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DIY Rural Farmer Turns 4G Mobile into 45Mbps+ Home Broadband

Monday, August 17th, 2015 (9:38 am) - Score 23,807

A Wiltshire farmer has setup Agri-Broadband to help remote rural farmers turn weak 4G (Mobile Broadband) signals into superfast home broadband connections by using a custom built wireless mast and a lot of fibre optic cable. But it probably won’t work for everybody and isn’t cheap.

Richard Guy’s local fixed line broadband connection clearly left something to be desired and could only muster a top Internet download speed of around 1Mbps (Megabits per second). But Guy is one of those lucky few rural farmers who is within reach of a 4G mobile signal; albeit several miles away and at the very edge of his farm.

As such his solution was to build a wooden mast at the edge of his farm, which is self-powered via solar panels (plus a 12v battery backup). The mast contains a 4G dongle (modem) and some basic networking kit to convert the connection so that it can run along 2-3 miles of fibre optic cable back to his home computer.

Guy claims this solution, which delivers download speeds of 45Mbps to 69Mbps, costs around £1,000 to £2,000 (one-off) to deploy depending upon distance (more distance = more trench digging).

Richard Guy said (here and here):

I just love seeing the expression on someone’s face when you show them it’s possible that they, having been left out in the middle of nowhere, can get serious broadband. But I turn up in a dirty Range Rover and this old geezer gets out and people think ‘he’s not going to solve this’. I think they’re expecting some young techie, but then it works and they’re amazed.”

Naturally we salute Guy’s innovative spirit, although at a price of up to £2k you’d need pretty deep pockets to afford such a service (many farmers struggle with money) and the level of on-going customer support may become an issue (Mobile Broadband data caps can also be quite pricey and restrictive). At this sort of cost we can’t help but wonder whether a Satellite solution might not have been simpler.

Rural 4G coverage is currently very limited and even when it is available you’d still be lucky to get the kind of speeds mooted above, which are likely to fall as the local network becomes more congested in the future. Mind you some areas do have access to 3G and on occasion we’ve seen that deliver decent ADSL2 beating performance, but that’s not hugely common either.

Never the less there will be some niche farms where this approach is viable and for them it could be a lifesaver, assuming they can afford it.

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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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