Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Go do it yourself : 3G Broadband solution

Attempting to make a living from doing this computer stuff in rural Ceredigion is only made harder by decisions of previous governments on the way they structured B.T. and of the current governments in both Westminster and Cardiff on their decisions to subidise B.T. to become a Sky Competitor at the expense of business and those who live in rural areas, or just those who B.T. can't make a profit from.
As a family we can't wait until the end of 2015 for a faster service that may not even arrive, no matter how nice the sunset (and you can go for a swim if you think it is OK to suffer bad/no broadband coverage in rural areas. Dont' read on, I forbit it in the same way Johnny Marr forbid David Cameron to like the Smiths).

So, as a backup to our rather slow and increasingly unreliable B.T. line (as the exchange gets busier, service further from the exchange gets worse), we now have a 3G service. It is not super fast for reasons I will explain later, but it is good enough to work on, download low-res video and play ClubPenguin. Biggest performance limiation is the backhaul network.

Under the track

Cable tie quality is important

If it is waterproof here, it is waterproof anywhere!
Getting a 3G service where we live is not has simple as going into a Three shop and buying a MyFi device. We don't have line of sight to the mast, so only get 2G reception (sometimes it is even Vodafone I.E., I joke not), we need to be a bit more creative.  The components of the solution are
  • 83 meter of Armoured Cable
  • 2 x 83 Meters of external Cat-5 cable
  • Adaptable Box
  • Proroute H820 Commercial Grade Router
  • 10DB high gain attenna
  • 3G SIM card 
  • Lots and lots of cable ties 
  • 20m of plastic water pipe (duct for going under track)
  • A pole
  • Odds and ends like Armoured glands, 2 gang socket, cables glands
  • A most excellent farmer as a neighbour who is happy for me to run a set of cables under the road and up his fence
Inside the box

Cheap? No, not really in capital terms, but cheaper than finding an other house with the same qualities and it is cheaper that Sat. without the 1 second latency. It is also in one of the most exposed places in Wales, so the mast does need some more work in terms of strengthening over the next few weeks before the October storms appear.

At the top

We are using Three as a 3G provider on the basis that their transmitter is the highest up the Blanplwyf mast (Where my late Dad worked from 1960 something till about 1985).

We have got 4MB at best, but more usually it is 2Mb or a bit less and we do suffer from a busy backhaul network. The router will cope with 4G if it ever comes this way. Router was easy to set up, has the  largest range of temperates it will work in and gives much better performance than a Telonika 500 I tried. Latency is between 70ms and 100ms, so runs a SunRay fine.

One quite minor issue with the Proroute H820 router is that it gets itself in a twist and needs to be rebooted maybe every 2 weeks. Probably be addressed in a future firmware update at some point.

If we could get the attenna 1m higher, there should be a improvement (we gained 1 bar of reception by going from 2.5m off the ground to 4m  off the ground), but wondering round the fields with a laptop and a dongle suggests there is only about a 25% opportunity for improvement to getting better line of sight.

I also want to try a SIM for different providers as I am not convinced that the Three transmitter is pointing in our direction.

Still better than B.T. and it is here today, required no major technology on our part and I expect 3G speeds to improve over the next year in this area.


  1. Well done Clive, glad the solution worked. The router reset is common enough , a ping reboot setup sorts that out.
    Telemat IT

  2. Excellent stuff!
    I'm about to do something similar, except on the Waun in Aber. Much less rural. Aluminium telephone wires are my hurdle. I just couldn't bring myself to pay BT for such a poor connection so am going for an attempt at maxing out the 3G option.

  3. 5 radio transmitters found at this map location.
    Name of Operator 3
    Operator Site Ref. SY0145
    Station Type Macrocell
    Height of Antenna 70.8 Metres
    Frequency Range 2100 MHz
    Transmitter Power 17.79 dBW
    Maximum licensed power 35 dBW
    Type of Transmission UMTS

    Name of Operator Airwave
    Operator Site Ref. DFP012
    Station Type Macrocell
    Height of Antenna 48.7 Metres
    Frequency Range 400 MHz
    Transmitter Power 20 dBW
    Maximum licensed power 25 dBW
    Type of Transmission TETRA

    Name of Operator Orange
    Operator Site Ref. DYF0056
    Station Type Macrocell
    Height of Antenna 40 Metres
    Frequency Range 1800 MHz
    Transmitter Power 25.9 dBW
    Maximum licensed power 32 dBW
    Type of Transmission GSM

    Name of Operator T-MOBILE
    Operator Site Ref. 94336
    Station Type Macrocell
    Height of Antenna 71.5 Metres
    Frequency Range 1800 MHz
    Transmitter Power 29 dBW
    Maximum licensed power 32 dBW
    Type of Transmission GSM

    Name of Operator Vodafone
    Operator Site Ref. 8859
    Station Type Macrocell
    Height of Antenna 47.5 Metres
    Frequency Range 900 MHz
    Transmitter Power 23.4 dBW
    Maximum licensed power 32 dBW
    Type of Transmission GSM