Sunday, 27 December 2009

3G Internet

We live in two places, one is a rural area with no broadband service available (I did ask) and the other is right in the city where such problems do not happen. For a long time we relied on dialup. Most of the time dialup is okay in the city. We get 50k and that's enough for casual surfing and email. I can even run a remote terminal at that speed as long as I tune it a bit (limit the colours etc). But in the country the speed falls to about 20k and while that is still okay for surfing and email it doesn't get me much else. I should add that I use broadband at work for things that need more speed and are work related and I don't spend much time on YouTube which needs either speed or patience.

But the rural place at 20k was just too annoyingly slow. With no wired broadband option available I checked if we could install a satellite dish. Yes, but expensive and data capped. Then my neighbour happened to mention that his mate had visited and was using his 3G card in his laptop. I had assumed that, while we get cell phone coverage, that we wouldn't get 3G here. That's because my Vodaphone phone reported no 3G coverage. But this was a Telecom card and it worked fine.

This got me interested. It has the advantage that I can carry it with me, so it doesn't matter whether I am in the city or the rural place. So we got one. It plugs into the USB port and it is something like 5 times faster than dialup in the country. In the city it is a lot faster again. From a cost point of view it came out about the same as the landline phone connection. Since we only ever used the rural phone for dialup we turned that off, so the change was cost neutral. I'm not certain that the 3G card is actually using real 3G in the rural setting, but whatever it is doing works.

Still one problem though. With two laptops in the house we needed to share the connection. At first we shared the connection through a desktop machine plugged into a wireless router but it didn't perform well. I suppose it wasn't really worse than the dialup it was sharing before but I wanted to do better.

So now we have a little box with a wireless aerial and a USB port. It took a little bit of configuring but we got there. The 3G card is from Sierra Wireless but it was supplied by Telecom. The little box is a Netcomm N3G002W. It supports WPA2 and is basically transparent. We plug it in and our laptops can get internet. It is also small enough to carry with us anywhere, including on holiday. So, when we feel like it, we carry our laptops, the 3G card and the Netcomm and we can sit in our hotel room and get to the internet. We ignore the (generally ripoff) connection that sometimes comes with the room. We no longer need a spare desktop in each place to share the connection.
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