back to article Diary of a Not-spot: One man's heroic struggle for broadband

Bringing connectivity to rural areas can involve lobbying MPs and signing petitions, but it can also involve knocking on doors, digging up sheep fields and climbing around on the roof in search of bandwidth. Over the last seven years I've tried all the alternatives, from satellite broadband to community networks, not to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Didn't realise there was anybody else as desperate for a good connection as me - I moved house instead.

  2. TaabuTheCat


    You sir, are one persistent man. I hope you get rewarded soon.

    And here I am bitching and moaning about Comcast throttling my *upload* speed to 1mbps. Guess I should stop complaining.

    1. Mark 65

      Certainly more persistant than I

      I'd have moved house long ago. Perhaps FTTC will help when it arrives in his area around 2050?

  3. Smallbrainfield

    An epic tale indeed.

    It sounds like it might have been cheaper to move house?

    I hope that rooftop crow's nest is rigged for storms, especially electrical ones.

    1. Ammaross Danan


      One could simply look for a good old-fashioned antenna used by decommissioned radio stations and the like. A simple 3-vertical poles connected by a triangle lattice making one very tall, sturdy antenna that requires guy-wires to keep errect and stable. Mount/Aim the transceiver and hoist the antenna. Just where to get one....

  4. Tom 7

    You dont want to do it like that

    just plug it into your run of the mill wifi router

  5. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse
    Thumb Up

    A great read.

    Well done for taking the time for illustrating just how far out of touch the government is with the real world.

  6. mark 63 Silver badge


    "I had the BT engineers round a few times, trying to get a signal, but their efforts were frustrated by my next-door neighbour, who is still adamant that he owns all the BT cabling in the area and won't let the BT engineers into his garden. Apparently some of his rhododendrons have been there 20 years and it wouldn't be safe to let anyone near his monkey-puzzle tree as it "would tear them to shreds".

    You'd just wanna throttle the guy wouldnt you?

    thats the most entertaing 3 pages i've read on the reg for a while :)

    1. Wize

      There are ways round such people

      Did his own line fail by itself or was it given some help? Back hander to a friendly BT engineer is worth it.

  7. HP Cynic

    Amusing tale of partial triumph over tech (and social) adversity.

    This is why when I bought my first house the priority list went something like this:

    1. Broadband

    2. A Roof

    I was most amused when Blueyonder (or whatever they are called now) asked "Why have you chosen not to stay with us at the new address?" on my conversion to ADSL.

    "Because despite your heavy leaflet campaign you've chosen not to supply cable to these streets, including my new address".

    1. Gaz Jay
      Thumb Up


      I had a similar problem.

      I was a happy subscriber to Virgin Media at my old house. When I moved I made sure I moved to a street that had Virgin available. However, it turned out that when Virgin installed the cable in the street they didn't bother to cable the gap between houses where my new house was eventually built.

      I contacted Virgin, who claimed that they would have to dig the road up and it would be far too expensive for just one customer.

      We decided to go for Sky broadband and TV package.

      A month later we had neighbours move in to the new house next door and guess what... Virgin were more than happy to dig the road up and install broadband for them. Then the bloody Virgin salesman decided to knock on our door advising us that "Virgin is now available". I told him I'd only take his service if they were willing to pay Sky the cancellation charges. If not, I'd be sticking with them.

      The only thing I miss, is Virgins genuine TV on Demand. Looks like it's back to torrents for that then.

      1. BorkedAgain

        Ooh, don't get me started on VM...

        When I moved into my (ground-floor) flat I tried to convince virgin to connect me. Their cable runs right outside my front-room window, there's a manhole right there, and there's even the little conduit running from the manhole to my wall. Even so, they told me it'd be too expensive to connect me. Every other house in the street has their cable connected, but no. Apparently if they connected me thay'd have to connect all the other flats in the building, 'cos otherwise people would feel left out and sulk or something...

        So I'm connected over good ol' ADSL, like the last five years never happened. Okay, nothing like the hardships this guy's gone (going?) through but still a little vexing...

  8. Fred 4


    in the States, dont have a clue about the writer's side of the Pond, you can get USB 3G and 4G(?) "dongles" which give you an internet connection via cell service. I dont know what sort of speeds these provide, but they should be stable.

    The adverts ive seen put the cost at (depending on company) 50-60 USD/month

    1. Kenny Millar


      This is Scotland, and rural Scotland at that. If he can't get ADSL he sure as whatsit isn't going to get a 3G mobile signal.

      Nice thought though.

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      But that requires cell service too

      I'm having a similar problem with the mother-in-law who has one bar of cell service standing on the back corner of the porch and uses a land line for phone and internet service ... on a good day (not raining) we can get a 14kbs connection on the modem.

      She's too far away from the main road to get ADSL and has line-of-sight to nothing even though she's on top of a hill - welcome to rural Mississippi.

      She's running Win-XP so every six months we drive her PC into town to update it - downloading SP-2 took nearly six months.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        are you from Chunky?

        My parents life in very rural Alabama. Before they got satellite internet, if my dad received an email with an attachment, he'd drive into town (27 miles) and download it via 3g because it was quicker.

    3. J Lewter

      In the States LOL

      In the states (where I go) you need to drive for about 45 misn to get to a public "wifi" spot. Your about 20 miles away from ANY cell service (pager service works because that's what the police use) and dialup is only guaranteed for something like 9600 baud.. If it hasnt been raining too much you can usually get that speed without problems.

      I know that ppl think the USA is wired better than the rest of the world, but I have pals who lived in texas that couldnt get broadband, and I know of "fios" type connections around the great lakes that still has max service around 2-3 meg.

      About 5 miles from where I am goign is the nearest area DSL has rolled out to, and for 47$ a month (before phone rental and taxes) you can get the TOP service that's 768k down and something like 264k up.... Not real sure what the rates are but it's in that range, the upload isnt bad tbh... 1:3 :P... Anyhow...

      In MOST of the UK your never more than 2-3 miles away from something blazing fast. The problem is ofcourse the link to people who do have the service.

      If I was the guy in the story I would have PROBABLY just invested in a sat tuner and an older sat dish that he could use to direct the signal better.. Slowly adjust it and try to find the best place to be. Once he has it in place he could lock it down and take the dish turning kit off.

