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Standard User RobManser
(newbie) Mon 18-Aug-14 14:13:46
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Rural Broadband Not-Spot Advice


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We've just moved to a lovely house in the country, but are having problems getting broadband and I wondered if anyone had any advice. Here are our experiences to date:

ADSL:
BT told us we could get ADSL Broadband (min 0.75Mb/s - max 2Mb/s), so we set up the BT Homehub router-modem from our previous house, paid out money and waited for our activation date. When that date arrived, we couldn't connect, so spent many frustrating hours on the phone to their Indian call centre and eventually got an engineer booked in. He phoned me and explained that our house had 9km of cable between it and the exchange, so could not receive ADSL at all. He said it wasn't uncommon for the coverage checkers to be wrong in this way.

I also phoned Vodafone to enquire about mobile broadband, and they convinced me that BT were talking rubbish and we could get ADSL. We had the same problems though, and the same OpenReach engineer telling us the same thing.

Mobile Broadband:
This is our best option I think. I've spoken to a number of providers, and had a trial dongle from EE last week. The first problem is the same as ADSL - they all tell us we can get a 4G signal, but when we try it, we can't. I ordered a dongle from EE because they told us we'd get 4G and if not definitely 3G, but the most it did was briefly register a weak 2G signal if I hung right out of an upstairs window with the dongle high above me, but that was it (we got our money back, so no problems there). Vodafone and O2 do have 3G coverage for our house (we have phones with them), but the deals are really expensive (Vodafone want £20 a month for 4GB and £30 a month for 10GB), and usually there's no way to get sim-only, which we need as we have some non Wi-Fi devices requiring ethernet connectivity (which is unavailable on a USB dongle), plus our house is large with external walls so wi-fi from a dongle probably won't stretch throughout it, plus our best bet to get reception will be an external aerial, which again a USB dongle does not support so we'd have to sit in the garden to use the web. To make matters worse, Vodafone (who I know have coverage as I can get 3G in the garden on my phone) won't discuss their deals over the phone, only online, which is obviously very inconvenient as we don't have internet access. I have basic web access at work, which is how I'm posting this, but it's heavily compromised due to my work environment and I can't really use it too much for personal use. Vodafone will actually discuss one deal on the phone with me, but it's a two year contract and I'd rather not sign up to that if we haven't trialled it yet.

What we want out of mobile broadband is what EE offered us: the ability to order a dongle and sim, then if it doesn't work to our satisfaction send the lot back for a refund (what we just did after failing to get 3G or 4G), and if it does work (outside for example), send the dongle back for a refund and keep the sim to insert in a 3G router with external aerial.

Satellite:
I've heard this produces an annoying latency, and having paid a lot of money for a country cottage we're obviously not keen on sticking a massive dish on it. Does anyone have any experiences or advice regarding satellite bb?

Any thoughts or ideas? Especially I guess any mobile broadband deals worth investigating.

I was fine with the 0.75Mb/s that BT said we'd get, but now without broadband at all I can't deal with HMRC online for my VAT returns etc, I can't work from home, and we can't use the web at home for pleasure (iPlayer, iTunes, online shopping, DIY research, You Tube, Facebook etc).
Administrator MrSaffron
(staff) Mon 18-Aug-14 15:41:19
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Re: Rural Broadband Not-Spot Advice


[re: RobManser] [link to this post]
 
Dongles have pretty useless antenna in them

A full 4G router e.g. £137 Huawei device which can have an external antenna and may help a lot in getting a signal. Certainly EE use similar in their 4G for Homes in rural areas trials. For 3G the Wibe at £240 has been a common choice for some.

On the satellite, the dish is not metres wide (60 or 80cm I think) and can be ground mounted out of sight (just needs clear view of the satellite), latency is OK for most web browsing, means no Call of Duty, but for most people if online gaming and share dealing is not their thing it will be fine.

Tried talking to others in the area, to see what they have done.

The author of the above post is a thinkbroadband staff member. It may not constitute an official statement on behalf of thinkbroadband.
Standard User RobManser
(newbie) Mon 18-Aug-14 16:02:06
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Re: Rural Broadband Not-Spot Advice


[re: MrSaffron] [link to this post]
 
Thanks for your reply. Most of the houses around us are using 3G routers and external aerials, but I'm reluctant to fork out for one until I can be sure it'll work from our exact location.

I googled "EE 4G for rural areas" and found a Guardian article:

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/oct/16/ru...

We'd be happy with 1-2 Mbits/sec to be honest! When I called EE all they offer me was a USB dongle, which when it arrived couldn't get anything apart from fleeting 2G for a few seconds when up high (see my original post for details). If I could have got a very weak 4G signal then I'd have bought an external aerial straight away, but it's a lot to invest blindly...

Using our work internet I've found a 10GB for £25 sim only deal from Vodaphone on 3G (which I know works), but the website won't allow me to buy it without selecting a device first before I check out, but it's a sim only deal, so the site doesn't list any devices! When I phone Vodafone to ask about this they tell me to use the web and they won't serve me on the phone for sim only mobile broadband - they were quite rude to be honest. Carphone Warehouse do the same deal for £30, so I may stomach the £5 extra and try them.


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Standard User andygegg
(regular) Mon 18-Aug-14 16:56:56
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Re: Rural Broadband Not-Spot Advice


[re: RobManser] [link to this post]
 
You say your neighbours use 3G routers, would it be possible to borrow one to see if it works for you (I don't know how much plumbing is involved so ignore me if I'm talking my usual twaddle...)

