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Devon Association of Smallholders

Update

I recently decided that paying nearly £40 a month for an Internet connection that was a fraction over 2Meg and a phone line I don't use had to stop. I thought I would try 4G. Any Android phone can be used as a WiFi hotspot - simply this means it can replace the WiFi router connected to your landline. I got a 4G phone (Leagoo M8 pro diirect from China which cost less than a years' iphone insurance but the cheaper Elite 4 is better) and initial results were promising. I canceled my land line and set about shopping around for a good data deal that would work at home.

2 important things I want to tell you.

  1. If you get a good signal with an operator on 3G, that does not mean you will get a good 4G signal. Probably the best thing to do would be get them to send you a free SIM so you can test the signal before you commit to a 12 or 18 month contract.
  2. If you are relying on a 14 day cooling off period make sure you get proof that the contract has been canceled. I have spent over 4 hours on the phone to a certain well known national operator and I expect to spend 1 or 2 hours more before getting the contract canceled and my money back.

Using the phone for your Internet connection wont be plain sailing. You will probably need a phone and 4G contract for each person in the house, otherwise no one can access the Internet when the 4G phone is taken out of the house. The WiFi signal will be weaker than the router you have at the moment. You might have to position the phone to get the best signal. Even if you have a 4G signal, a poor 4G signal will result in packet loss making the connection unusable. I have to put the phone against the left pane of the window, with the right side of the phone lined up with the centre of the pane to get a stong enough signal! Download a signal meter for your phone. I use Signal Strength from Lakshman but there are loads to choose from. A signal strength of -95 or better works for me. Good luck!

Summary

I would go for a 4G or fixed wireless solution. Have a look at the ones below. They will probably say they have to come out to do a survey, they should do this free of charge but check this before you book the appointment.

Bush Broadband offer DASH members a discount on their monthly fee, see the members area: members.devonsmallholders.co.uk/members/benefits.php

Exmoor Technology Anyone interested in a free survey should complete the form at www.exmoor-tech.co.uk/CDSVoucherForm

Airband: I put my postcode in and they don't cover my area, you might have more luck.

Torbay Telecom Sounds good if you are in their area. They offer unlimited data.

All the others are either satellite only, expensive or less than forthcoming. If you are a provider who feel you can offer our members a good service and should be included on the list above, please email me at info@devonsmallholders.co.uk

The full list of providers is at www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/cds-voucher-provider-list

Whichever solution you choose always check the length of the data contract, who owns the equipment, and who is responsible for repairs etc. Also you may want to ask them about their support for VoIP (see below).

Make sure you are not in a fixed term contract with your existing supplier before signing up to a new contract.

VoIP

If you no longer get your broadband down the phone line, you may wonder if you can do without the phone line altogether. VoIP allows you to make and receive calls over your broadband connection. People can call you using a normal land-line number, for example mine is 01271 828 002 - give me a call if you want to see what it is like. Some providers will offer a VoIP service for a monthly fee, or you can use any other provider, so of which are free like the one I use: Sipgate.

If this is something you think you might want to use, you need to check the broadband provider you have selected allows you to use VoIP services.

Satellite

I have not had much feedback from users but only 1 out of 4 had good things to say about it. The problem is that you may get good bandwidth but your data will be limited - you will be paying heavily to get more data. What this means is that you will have a fantastic connection but soon hit data limits and grind to a halt. If any of the Satellite suppliers would like to share their success stories I would be happy to hear from them.

4G

This is the simplest solution because it uses the existing mobile network. The equipment will have an external aerial so the reception will be better than your phone. You need to contact the suppliers to check if you can access the service. They will do the installation and you will have an ongoing contract with a mobile phone company for the data. Check the length of the data contract, 1 month and 12 month contracts are available. Check who owns the equipment, and who is responsible for repairs etc.

Fixed Wireless

This is similar to 4G, in that you have an external aerial. In this case it points to the suppliers own base station (or that of the network they resell). This is connected to the suppliers data network which they maintain separate from the mobile network. You will probably be tied to a contract with the supplier who installed the equipment.

Some Definitions

Bandwidth: This is the speed of your connection. Think of it as the size of your pipe. If you are filling your bath, 15mm pipework will slow the water flow and it would take longer than 22mm pipework. Your data will go until it hits contention, or you run out of data

Data: This is the amount of 'stuff' you send or receive. Your supplier will almost certainly limit this. Even unlimited connections will have a limit in the fair usage section of the terms and conditions. With faster bandwidth you will tend to use more data. Going back to the bath analogy if your bath fills more quickly you will have a deeper bath and use more water.

Contention: Having a faster connection to your home means there will be a bottleneck further upstream. The data from your home will be merged with other users several times. Each time they are merged the up-stream connection is slower than the sum of all the homes connected to it. Using the water analogy, imagine if we supplied water to the reservoirs from our taps, instead of the other way around. If a few of us turned out taps on, water from our taps would flow at full rate. As more people turn on their taps, the mains pipework would reach capacity and the flow from each house will start to slow. The reality is that at any one time only some of the people are sending data so contention shouldn't be a problem.