  9. cookieMonster Silver badge

    use a long length of ....

    use a long length of 2 inch pipe, bolted/secured to the gable end of the house to hold the receiver. I've see 12 foot long sections of pipe like this used to mount tv aerials - so it would easily support the gear you have.

    It also gives you the capability to increase the height securely.

    1. hplasm
      Thumb Up


      Run them down to the ground,and then you can add more lengths and push up, plus have more supports on the side of the house. Scaffolding pipes are great and have connecting sleeves and braces etc readily available

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh the memories

    I remember the time when my then CEO was living in the village of Iron Acton and it was a "No chance of ADSL, way too expensive" location for BT to consider, and so we used some professional 5.8Ghz stuff to run a connection from there to an office of a client just up the road in Yate.

    Before this, the CEO had been using Satellite comms too.

    We didn't suffer quite so many teething problems as you did and the connection worked fine. So much so, in fact, that BT finallaly added the Rangeworthy exchange to those that were DSL capable.

    They did much the same in mid-Wales after we used the same technology to set up connections to all the schools in the area on behalf of the local LEA.



    1. chuBb.

      iron acton is well served comapred to some the exchanges arround yate area

      should try being on the didmaton exchange, had a friend living in iron acton who had adsl 2 or 3 years before my village got the chance.

      Although that was probably not helped by my village not giving a shit about adsl untill they got it, think we managed to get 30 names on petition when we were trying to get connected, now its so over subscribed i long for my bonded isdn line back meh :-/

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Would have been easier

    It would have been a lot easier and cheaper to order porn on dvd through a mail order catalog. Nice artical though!

  12. Steve X

    top marks for persistence!

    At the risk of this being a stupid question, what about using a pair of old Sky minidishes on your & Claire's houses, rather then the fresnel antennae that seem to be in the Solwise boxes? Would that give more gain & more stability of signal?

    1. simon newton


      They should work great, though they would be a pain to get set up right (and do look a bit dorky to passers by as the feed appears to be pointing at the ground). I remember back in the days of fitting a cantenna to the feed of a 1m dish and scanning it around my view over the medway valley with netstumbler. Got quite a few APs (bearing in mind this is from a time when you were lucky to get one or two AP's in your street).

      Alas, enough waffling. The problem with using minidishes and wifi in the EU is those pesky EIRP limits. If your AP or Wifi card and gain of antenna exceed 100mw EIRP then you are breaking the law (unless you are a ham). Though whos ever going to know .....

      1. Peter Simpson 1
        Thumb Up

        Use the old sat dish

        "The problem with using minidishes and wifi in the EU is those pesky EIRP limits."

        Is there really any chance that someone would check? It's supposedly illegal here in the US as well, but plenty of people in the hinterlands do it.

        Good on ya for getting this far, though.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Peter Simpson

          It really depends where you are, but I'm not sure I'd want to risk it with a fixed installation. no-one will go out of their way to check, it's only if you interfere with anything that it starts getting interesting!

          Myself, and a group of friends, regularly use PMR* radios as part of our hobby. These frequencies are restricted for use by kit with specific antennae and power output limits. However, we have no problems using 5watt UHF radios on these bands when we are in a forest in the middle of nowhere for a day or two, for the extra couple of kilometres we get! We don't use them if we were anywhere near civilisation though!

          *European equivalent of FRS

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            IIRC, the maximum power legally allowable on 446 MHz is 0.5 Watts. Your ten times over the legal limit!

            Get a PBR license.

      2. Stevie


        I hate to tell you, but four fenceposts cobbled into an A-frame sitting on your roof already has your Dork-Accumulator topped off to the max for years to come (or until it blows away in a gale).

        I don't wonder the neighbours don't speak to you. Thirty years ago it was possible to buy a telescopic mast from places like Radio Shack for Ham Radio purposes. Designed for holding up heavy Yagi antennae securely, yet able to be wound out of the skyline when not in use to avoid neighbour unrest and inclement weather damage, this would seem to be a better bet than four fenceposts, some angle iron and a bit of pipe.

        However, it's your village and your problem, and there may be many reasons for not doing this that you've not included in your tale of woe.

        It's the old dichotomy: To live in the urban decay and ASBO-riddled streets of a modern city, or to not have internet because you want to live in the back of beyond. How timeless is the tale of "man finds idyllic country home, then goes yampy trying to make it work like the city flat he just moved out of".

        It all looks so great on Ring of Bright Water but then you find out your lavvy is a bucket in a shed and you have to break the surface of your water supply with a hammer in winter.

        Good luck.

  13. Chris 35

    Kudos to you sir!

    That has got to be the most entertaining and well-written story that I've read in ages.

    I take my hat off to you!

  14. Anonymous Coward

    London Zone 2...

    ...and 512kbit/s. Welcome to the digital age.

  15. blackworx
    Thumb Up

    To quote another bonkers Scot...

    Sir, I admire your indefatigability!

    On a separate note, unless "Anthony and Yvette" moved to Scotland from one of a few localised areas in the west Midlands or the north east, it's almost certain that their water supply wasn't even being fluoridated.

  16. Steve 13


    Is it not possible to use some sort of radio kit that's actually designed to work across several miles, rather than something designed to work within your house?

    WiMax maybe, or just some sort of Walkie Talkie type transmiters?

    1. Stoneshop

      This is already outdoors point-to-point stuff

      And I've seen similar gear being used to carry about 30MB/s across 5km of (flat) farmland. This involved two scaffolds at either end though, which I wouldn't recommend for a permanent installation.

      But those flat-pack antenna/transceiver units are a bit iffy to aim right. With a parabolic dish like this HG2424G-NF.gif you can tie a laser pointer to the forward-pointing bar and get the aim spot-on in minutes, weather cooperating.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    fluoridation of the water

    Where they, by chance, related to a certain General J. Ripper in charge of a bomber base in the United States?