From my experience, 1-2Mb/s is pretty miserable and I've found iPlayer to be a complete non-starter. YouTube probably ok but low res and still buffer-y. On 1-2Mb/s basically forget anything much beyond email (no photos!) and Amazon. Assuming there's no imminent prospect of fibre I'd be inclined to say satellite may well be your best bet. Never mind the 'cosmetics', you've got to live there!
Standard User rorrocks
(newbie) Mon 18-Aug-14 18:12:54
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Re: Rural Broadband Not-Spot Advice


[re: RobManser] [link to this post]
 
If you can get a decent 3g signal in the garden then try an external antenna with an indoor modem. Keep the cable length down to 5 metres or signal loss through the cable can exceed signal gain through the aerial. Start with a simple £20 magnetic base omni-directional antenna and see if that works. Only get a high-gain directional antenna if you have clear unobstructed line of sight to the 3g mast. For me, 3g was great when it worked but at 4km from the mast and with no direct line of sight the signal was just not reliable enough to use as a primary system.

In the end, and as a last resort, I installed an SES/Astra Ka satellite system. Generally it works well but there are some things to be aware of :-

1. Latency is not an issue when downloading large files like movies, but for general web use the effective browsing speed is usually comparable to a 1-meg landlline.
2. Satellite network congestion is becoming a real problem. At 7am I can get a full 20meg download speed with latency of 700ms and it works pretty well. By mid-morning speed is half that figure and latency is up to 1100ms. By late afternoon on some days speed can be down to an almost unusable 2meg with latency at 2000ms. That 2 second latency can cause timeout problems on secure sites.
3. Despite the sales talk you'll see, the service is affected by bad weather. Rain reduces the signal strength, thunderclouds briefly kill the signal, snowstorms can cause signal outage for several hours. In my opinion the dish, as big and ugly as it is, is not large enough for wet weather areas, Larger dishes are available but anything over 1-metre usually needs planning consent.

Overall, the satellite service is satisfactory, even if it does have some really bad days, but if I could get reliable 3g then I would bin the satellite kit tomorrow.
Standard User gah789
(regular) Mon 18-Aug-14 18:18:34
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Re: Rural Broadband Not-Spot Advice


[re: RobManser] [link to this post]
 
Any option is going to cost you a lot more than broadband service in an urban or semi-rural area. That's rural life. As noted, forget streaming services - iPlayer, etc - unless you are willing to pay for satellite broadband with a generous download limit.

I have used a WIBE 3G aerial/router - they are quite expensive at about £350 but they do work. You can connect it to a a switch connected to a Homeplug setup for internal distribution in your house. If you have access to Three 3G coverage, then they used to have a mobile broadband deal for about £15 for 15 Gb per month. However, be aware that advertised 3G/4G speeds are rarely achieved in rural locations. The best we can get is 2.5-3 Mbps on Three (Vodafone, O2, etc only offer GSM service in our area) and the service gets congested very easily because the operators do not buy much backhaul capacity from their rural masts.

You should find out whether there is a wireless ISP in your area and if so whether you might be within their area of coverage. That will normally be the most cost-effective options but coverage is quite limited. Otherwise, it is satellite for anything more than the most basic of broadband service.
Standard User boranatty
(newbie) Mon 18-Aug-14 18:39:56
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Re: Rural Broadband Not-Spot Advice


[re: RobManser] [link to this post]
 
Depends where you live in the UK,here in Lincolnshire in a rural spot we have installed wireless dsl, getting speeds of 20+Mbs down and 9Mbs up,very happy as anything else is around 2 years away
Standard User brandscill
(committed) Tue 19-Aug-14 14:50:23
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Re: Rural Broadband Not-Spot Advice


[re: RobManser] [link to this post]
 
Where are you based exactly then? Are there any wireless providers around you?

BT ADSL 4.7Mbps (Actual)
Standard User kitcat
(committed) Tue 19-Aug-14 16:37:21
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Re: Rural Broadband Not-Spot Advice


[re: RobManser] [link to this post]
 
You do not say where you are? This is important as some places are running a voucher scheme for use in not spots.

If you are less than 1Km from the cabinet that serves you, check you are not EO, look at when the BDUK is going to improve your service. If no Cab is mentioned using the link, you are EO with no cab.

If you are served from a Cab less than 1Km away you will get a good fixed service when it is upgraded so any other solution is Short term ( less than 18 months is possible).

If you are EO look at what scheme the council is running to pay the start up costs of installing satellite service, or a line of sight radio system.
Standard User 69bertie
(newbie) Tue 19-Aug-14 17:16:22
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Re: Rural Broadband Not-Spot Advice


[re: boranatty] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by boranatty:
Depends where you live in the UK,here in Lincolnshire in a rural spot we have installed wireless dsl, getting speeds of 20+Mbs down and 9Mbs up,very happy as anything else is around 2 years away


Yes, I'd certainly agree. If you can get the service it is a very viable alternative to BT and priced much the same. Unfortunately like all the rest, even if their coverage checkers say you will be able to, sometimes you can't. I too live in rural Lincolnshire and I've had 2 companies (AB Internet and Quickline) come out and both have failed - didn't cost me anything though for their time and effort, except frustration maybe. So near, yet so far - we have a partial signal... Strange to say the village hall, barely 200m away) has Wireless at 20mb, even a person in a street not that far away can get it. The reason I can't get it....line of sight and I have a wood conveniently blocking it.

One day..............

I've thought about the satellite option but it is pretty expensive, both upfront and using it.

RobManser ... But even at £30 for 10gb, that is roughly what I pay for my phone and internet at the moment to BT. I don't need the phone so effectively I pay £30 for 10gb at 1.47mb or less. If you have the signal, even 3G, why not go for it? Unfortunately I truly do live in a not spot so even a dongle is not an option. Even mobile phone comms is usually a stand outside to get a signal .... like the rest (500plus souls) in the village frequently do!

Edited by 69bertie (Tue 19-Aug-14 17:18:24)

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