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WiFi and Satellite Equipped Tractors to Follow Yorkshire’s Tour de France

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 (8:25 am) - Score 611
farming uk rural areas

The National Farmers Union (NFU), satellite broadband ISP Avonline and farming retailer Massey Ferguson have teamed up to modify two tractors, which will be positioned at key locations along Yorkshire’s (England) Tour de France route, to act as free wifi wireless Internet hotspots with a considerably wider than usual area of coverage.

The tractors, which will drive between four of the busiest spots on the route (i.e. moving from Stage 1 to Stage 2 during the night), will get their Internet connectivity from a Satellite broadband connection (note: Avonline uses both Avanti HYLAS 1 and Eutelsat KA-SAT spacecraft) and this will then be distributed out over a range of around 500 metres using wifi.

As part of Stage 1 (Leeds to Harrogate), which begins on Saturday 5th July 2014, one tractor will be driven to its station at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Visitor Centre in Hawes and the second will be found at the Visitor Centre in Grassington. During Stage 2 (York to Sheffield), which begins on Sunday 6th July 2014, the first tractor will be moved to the Steel Stage event at High Bradfield and the other to Holme village.

Richard Pearson, NFU’s Regional Director, said (Farming UK):

We are really excited about this project and we hope it will add to people’s enjoyment of what will be an amazing event. Farmers across Yorkshire are gearing up to welcome tens of thousands of people for the Tour, showcasing the fabulous food and scenery for which the county is famous.

But as our members know only too well, getting Internet access can be a tricky business out in the countryside – it’s something they grapple with every day whether they’re registering online animal movements or simply engaging with the public on Twitter or Facebook.

It’s obvious spectators will want to use their phones to access visitor information and post pictures, tweets and so on. As we understand how frustrating a lack of broadband in rural areas can be, we wondered if this was something we could help with. The result is a great working partnership with Massey Ferguson and Avonline and voilà; tractors can indeed be mobile wifi hotspots!

In all of the relevant areas it’s likely that thousands of people will be present and some of those will naturally want to share and tweet their pictures and video, although sadly Avonline hasn’t said precisely which setup it will be using to support the expected capacity demands (we imagine something similar to one of their top retail packages).

At present Avonline’s top Avanti (HYLAS 1) package offers downloads of up to 15Mbps and 2Mbps uploads alongside a 150GB usage allowance for £149.95 per month, while Eutelsat’s KA-SAT (Tooway) platform has a top package for £74.95 per month offering downloads of up to 22Mbps and uploads of 6Mbps, but with a usage allowance of 100GB and traffic management impacting after the first 35GB of that.

As usual the hardware and installation would normally add a few hundred pounds on top for home users but we imagine the tractors already have that part covered.

UPDATE 9:58am

The ITS Technology Group have dropped us a message to say that they’re also providing WiFi services in hard to reach locations on the Tour de France route.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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