  18. Will 19
    Thumb Up

    I know the feeling

    Here in sunny (snowy) Cornwall I've had a similar experience. I don't live that far away from a magical green box but the cabling is Aluminium and BT are not interested in replacing it no matter how many people want broadband in the area. Periodically the broadband checker changes it's mind and says we can get broadband and the same tired engineer comes out to explains we can't even though the web site says we can. I'm an electronics engineer and I've come up with many creative ways to try and get the bloody service here but BT aren't interested! I've been through satellite systems, rallied around residents in line of sight areas which can get broadband so as to establish a link and even been approached by companies wanting to setup a satellite hub here to serve the community local demand has been so high. In the end I settled for 3G. Even that wasn't easy, I've had to resort to a high gain antenna on the roof to get a decent signal. Been using it for 3 years now and other than the odd tower outage and the hideously small transfer allowances it's been so much better than dial up.

    1. danielpugh

      i had similar problems

      i can recommend old windsurfer masts as mounting points for the equipment -

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Will 19

      You could take the thieving pickey approach, and rip up all the ali cabling using a 4x4. The BT would have to replace it. Might make a few quid on the scrap ali as well. Just make sure no-one sees you doing it.

      You ain't seen me, right...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    although the latency problem remains

    They managed to cure latency on satalite phones by moving from a geostationary bird to the LEO Iridium constellation. I'm surprised that no-one has started lofting a similar broadband constellation I'm sure there are enough yachts in the world to fund it...

    Nice to read your efforts, but I cant help thinking that your obsession was just a tad too demanding for some of your neighbours.

    1. Stoneshop

      I did the maths back then

      and with an Iridium phone you would be getting something like a 19k2 data link. I'm not sure, given the antenna constraints (sats whizzing past overhead instead of being stationary so you can point a dish at them), that you'd be getting much more than that now, and unless the Roman Empire put in your telephone wiring after they were done with the aquaducts, you'd likely be better off (and certainly cheaper) staying terrestrial.

      1. John Sturdy

        What did the Romans ever do for us?

        At least aquaducts keep on workingl why can't we build networks that last that well?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        why a dish?

        I was not implying using an actual iridium phone but instead a new dedicated proper broadband constellation.

        Whilst a dish is a good for low power situations is it actually required for good throughput? I would expect that most earthstations requiring rural broadband would have mains power.. now the sat on the other hand...

        And as an aside whats wrong with tracking a sat? aeroplane broadband does just that ok its not cheap but it works already. and I'm sure it would be feasible to set up the birds such that you'd just end up with a slowly rotating cluster antenna.

  20. Bassey

    What you really need

    Excellent story and I can't help but admire your persistence - I would have given up a long time ago. Of course, what you really need is for someone senior within BT to move into the area. It's amazing how quickly an area can get upgraded when a senior BT exec decides they like the rural way of life/low house prices.

  21. dingo

    Get two Pringle cans

    I remember a look a like story but that editor boosted the signal strenght and direction by building two antennas from a Pringle can. It surely should be worth a try.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Get yourself an 80ghz license and some great big Bridgewave radios. Only £40k!

    1. Stoneshop

      24GHz is license-free

      and the gear is a bit under 10k euro per station. A bargain, really

  23. FrogCentral

    Serves you right

    That's what you get for living in the middle of nowhere.

    1. Martin 19

      To be fair

      He's not saying "I demand that everyone else subsidises broadband for me"; he's trying to rig things up as best he can with his own money.

      Fair play to the man.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    your doing it wrong mate... usbwifi is what you need

    your story make s me cry as your doing it wrong mate...

    first up you are using a non directional i assume high gain aerial, make a reflector for it and fit that ASAP OR FAR Better take that junk sat arial in your garden and USE IT dont waste it.

    it looks Perfect for your re-cycled needs as i see two perfectly spaced rails that you

    simply mount your existing Solwise box to

    in effect you want to get your 8 db arial as close to the existing UMB on that redundant sat dish as That is your focal point, then you point the dish in Claire direction and YOU WILL HAVE Full Speed and Far Higher DB gain perhaps in the 24db range and Be happy.


    report back here ASAP ;)

    you can even put several cheaper 11N ones up and Bond them all to get a REAL wireless 200Mbit/s+ backbone going if you Just keep in mind a Higher Db means longer distance , for every 3 db you increase you get twice the distance at the same speed/Signal to noise ratio.

    and given these are external point to point data links You can Legally use a higher DB total gain etc..

    seriously a re-purposed sat dish or indeed any parabolic metal shaped object once you find its focal point is your diection friend when it comes to radio, even box reflector for your mobile would work too....

    1. Morat

      No need.

      He's doing it right, those units have a 16Db panel antenna inside them. The little omni on the top is used for a local signal when you're using 11a band C for backhaul and 11g for local stations. Assuming he has the correct antenna enabled in the setup, that gear is good for at least 5Km. I've used them with great success.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Thumbs up

    Great story, but isn't cat-5 limited to 100metre cable lengths? Did you bury a repeater in a field or something? How was it powered?

    Just curious really, a good read on a friday afternoon :)

    1. Annihilator
      Thumb Up

      Cat 5 limits

      Cat 5 is officially limited to 100m (i.e. guaranteed up to), but if packet loss is acceptable, you're usually fine. Force it to negotiate at 10Mb and suddenly you get away with longer lengths too.

      What was missing from this operation in my experience, was 150m length of cat 5, a lawn edger *and a 150m length of hose pipe*. Have had a length around 80m between two buildings going that way and it's lasted quite well. If it's fairly rigid, like an irrigation pipe, it becomes a lot easier to replace the Cat 5 if it fails... Although not ideal, you can pull the new cable through by attaching it to the old cable and pull it out at the other end (note - never to be done with solid core!)

      1. Stoneshop

        The first thing you do

        is feeding a nylon cord through the hosepipe (just duct-tape a vacuum cleaner to the other end and feed in the cord), then with the actual cable you pull a second cord. This allows you, given sufficient diameter of the hosepipe, to pull a second cable if the need arises, although it's usually better to pull back the existing cable and feed it back in together with the new one.

        1. Alien8n


          Or alternatively forget the cat5 and shove a Gb fibre optic switch in at each end.

