The alternatives to BT – keeping your business on-line.
We all take our broadband for granted these days, OK we moan about the bandwidth and contention (especially in the evenings) but basically it’s a gimme along with gas, water and electricity. The vast majority of our UK broadband is supplied as part of our landline package, not always the same company but using the same infrastructure. That infrastructure is supplied by one company – BT Open Reach (BTOR).
So what happens when the land line goes dead?
You also lose your broadband, you can’t work. This is what happened to us in Deal, Kent at www.oasthousemedia.co.uk over Christmas 2012, 3am 25th Dec to be exact. Not a great time to lose both land line and broadband but I wasn’t too concerned because we have a 24hr repair agreement with our suppliers – The Utility Warehouse (UW). Not so good was the reply from UW, they told me that BTOR had revoked the 24hr repair agreement which was a bit embarrassing for UW as they had to refund 18 months of payments! The repair (water ingression into the local roadside green box) was eventually carried out as a temporary fix 11 days later (my neighbour and 10 other local residents are still waiting for a land line/broadband after 6 weeks). BTOR called me last week (which was a big surprise as they don’t normally bother) to say look out for the traffic lights in the road (WC 21-1-13), when they go the new cables have been installed. The new cables are copper – so what?.. a lot of BTOR cables are aluminium installed in the 60’s when copper was very expensive – like now!!!
Luckily it was the holiday period and the enforced closure of our business had only a minor impact but what’s the alternative to the BTOR land line infrastructure?
Alternatives to BT…
3G: you can purchase 3G dongles (from mobile phone shops) that plug into your USB port. My 3G dongle cost £35 for 1 month and 1 GB of download. Download speeds were OK, about 1Mbps. UW also supplied us with a T-Mobile wi-fi hot spot which worked well with our PCs when you could get their T-Mobile signal. Issue here is the connection is only as good as your 3G signal.
Another problem was that our router connects us to all the scanners and printers so long term we have invested £200 in a new ADSL/3G router that can connect not only to the BT landline (ADSL) but also a 3G dongle, we’ve just got to work out which mobile network will give us the best signal. This new router gives us the option to switch our router from landline to 3G if we get cut off again plus it maintains our internal wi-fi going from the same device (allegedly).
Fibre Optics: There are currently 4 companies that offer fibre optic broadband in the UK, Virgin Media, BT, Eclipse and TalkTalk. Virgin Media has its own fibre optic network with the widest coverage in the UK. BTOR are replacing copper wire technology with fire optics which will make 100Mbps download speeds available – that’s an I-Tune MP3 album downloaded in seconds! We country bumpkins will also see a difference as fibre optics is connected to (from the exchange) outlying green boxes thus shortening the copper (or aluminium wire) contention distances. Some villages in Kent have already received fibre optic connection as part of the Kent County Councils grant scheme.
Here’s a clever world map with international broadband stats: www.akamai.com/stateoftheinternet
Wi-max: (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a wireless communication designed to provide non-cable quick download speeds. Companies are reselling this service in Kent but the biggest problem is that you must have ‘line-of-sight’ to the transmitter or repeater stations typically on a donor property.
Costs are higher, typically over £20 per month plus an installation fee.
Satellite: just like the Sky service, the signal is bounced off a heavenly body. The service covers all of the UK but ‘line-of-sight’ is important. A small satellite dish has to be installed so. conservation areas may have a problem. Costs can be restrictive with contracts starting from about £20 per month up to £60 for residential users depending on the download/upload speed contact – business rates are horrendous!
So if you are like us and live in the sticks surrounded by trees and rolling hills you are basically stuffed if BT decides to turn you off. Our recent problem was caused by water ‘ingression’ in a roadside green box. BT has a labour shortage (East Kent) due to the ‘force majeure’ in the West Country. They don’t keep to appointment dates/times and generally offer a very sub-standard service. You can pay your supplier as much as you want to ensure minimum down time but remember ONLY BTOR can fix the BTOR infrastructure.
I’m moving to Africa!