilise the best broadband deal in town.

It performs significantly better if you place it outside, and when one connects the extension cable they should always place it facing upwards as shown in the image to achieve optimal results.

Given how the cable has brought wonders to my web experience I am contemplating buying a 10/20 metre one perhaps it will miraculously multiply to 10Mb/s!

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27 thoughts on “How a USB extension cable transformed my PowerTel experience

  1. Where can i also buy this cable because i have had some pretty bad experinces with my Powertel modem

      1. it really worked for when l used to live in greeencroft, one of powertel blackspot until the dongle started refusing to be connected by the long cable

  2. I agree with this article, I have a 2 mt cable attached and in my case, it helped in the sense that i could move the modem around and position it where I could get optimal signal. However, there is a downside to this, extra cable means you are drawing extra current from your USB port due to extra resistance, which can inturn damage either/both the modem and/or USB port. A thick cable is more advisable, but always remember there is give and take. Reaching DL speeds of over 200KB/s rarely happens for me though. Especially in torrents.

  3. “It performs significantly better if you place it outside, and when one
    connects the extension cable they should always place it facing upwards
    as shown in the image to achieve optimal results.” Does this cable also work with Econet and Telecel modems? Please advise urgently so i can also rush to the nearest cable shop !!!!!

  4. WIth the extention cable, are you getting the possible Max amount of bars from your modem?..I usually get 4/5 but with a much smaller cable (about 30cm) so Im wondering if I really do hit 5/5bars with a 2m cable will my internet really change from absolute hell to something usable all from just the gain of 1 bar?

  5. This post is subjective & does not cover all the angles necessary to be given a scientific OK. There are so many issues that can be raised by your test that need to be bench-marked & carried out on different platforms & environments to prove them otherwise l wld say u were just lucky. 1. DO u mean a guy living on next higher floor using a powertel router connected directly to usb will experience even more speeds ( seeing that the higher u go the faster it becomes) . Powertel uses a very high share ration up to 15 clients per circuit, this is primary cause of slow speed. I bet by now your speeds have changed. I m impressed & jealous though of your speed.

  6. Just bought a 5m cable and so far there is an improvement…not in speed per-say rather than reliability. I dont have refresh pages 10 times anymore just to get them to load correctly. I think powertel should really invest more in base stations to prevent these dark-spots most of us seem to be. Last time I checked, Mabelreign, Westgate and Marlborough (very large neighbourhoods) were being served by just one base station!!…So even if the base station is state of the art you can imagin the type of traffic its faced with!

    On a side not…5m is really long! Had I known, I would have bought the 3m cable instead and still would have been left with sufficient cable length to play around with.

  7. @marengz:disqus There’s a subtle gotcha: you are mixing units: MBps are not the same as Mbps (and kBs are not the same as kbs). Small ‘b’ is bit, big ‘B’ is byte (8 bits). So 800 kbps is 100kBps. Most applications measure download speed in Bytes (browser, torrent clients) , most line-speed measurement is done in bits-per-second (ads, So your overnight torrent that’s going at 125kBps is 1Mbps (x8, remember), compared to your day-time test which is roughly half that (0.4 – 0.6Mbps)

    1. You are correct, it is supposed to be KBs thanks. The problem stems from how IPs use kbs to trick customers

  8. When I read this I thought what the heck, let me get one coz if this works its way better than the other deals (and certainly beats having nothing), but alas I was too late! All the modems are gone and they don’t know when they’ll get more!! Now I’m gonna spend this money on comfort food to make me feel better…

  9. I don’t think this is a good service because it is no longer a mobile service. I should be able to browse the Internet from anywhere around my yard, swimming pool, kitchen ,lounge etc. So whats the difference with someone who has an outdoor CPE. The day you will get a good service you will realize how bad is Powertel service . I think let’s not use names but let’s go for good services. I am using ZARNet and I will not try to convince you to use them but the day you will get a chance to use their USB WiMAX you will enjoy Internet that is mobile and covered almost the whole of Harare and other towns.

  10. The main reason to do this is so your head doesnt get fried by the modem. Better to get a wired internet so you are not encouraging more basestations to your area and not harming your neighbours.

  11. 2 Points: USB cables are limited to 5M in length unless you get expensive Active Repeater cables at which point you can chain 5 of them together and get 25M of length

    2) the reason this works is not due to the height but due to moving the modem away from other sources of EM interferance such as the wifi and/or bluetooth chips in your laptop which will reduce the effectiveness of the dongles antenna. Placing the dongle outside simply reduces the signal losses that walls and doors have compared to air

    Placing the dongle upright just allows a greater surface area on the dongle to “catch” the 3g signal.

    also this will work with any 3g dongle or usb wifi/bluetooth card its not just restricted to powertel

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