          Company I used to work in had 3 buildings less than 50m apart from each other and about 3 different 1Gb connections between each building

          1. Stoneshop


            You don't want, as a private person trying to share broadband, to invest in an all-out fiber setup until

            - you've established that the conduit (hosepipe) with the cable in it will remain unmolested during plowing season and

            - you're sufficiently confident that the person you're going to share the link with won't pull out of the deal (as has been the case here)

            Apart from that, gig fiber would be not just overkill, but over-the-top-overkill here. 10Mbit is good enough when you're just after an always-on *) connection with a workable bandwith and latency. A pair of 10Mbit copper-to-fiber converters such as the AT-MC13 can be had for 30 quid including postage, Gbit stuff will set you back at least ten times that.

            *) for values of "always" and "on" as defined by your telco.

            1. Alien8n

              Fibre? pt2

              It's only overkill if you have to pay for it :)

              Reminds me of my mate's house. House actually had about 3 buildings scattered around the property, each one connected up to a server room in his barn. Reason for the overkill? A purpose built lan party setup and the mother of all broadband connections. Used to have anywhere upto 20 people playing online games during the weekend. Was fun playing black hawk down :)

    2. Stoneshop

      It's not the cable

      it's the connection speed. 100BTx is limited to 100m, at 10BT you can get up to 185m (with a good-enough cable, of course). Signal reflection, propagation delay and crosstalk are what's limiting. Given that you'd be connecting to an ADSL line that does 2Mb/s on a fair day, downhill and with tailwind, nailing your switch ports to 10Mbit doesn't sound like it would stomp on your bandwidth.

      For that matter, I've reliably run 85Mbit PowerLan gear over 200m of standard extension cord cable in a point-to-point setup. Effective speed was 3 to 3.5Mbyte/sec, so not too shabby.

  26. Eddie Johnson


    Nice to read someone else's experience. I've been considering 2 similar projects, one for my company and one for a friends business which is forced to run over a wireless link due to a lack of cable or DSL access. I'm in a hilly area and some of the stuff like's 5 mile bridge kit caught my eye. Erecting 50 foot towers seems affordable to me, they can be home brewed for less than the cost of a year's wireless bill a piece.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    keep trying, but is it worth it?

    I'm in the same boat. No high speed except via satellite. No DSL, no cable, no 3G (too close to a pond). so 56k is the max I'll ever see. I refuse to pay that much for satellite internet, although a new bird is suppose to bring higher speed, still waiting to hear what the cost will be.

    Through it all though, I've ask myself "Is it truly worth it?"

    I grew up without a cellphone, without the internet, why is it now something that I need?

    It's not a necessity, it's an indulgence. nothing more, nothing less.

    1. Stoneshop


      "I grew up without a cellphone, without the internet, why is it now something that I need?"

      Because the guvmint, in all its manifestations, and biznisiz are all working towards comurnucashun exclusively via this inturnetz thingie. Want info? You can phone up, but the first thing you get told by the voice response system is "RTFM, available at http://farble.blarble.glorg". Service? Same. Want to buy something? Gone is the high street shop that listens to what you actually want/need and trying to get you that, instead (passively or actively) limiting your options to what they have on the floor. Spare parts to fix something (insofar things are fixable nowadays anyway)? Forget it, unless you can locate a source yourself, which means searching the internet.

      Deny it all you want, external circumstances are seriously putting pressure on that attitude of yours, granpa.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    ohh and while your at it i forgot to mention, get yourself a simple and cheap laser pointer so you can line up the dish to her place, remembering that its slightly offset almost pointing down as you draw an invisible line of tight from her place to the back of the central dish, that then concentrates the signal onto and from the focal point, get it.....

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    I recall efforts like this when I lived in Johannesburg in South Africa some years back. There was a very active WUG spanning a good 20miles squared, with connections shared.

    The kit was insanely costly and incredibly difficult to get right - I never did have much luck with it.

    Eventually, I took up an account with one of the few wireless ISP outfits that were sprouting up at the time - and created a rudimentary cantenna on my roof.

    After months of fiddling, ADSL suddenly arrived in my area, albiet it a measly 384k effort, at exorbitant cost.

    I'm now back in blighty & fortunately can get a 2mb line, just about.

    It's amazing what lengths folk will go to for broadband - I'd do exactly the same as our our man in Scotland!

  30. Daedalus

    Getting away from it all...

    ...means not bringing it all with you. At least this guy didn't hop up and down, badger his MP/MSP/MEP, and demand subsidised service halfway up Ben Nevis. Kudos for technical achievement, but seriously if you need broadband that badly shouldn't you reconsider your choice of residence? If broadband is coming to the hills, can a 4-lane highway be far behind?

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      So, what...?

      Do you really reckon all home workers should live in cities? Kind of defeats the point of not going into the office, doesn't it?

  31. blackpenk
    Thumb Up

    Have you tried this

    Have you looked at this company that provide satellite broadband using the Astra Birds that provide sky with the TV Service.

    I believe you can get 4mb download with a 256k upload which is better then some home connections.

    You might even be able to use some of your existing SAT kit just change the Modem.

    The UK Dealer is

    P.S i don't work for Astra or BeyondDSL but work for a similar company on the maritime side

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Rural ADSL does exist

    Reading the comments shows how varied ADSL is throughout the UK. I am in a ruak part of Scotland yet get 7.5MB ADSL. However, we cant get any other radio staion that radio 4 on an FM radio, cant get Sky to the trees, can only get BBc BBc and ITV on a normal analouge TV as we dont have digital in our area. Still a 350 internt radio works ownders. Not had a TV for nearly 4 years and dont miss it. Still, good article, I hope you get your broadband soon.

  33. jake Silver badge

    Learn to use the CLI ...

    I spend about a week/month at my place in the wilds of Mendocino County. Off the grid, and only dial-up for connectivity. I'm so far from the CO, and the cable plant is so old, that I'm lucky to get 9600 BPS ... 2400 is more common, dipping to 1200 when it's damp (cracked, dusty wires & moisture make for a bad signal/noise ratio).

    I just use the command line, and ignore GUI applications. 99% of everything I do online is text only anyway, so this doesn't affect my "Internet Experience"[1] appreciably.

    [1] Whatever that is ...

