Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Satellite Broadband

I am incredibly lucky to live in a nice rural area, while it's lacking sometimes in some amenities it is, frankly, absolutely beautiful! Oh, and certainly much cheaper than trying to live in a city (which is another one of the reasons we ended up here).

Anyway, despite the estate being relatively new it appears that our internet connection is delivered via a damp piece of string and the maximum that ADSL 2 can give us is about 4.5Mb/sec. BT have started offering FTTC but even that only gets to 13Mb/sec according to the availability checker.

So we've had to go with keeping the rubbishy ADSL line for now (which is also on our landline) and getting Satellite Broadband as both a backup and for speed when needed - both of these really are to support my working/contracting from home where it's vital that I can connect to the office over VPN


Actually arrived within a couple of days of the order! Big box with modem and TRIA and even bigger box with a white/cream Tooway satellite dish assembly.  This is a BIG dish and rather heavy too.  You could probably set it all up yourself but it's a fair weight to take up a height to fasten onto your wall so best to pay for someone to do that!


Getting a professional fitting service meant that we had everything installed about a week after the order and it took about 2hrs to complete including running the cable to the sitting room and gettting it through the wall - same kind of procedure to having Sky TV installed.


The really important thing about the modem is that it is pretty basic.  No configurable DHCP, no wireless, and no easy configuration to allow it to have a static IP address or play nice with the rest of your setup in anyway whatsoever.  I can understand that the main 'cleverness' is in the satellite gadgetry but really the companies that make these things need some serious UX help

To insulate my carefully setup network from the modem I bought a TP-Link TL-R460 which is a neat little router that has a WAN port that can talk to modems over ethernet (it gets an IP address for this network via DHCP - yes, the SurfBeam2 Satellite Modem does have DHCP but it's not configurable) and then has a LAN network that 'looks' more like a normal router.


Primarily I'm using ADSL for now with the Satellite as backup.  Eventually I'm going to use some sort of crude load-balancing or sharing of usage of the two links.  The ADSL though slow is still quite responsive.  The satellite has ping times around 700ms - 2000ms depending on site (I think the satellite ping time is around 600ms).  That said it does still seem reasonably responsive.

I found the performance of the link to be extremely slow during the first week.  The bandwidth was slower than the ADSL connection.  After about a week of light usage/testing the performance started to get close to the promised 20Mb/sec download and 2Mb/sec upload.  I need to carry out more tests though.


Definitely I need to make more use of the satellite to get a feel for performance and usefulness but for now it seems like it would be perfectly usable in an emergency and could also be handy for off-peak downloads/uploads.  Despite the dish looking a bit of an eyesore it's at least hidden at the side of the house and isn't in the way.

I would also have to admit to a tiny glow of geekiness in that I'm using the internet over a satellite link!  It's pretty cool that traffic can be sent direct from a dish on the house, up to a satellite, bounced back down to earth and then on to it's destination.

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