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Internet access - what options are there for rural location?

Posted on 2014-10-01
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Last Modified: 2014-10-09
I have a client whose office is situated on its own, several miles from the nearest telephone exchange.  

They used to connect to the Internet using ADSL, but were getting 1Mb/s download as an absolute maximum, and the connection would intermittently drop out altogether.

So we looked at alternatives.  The mobile phone network was a non-starter because they're in a bit of a dip in the landscape, and the phone signal is pretty much non-existent.  They ended up going for satellite internet.  This has a faster upload/download speed than the old ADSL connection but the high latency on the connection has a very significant effect in practice, and web browsing is very slow.  Plus they're using Outlook 2007 to connect to Office 365 mailboxes in the cloud, and its performance is dreadful (yes, they are using cached Exchange mode) - users report that it can take several minutes for Outlook to launch and connect.  

Are there any other options for Internet access in this kind of location that are within reach cost-wise for a small business?  Perhaps there's something we haven't thought of?
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Question by:wakatashi
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by:ElrondCT
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Have you looked into "fixed wireless" service? Without knowing where you're located, I can't say whether it's available in your area, but this is a broadband service that operates wirelessly, with a range of up to 10 miles or so from the base antenna. http://broadbandnow.com/ allows you to enter your zip code, and it generates a list of providers; look in the "Alternative Providers" section for companies listed as offering "Fixed Wireless."
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by:wakatashi
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Thanks for that, ElrondCT.  I left out a vital piece of information from my post - doh!  We're in the UK, near Edinburgh.

I'm not aware of there being anything of that kind in the area, but I'll definitely keep that one in mind.
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ElrondCT earned 500 total points
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Hmm, yes, that does change things. I was figuring you were American because you're obviously a native English speaker and I didn't see any obvious British language forms (like "realise" vs. "realize," etc.). But obviously I had insufficient information...

Poking around a bit online, MLL Telecom (www.mlltelecom.com) is involved in providing this kind of service in the general area of Edinburgh; I don't think they're the actual ISP, but they assist ISPs working in that area. They might be able to give you a referral to someone who can help you with fixed wireless or a similar solution.

One other possible option: I know you said they have a lousy cell phone signal. However, in some cases where a topographical dip is involved, it may be possible to get a tolerable signal at roof level or on an antenna and then use a cell phone repeater to retransmit the signal. Looking at information online, it looks like self-installed repeaters are technically illegal to operate in the UK, but lots of people are doing it. In theory, mobile phone companies can provide them to customers, but how interested they are in doing that, I don't know.

Good luck.
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by:wakatashi
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Thanks ElrondCT - I'll give 'em a call.
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by:wakatashi
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MLL Telecom were very helpful, but they don't operate in central Scotland - the south of England is their patch.  And I couldn't find (via Google) any purveyors of similar technology in the area we're looking at.

I think the idea of some kind of repeater or elevated antenna for the mobile phone signal might be possible.  Trouble is, the customer's offices are single storey, and rooftop level isn't very high!  Mind you, there are some trees about  :-)   Probably not first choice for mounting RF stuff on, but it might work...

Could it be that there are other options that neither of us has thought of?
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by:ElrondCT
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I'm sorry I gave you a bum steer. I saw a slideshow at http://www.slideshare.net/Purdicom/superfast-wireless-roadshow-edinburgh1, slide 58, which I interpreted to mean that MLL was involved in the greater Edinburgh area. Maybe you should contact Purdicom (www.purdi.com), which made the overall presentation I saw; there were some other names in the presentation that might also be helpful.

Any zoning limits on the height of an antenna? ;-)
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by:wakatashi
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Thanks ElrondCT, I'll check 'em out.  It looks like "fixed wireless" (if available) or mounting a mobile phone network antenna on some kind of mast (or tree) are going to be the best of a very limited range of options.  Thanks for all the research - appreciate it!
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One other thing that occurred to me: It's probably out of your price range, but before ADSL, there was T1, which is a phoneline-based data connection. It's generally a lot more expensive, though one advantage is that it has the same speed for upload as for download, and it comes with service reliability guarantees (99.999% or some such). I'm not sure how much prices have come down with the competition from other technologies, but it's probably worth at least asking your landline telephone provider about it.

Best wishes in finding something that works.
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by:wakatashi
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Thanks ElrondCT.  I remember thinking how impossibly out-of-reach T1 speeds were, back when we were all connecting with 56k modems.  Changed times, for sure!
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by:ElrondCT
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I date back to the days of acoustic couplers at 300 baud...
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by:wakatashi
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Wow, you definitely win then!  I think the first modem I encountered was 2400 baud, but definitely no acoustic couplers.  That's one step up from a "tin can telephone" though! :-)
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