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @simon newton

    The power limits are different in 5GHz, particularly in band C where 4W radiated is allowed ( (band C is only allowed for fixed links and requires the license the article refers to).

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Gain and pointing ...

    Firstly, you need to increase the gain of the antennae .. stuff the EIRP limits, no one is going to check, and, if they do get as far as sitting astride your roof with a reference dipole on a stick, a good sharp tug on the cable should pull them off ... but I digress.

    A bit of gain will work wonders ... an old Sky mini-dish would be ideal ... or some sort fo helix antennae ... but a couple of mini sky digital dishes with a "bean can feed" would be perfect ... but ... you need some way to measure the rx signal strenght ... if you can do that, you are laughing ...

    Having done this a bazillion times when working for the BBC on outside broadcast links where we ran 2.4, 7 or 11ghz over sitance that make your link look like its in the next garden .. its not as hard as you would think ... you do need a person at each end of the link with a mobile phone, and one of them must be able to see the rx signal strenght ..

    Start off with a test setup a couple of 100m appart to ge tthe hang of it and get the elevations right .... then, use a piece of wood across the front of the dish and use the deisred bearing +90 degrees, with a compass taped along the wood .. its much more accurate to use the bearing across the dish +90 than to try to "boresight" the dishes.

    Once you get them roughly aligned, you can pan the dishes through the side-lobes, watching for the biggest peak, then do the same from the other end, again, the person who can see the signal strenght will have to talk the numbers to the person panning the dish.

    You should easily get a solid and reliable link, with 20db of link budget in hand with mini sky digital dishes and 5km ... no worries.

    If in doubt, hunt down your local microwave amateur radio enthusiast .. they'll be round in a flash and rig you up with a nice eyesore to upset the locals ... ;) .. I would recommend a 60' versatower in the garden, to annoy the monkey puzzle bloke ;)

    Small helicvals will be a lot easier to align, again,. might need to butcher the box and add a connector .. but you'll get a solid signal, no worries, even in fog.

  36. J 3


    Man, what a saga... I'll keep this story in mind for all those moments when people claim "physical media is dead, we all stream HD now!", you know the occasion I'm talking about.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC "Thumbs up"

    The 100m is mostly a timing limit for collision detection; if it's full duplex you can run a greater distance over copper, but it depends on the equipment each end and the quality of the cable. You might also have some unwanted earth bonding that way...

    Another option is to buy a reel of fibre though (you can get it pre-terminated) - 100base-FX media converters cost next to nothing and can run up to something like 2Km full-duplex over multimode cable.

    But there's some damn good relatively cheap 5ghz 802.11n kit nowadays, and you don't always need line of sight...

  38. Nu11u5

    WISP and Wash

    When I moved into a new rural development there wasn't even telco installed yet. We decided to go with a small time wireless ISP using Motorola Canopy kit. The main transceiver was 5 miles away on top of a water tower and we still received 2Mb service. It must have been pretty easy for the provider to start up and maintain b/c almost 10 years later they are still around with no major interruptions to service.

    The entrepreneur's other endeavors are a janitorial supply store and an automatic car wash.

  39. JBR


    We had this problem back in the early 2000s and got great results with pretty basic wireless gear + 2.4Ghz parabolic antennae:

    2 x wireless routers + crossover cable = perfectly acceptable repeater!

  40. Glen 9


    When freeview reception was still abysmal in my area of Northern Ireland, we got a streetlight from the scrapheap, cut the top off, bolted on the aerial and concreted it into the ground. Not the prettiest sight but it worked.

    As for the internet, AOL was the only ISP that even suggested that we could get ADSL. 200Kbps max at around 3am if I'm lucky and cuts out for about an hour each day.

  41. Rick Giles

    Stop saying USB...

    He said that this has been a 7 year quest. I don't know about that side of the pond, but 3G hasn't out long here in the States.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    wind surfer reflector

    a quickly made bean can/cantana/pringles feed But with a self contained USB wireless 11N dongle would work far better than the old school make a custom helix/dipole type 5GHz brassed to long patch lead with connector etc, and give him a far better almost zero loss, the only problem being getting the re-cycled sat dish high enough with a PC attached, a micro PC could be used OC.

    But he already has that Solwise kit and the scrap Large sat dish , But it's Not setup as a direction feed but rather a omni directional that's pushing out wireless all around his house and not focused to the girls house as yet, so with an hours work he could make a parabolic reflector in the same style s the wind surfer and pop that over the existing solwise aerial,pointing in the right direction and get a boost of several DB or go and use that large scrap dish and mount the whole thing at the focal point as already stated, simple and effective....

  43. Christian Berger

    So your phone company doesn't know what phonelines are?

    If your phone company doesn't know ISDN and claims that you cannot get it any more, how do they provide phone service? Is it all VoIP now, or do you still use old dial phones?

    1. Matthew Malthouse

      No domestic iSDN any more

      although you can still get iSDN2e or (as we have) iSDN 30 for business from BT.

      That's a shame because iSDN was supplied with new copper to the exchange and once you had that you could ditch the service, persuade some engineer to transfer your phone to the new copper and then get brilliant aSDL way past the published exchange distance limits.

  44. Anonymous Coward


    @Rick Giles Stop saying USB... #

    what you talking about mate, he said its AN ONGOING 5 year quest, so it doesnt matter if 7 years ago USB whatever didn't exist or was scarce , It does NOW, and infact you can buy all sorts of USB radio dongles from argos catalog shops etc with ease.

    OC a few cheap 11N sticks £30 or less each ,set for 3 separate channels stuffed inside separate direction cantana and connected with 4 meter USB extensions to a simple booted liveCD with wireless bonding such as is all that's really needed at both ends and all for a very small outlay and some time spent doing it right, once he understands the basics of higher DB and forcing the signals in the right direction.

    many high speed community wireless LAN's use exactly this type of simple kit today, only connecting into the different end points that have viable ISP/co-location site's for all to share as needed.....use whats available NOW , don't go trolling about what was not available 7 years ago

  45. Mostor Astrakan

    My BOFH-senses are tingling...

    "But not, fortunately, when his own phone started playing up. Suddenly it was perfectly safe to work under the tree, and the nice BT engineers (with whom I was quite chummy by this point) were able to connect me up while they were fixing my neighbour's fortuitously faulty phone line."

