Letter Re: Wireless Internet in Remote Regions

Wednesday, Jan 2, 2013

James,
As your readers pointed out, Internet service in remote places can be a challenge, but also delivering this connectivity to various locations on your property presents other difficulties, too.  

If you have a voice telephone line, you've got most of what you need for dial-up Internet capability, which is painfully slow, but you will be able to pick up and send email and if you turn off all videos, images and javascript, you could do very limited web browsing.  Cable and DSL are out of the question if you live at the end of a long road with minimal neighbors because those services just don't exist out there.   Satellite is an option, but it has a bit of latency, which causes a delay in spoken conversation.  The solution for us was 900 Mhz wireless, an established and mature cellular technology.

After quite a bit of searching for wireless Internet service, I was able to locate a small wireless provider with 900 MHz service 20 miles away via line of site to a high mountain antenna.  A site visit by their tech was required to be sure we could "see" their base antenna location and we tested the signal strength.  The 14 dB yagi antenna they normally provide wasn't cutting it, so after more searching, we located this 22 dB antenna in Australia.  It cost about $150 and arrived via DHL in just a few days with a very reasonable shipping price, too.  Here's the link to the antenna.

In rainy situations, the water that sticks to the pine needles will interfere with the signal, so we had to remove several trees to get clear line of sight to our antenna and run a 200 foot power over ethernet cable from a nearby power outlet to the antenna location.  The installer from the ISP can help you with this, if you are not technical.  Keep in mind, when you are out in the country, you're on your own for many things and this level of tech isn't hard to learn how to install and maintain.  Pay attention to everything the tech is doing.

After unsuccessfully testing ethernet over power line (supposedly capable of up to 1,000 feet, but not through 2 breaker boxes), we decided to pull dedicated direct burial CAT6 wiring through 2 inch PVC pipes from this location 800 feet from the antenna location to our barn.  Since this is greater than the normal ethernet distance limitation of 100m (330 feet), we had to use an ethernet extender kit, which will provide 10/100 mb/sec network capability up to 1km of distance.  Wireless is also an option for this distance, but the cost, reliability and other factors led us to do it.  This also used only 2 of the 8 wires in the cable, so we have other potential uses for this cable.  It worked the first time we plugged it in, right out of the box!  Here's the device we used for future reference.

We are now able to get about 200K uplink and 1.5MB downlink speeds, which is much better than dial up.  Because this isn't geosynchronous satellite, there is less latency and we are able to use VOIP / Skype as well.  Do an Internet search for "wireless Internet" and the names of all the towns near you (one at a time).  Your readers might be surprised at this other option.  In the future, there will be higher speed wireless options in the 2.4 Ghz range, but those probably won't be available for some time in the "hinterboonies".


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