    What, *bulllet holes*? Tchah! Kids these days. No respect for their neighbors' property. I blame the parents.

  46. Steve Gooberman-Hill


    Have you considered the Motorola OFDM kit? It does everything from stupidly deep non line of site over about 10k through to 160km over water links.

  47. Matthew Malthouse

    Distance no object...

    to failure.

    90 ft across a road with 18 inch dishes still failed unpredictably. The weight of snow they collected could bend them out of alignment. After a while the £50,000 asked to put a conduit in the roadbed started looking attractive.

    1. OldDogNewWalk

      Hi Matt..

      you still at the Grauniad?


  48. Pypes

    Parabolic reflectors much?

    2 prime focus satellite dishes and some off the shelf USB dongles and I would like to think a 5km link with LoS would be relatively easy, I've read of people doing similar things over much longer distances. If attenuation isn't an issue with 5.8 Ghz I would have thought you'd be fine at 2.4.

    Captain hindsight to the rescue.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    90 ft across a road didnt fail, You Failed

    @Matthew Malthouse

    If you cant even set up a working 90 ft across a road with 18 inch directional Higher Gain dishes without failing YOU DID SOMETHING REALLY WRONG Mate ;)

    seriously, you can get that far line of site over a road with nothing more than 2 11g £20 USB dongles sey in add-hoc mode , never mind putting them in can's to make them directional.... go look at that those pages

    for instance this using nothing more than a a mesh food cover , a (rather good , it has to be said, senao) USB 11g USB card and measured with net stumbler got him

    10 kilometer's (10,000 meter's) or 6.2137 miles if you prefer, 4 Years ago, so today's far better 11N would get you far faster and farther

    1. OldDogNewWalk
      Thumb Up

      If that 90ft is where I think it is...

      Then Matt was probably trying to set up at least a 100Mb pipe for commercial use. I can assure you, and you can probably assure me, that that is a very different kettle of fish to 11g wireless 8-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Bonded Wireless works


        If that 90ft is where I think it is... #

        Posted Sunday 5th December 2010 16:21 GMT

        Then Matt was probably trying to set up at least a 100Mb pipe for commercial use. I can assure you, and you can probably assure me, that that is a very different kettle of fish to 11g wireless 8-)

        its Not really any different , commercial or not, the only difference is they charge you more , the radio might change to get a higher throughput but that's all, and apart from that, iv already mentioned the way to get a Far Faster Wireless Backbone/Point to point data link, that being using several off the shelf 11N USB placed inside (home made) cantana and that Bonded wireless LiveCD above...

        seriously, You/Anyone Can Get 200Mbit/s or More to and from your WAN/LAN that way on a Bonded virtual wireless Link , try it sometime as a simple test and You will See "it just Works".



        VPN aggregation is a different story. In this case, balancing of traffic takes place in Layer 2, thus a bandwidth increase is also available for a single TCP/IP connection.....


        Aggregating VPN and increasing bandwidth in layer 2

        VPN LAN-to-LAN that may be configured in Zeroshell may be obtained using OpenVPN and TAP virtual interfaces. The latter entirely resemble real Ethernet interfaces and, as such, they may be aggregated through Bonding. This feature has been available since the first release of Zeroshell. However, for VPN bonding to be justified, each VPN tunnel belonging to the bond must flow to a separate Internet link. Before Net Balancer was introduced, this was done through static routes which required at least one peer to have two public IP's. Now, thanks to Net Balancer, the VPN site-to-site configuration form allows you to choose a gateway to set up the ciphered connection. This greatly simplifies configuration by no longer requiring static routes and two public IP addresses.....


        The BOND00 interface created is equivalent to an Ethernet interface: it may contain IP addresses, add VLAN 802.1q, or be assigned to a bridge. As mentioned at the beginning, since load balancing in bonding takes places in Ethernet frames, even a single TCP/IP connection will enjoy an increased band thanks to the presence of multiple links."

  50. Carl W

    Ethernet between buildings

    Ethernet over copper between buildings is a big no-no due to the two earths not necessarily being the same. You should have done it properly with some optical transceivers and a length of optical fibre across the field, suitably armoured of course.

    1. Stoneshop


      The first component the signal encounters after it enters the network card from the cable is a pair of transformers, often even inside the jack. There's no galvanical connection between cable and system, except for the shield if you are using SFTP (which you'd better, given the distance and the environment). Grounding the shield at one end only is the way to deal with differences in earth potentials, and the simplest way to do that is to use a RJ45 coupler (the thingies you use to connect two CAT5 cables together) plus a small length of unshielded CAT5 at the other end.

      If you're worried about lightning strikes (the effects of which van be very nasty indeed), then a pair of copper-to-optical converters at both ends (so the main run can still be the far cheaper copper cable) with a meter or so of fiber patchlead between them. Secondhand converters can be had for next to nothing if you don't need 100Mbit/s, which you probably don't.

  51. askr
    Thumb Up

    Helical (dish) antenas?

    Why did you go with the panel type antena?

    You should try using 2 dishes (same type as sattelite, but a tad bit smaller). They give you a higher gain and are even moredirectional than panels and yagis.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fresnel zone

    "The antennas have line of sight, but barely, and radio signals suffer from interference within the Fresnel zone - a cigar-shaped zone between the antennas that (in my installation, according to the calculator on the Solwise website) stretches about 7 metres down from the line of sight, and well into the village that lies between our houses."

    are You actually here anon reading these comments mate?

    make yourself known if so , as it seems you don't quite understand these terms as yet and thats OK.

    looking at your solwise kit it came with a crap NON Direction The 5dBi (4dBi on the 8610) antenna totally unsuited for Directional long range use and so your assumed so called "Fresnel zone - a cigar-shaped zone" is Nothing of the sort,

    it's more like two circle's that happen to somehow meet at the centre than a cigar shape right now.

    due simply because you didn't quite understand the Need for the aerial to have a reflector to it,

    to push the wireless signals to the right direction and not all around your house.

    i assume the other end of the link is also the same non direction aerial setup, So in effect your wasting a massive amount of signal right now at both ends....

    see if this makes more sense to you after you watch this simple you tube and extend that thought to the outside link your trying to make better this is how you make that so called "Fresnel zone - a cigar-shaped zone" and so make a far better and stronger link, get it ?

    obviously replace that flimsy paper and foil with something far stronger but just as simple like super fine wire mesh and limited plastic etc so it doesn't get put under stress by the external wind etc, but the basic concept design is fine if you don't want to got to a full old sat dish for the purpose.

    1. Stoneshop

      Are *YOU* reading the comments

      Mister "I figgered out how to do these them things and I'll keep telling ya until you follow my advice"? The boxed used have a main 16dBi directional panel antenna, PLUS the omni you keep blathering about. That 16dBi panel is more than sufficient to bridge the given distance. I know, I've seen it done, first-hand.

  53. A 31
    Thumb Up

    gaining height

    Bravo for your persistence !

    as for the height ... might be silly , but how about a helium balloon :D

    you'd have to top it up once a week, but hey

    1. Sadie


      Problem is that the prevailing winds would mean the balloon would be horizontal most of the time (and also at risk of escaping)

  54. JaitcH

    Same problem at my summer cottage.

    I have small weekend getaway on the 'wrong' side of the lake for a cable feed and using Wimax for listening to the Beeb gets a little expensive.

    I bought some TP-Link 501 Access Point WiFi boxes which can be programmed as AP or Client which when connected back to back and using their 14 dB gain antennae gave a reliable link. It is possible to hack TP-Link boxes - search using Google - so you can max out the power.

    It's been up for three years now, without any downtime.

  55. Pondule

    ad-hoc network

    Couldn't you just use a chain of laptops on top of telegraph poles and street lamps?

    1. TheOtherJola
      Thumb Up

      You'd need to configure

      each one with helicopter USB, whatever that is

  56. flingback

    Very simple cure for higher speed...

    You've got two omni-directional antennas on each end, therefore you have two circular patterns of radiation. To be honest I am amazed that it works at all - it's pretty miraculous! With the right antennas you'll get a phenomenal improvement.

    I'd suggest a Compact High Gain Directional Corner Antenna of the sort you'd find at somewhere like Maplin. It'll be the best £40 you've spend in a long time as this will make the receiver performance better and focus the transmitted signal into a beam. Point the two antennas at each other and voila. Also, for a tip, if the link is still in anyway flaky switch to 802.11B mode (not G) - it is more immune to interference and your wireless physical layer will spend less time resyncing and more time transferring your data.

  57. Andrew Punch

    Big Amateur Radio Mast

    You might want to checkout what the ARRL Antenna Book or the ARRL Handbook has to say about masts. You might be able to get a decent mast that is taller than your house.

    You might also want to check out the amateur radio classifieds (RSGB in the UK I think) for any decent sized masts.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I get free WIFI from work

    At work we have a juicy 5mb up and down connection.

    I rigged up 2 cheap 17db directional antennas to a couple of D-Link 900AP+ units in bridging mode.

    The D-Link has a hidden page ( wega.htm) where you can boost signal strength to 17dbi.

    With reasonable line of sight over 1.5km distance I get 3.5mb up and down, great for looking after the servers, and very good for domestic connection.

    Connecting them was ladder, binoculars, laptop and compass approach.

    My reason to the boss was that he would get more work out of me.

    He was so impressed he bought the kit for me, I now relay a signal to his house too.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Latency will always be a problem, but satellite is a lot less hassle.

    I admire your persistence. I do not really understand why you bandoned satellite (you do mention annoying latency, but the amount of trouble you went through is just baffling)

    Satellite is more and more edging towards becoming a commodity. The cards are a bit overpriced, the data-limits are not high, but it sure is a lot less hassle. If their offerings of self-hosted content are good they could be good value. At less than £20 a month they could be a decent solution.

    Soon KA-Sat will start competing. It is hoped that they will be around £25 for 10Gb-monthly-limits, but with a higher initial investment (roughly £300 rather than £100).

  60. M.A

    why not

    become a radio amature 400 watts should solve your problem at freqs near to the ones you want.

  61. jonfr

    Parabolic wlan antenna

    You need a parabolic wlan antenna. You have to build it your self and all. But this type of antenna should give you the range and the signal strength that you need for wlan communications for up to 10 km if your antenna is big enough.

    Here are some basic instructions for this,

  62. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Not all bad news

    I remember staying in Hilton of Cadboll about 30 miles NE of Inverness for a couple of weeks. Had to climb up the hill behind the house just to get 2 bars on my mobile, best and most relaxing holiday I've had in years!

    Had to drive about 6-7 miles to get GPRS on my Voda-dongle, fantastic stuff!

  63. Anonymous Coward

    Euro Solution: RONJA IR Link

    The Czech prove to be worth their two cents here, with some ingenious low-end technology doing great things:

    The Austria-Hungary Empire still has something left....

  64. Morat

    Jesus Christ, read the specs

    Those Solwise boxes have TWO antennas. One is the omni sitting on top that you are all preaching about and the other is the 16Db panel which is internal and VERY directional. Those boxes will EASILY cover 5km without any pratting around with old satellite dishes, cantennas or other relics.

    The problem here is the Fresnel zone, he needs more height not more gain.

  65. Colin Critch

    Why not use a repeater in the middle of the field?

    Why not use a repeater in the middle of the field?

    A 2 or 3 Draytek AP-700 (with lead acid battery and a solar panel) in repeater mode.

  66. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    Doesn't anyone read ?

    Even after it's been pointed out more than once, people are still saying he should have used directional antennas. These units DO have a directional antenna built in - that's why they have a funny shaped front. On these, the R-SMA connection on top is connected to the 2.4G radio the unit also has - though I'm not quite sure as you can't use both at the same time.

    And to all those suggesting the DIY approach with Pringles cans and old Sky minidishes, why ? You can buy high gain antennas off the shelf that are a) ready made, and b) far more likely to work without a lot more experimentation. Whatever external antenna is used, the 8610 will need the cover opening up to connect the external connector to the correct radio.

    Mind you, the 8610 has now been superceded by the 5610 which has both better TX power and Rx sensitivity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      sure people read, they also like actually trying these things for real rather than just reading, and its clear a panel aerial while good for point to Multipoint in a given direction, these dish and cantana are Far More Focused and so More suited to this Point to single point usage.

      but even using internal/external panels for this LOS 5km stretch doesn't explain the crap 300Kb/sec max he says its getting from these 22 Mbit /s max rated Real throughput these old 11g solwise radio's are rated for.

      he states its still an ongoing project so he's far better off looking to hook up and test a few cheap 11N single aerial (non MIMO dual etc) USB sticks inside a cantana, ready made if he's got more money than common sense (southern English) , or home make (we assume he's a real scot remember LOL) and an hours work....

      1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

        Sigh ... (RE: Sure)

        FFS I didn't say there weren't better antennas available than the panel ones built into these units. A pair of them should work reasonably well as a point-point link - and they should work over this distance. The same units can be used with an external antenna just by moving a link inside (attach the pigtail to the 5.8G wireless port).

        What I do stand by is using a ready made antenna rather than p*ssing about with Pringle cans etc. Unless you know just what you are doing, I very much doubt you'll improve on a factory made antenna designed and built by companies employing people who actually understand radio ! You can get a variety of antennas up to about 30dBi off the shelf - but then you are down to fairly narrow beamwidths.

        And I guess you didn't read either the article or the specs or the comments. These units are NOT 11g, they are 11b/g OR 11a. By default the internal panel antenna is connected to the 11a radio, and the external socket to the 11b/g radio. A software setting switches between them - they don't have simultaneous operation in two bands. By disconnecting the internal panel and connecting the pigtail to the 11a modem, you can use an external antenna for the 11a band. The EXT version omits the panel altogether and simply has an R-SMA socket for an external antenna.

        Lest you think I'm just talking from armchair experience, I have a number of these 8610 and 5610 units in use and in stock. Going on the roof of the two story office building was "interesting" for an acrophobic like me !

  67. Anonymous Coward


    I hope that antenna is suitably earthed, or your insurance is all paid up.

  68. John 62
    Dead Vulture

    be careful up there

    If it can happen to Rod Hull it can happen to anyone.

    RIP Rod Hull, RIP :'(

  69. No, I will not fix your computer

    I'd have gone for the 8610 EXT

    Stuck a couple of 20dB dishes on them, OK a tad more expensive and lining up would have been more of a pain (use GPS for height and a simple compass for direction or use your OS map), but the extra 4dB and reduced frenzel would have been more than worth it maybe even the magic number 2Mb you're looking for (and still legal... just).

  70. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Why not ask Claire to bring up the sites you want...

    ...and she can take a photo of them for you, and, once the SD card is full, you can pick it up from her house, and drop off a new empty SD card.

    That could work.

  71. Glenn Charles

    Thank you, my admiration, and congratulations.

    That was superbly well-written. There was a great deal of valid information in it--and ingenuity shown. It was extremely funny...and there wasn't even the slightest trace of an expletive. That last bit puzzles me, but o well.



  72. Vyruss
    Black Helicopters

    Couple of DirecTV dishes and DD-WRT bridges

    My parents live at the top of a ridge, surrounded by rocks and the phone/cable company were unwilling to install DSL or Cable networking without my parents shelling out $$$ of bucks. They were still on dial-up until I came up with a solution.

    I modified a couple of DirecTV dishes and mounted a bi-quad antenna to each. On the back-end, I setup a pair of Linksys WRT54G routers (reimaged and using DD-WRT firmware), configuring each to be bridge repeaters. Both devices powered via PoE adapters. At my end, I installed the Cat-5 cable between the Linksys/PoE adapter to my PoE switch inside my house. At my parents end, I did something of the same but also added a wireless access point inside the house as well.

    Using the DirecTV dish with the bi-quad antenna, the 2.4Ghz signal is amplified from the measly 3dbs to nearly 35dbs, thus providing a longer and much stronger wireless connection. Since my house is at the bottom of the ridge, but has near line of sight (NLOS) pathing to their receiver dish, I can actually transmit (broadcast) my wireless bridge signal the entire 5 miles easily. Wireless signal strength remains very high, except if there is rain or fog, but other than that, my parents are getting a stream of about 54MB/sec across my internal network to the Internet.

    Similar instructions (how-to) can be seen at this website as well...

    How-To: Build a WiFi biquad dish antenna:

    1. Wayland Sothcott 1

      dd-wrt a very cool DIY solution

      That's a very cool solution, especially using TV dishes.

      However much easier to buy a couple of nanostations.

  73. GeorgeTuk

    This annoyed me most...

    "Before I could spend money on something more reliable, Anthony called up to say he'd gone off the idea.

    Given I'd signed a 12-month contract to provide him with ADSL, I wasn't amused, though more shocked than angry. We saw the couple a few times after that, but within a month they had receded entirely and decided to home school. These days they blank us in the street and ignore us if we talk to them."

    What a couple of gits...I would have cancelled after about 2 months, paid the rest just to spite them...and make the company ask for their equipment back so they hassle the owners of address for everything.

    You have to do it a few weeks after the relationship soured just in case!

    1. Wayland Sothcott 1

      When people see you struggle...

      .... they sometimes want nothing to do with you, fearing you will drown then too.

      This man needs our support, not people crushing his attempts.

      I know how you feel, I certainly would not have continued to pay for their broadband.

  74. Wayland Sothcott 1

    5km line of sight :-)

    Keep trying, it should work fine at this distance.

    Once you have a link go back to the other end and improve that. Maybe better antenna, better radio or more power or more height. Then go back to the first end and repeat. If you get a signal strength of -80db or better (-70db perfect) then you will have the Clares full Internet bandwidth available.

    Also talk to Geoff at MS Dist, his Nanostations are great.

  75. Herby

    This ALMOST sounds like...

    An episode of BOFH and his troubles. With a little help, we could add in the boss (neighbor next door) and the pub down the street. A little help from Claire and it is set.

  76. Simon B
    Thumb Up

    Excellent reading

    An excellent article! as for Zen Internet, i've always found them quick to solve very rare problems with our connection (if I get 1 outage a year it's an unusual event! 2 or more is unheard of.)

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