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Rural internet - Slow FTTC + 4G Load balancing?

jimwilluk

Member
Hi there,

We'll soon be moving to a fairly rural spot in the Wye Valley, postcode NP16 6HG. To my great concern, the available broadband is veeery slow so I'm trying to hatch a plan to survive (coming from a solid 100Mbps fibre connection).

I run a small startup, working entirely from home for the foreseeable future, so a decent connection is pretty essential. I do lots of Zoom calls, most of my work tools are web-based and send fairly large files around, including occasional torrenting + lots of video streaming (Netflix etc are used regularly!)

Luckily, there is a 4G EE mast about 700 metres away (eNB ID 16921), in direct line of sight to the house. Apparently 40-50Mbps is achievable from this, though I've it also does get congested and slow down at times. O2 has barely any signal there and I think Vodafone / Three are not a huge amount better?

The plan
I have been doing some research and am thinking to get both a slow broadband connection and a 4G router and using a load balancer to help route traffic depending on what's needed. The wired broadband could do cover most day-to-day tasks (and perhaps things that require low latency?), and the 4G could take over when needing a faster connection e.g. video calling/streaming.

I'm aware load balancing is not a silver bullet, but it seems like doing anything more like channel bonding is not worth the hassle or cost.

Here's the results from BT wholesale checker, which indicates speeds of 6-11Mbps
1614702161869.png

So I'd look to get a relatively cheap 18 month fibre contract with Plusnet for ~£20/mo (5-10 Mbps estimated with guaranteed 4.2 Mbps minimum ) or something similar

For the 4G side, I'd probably look to go with EE as they seem to be the only provider that does high bandwidth/unlimited data on their network, (~£40-50/mo for 24mo contracts) though I will also check out Plusnet, BT Mobile and maybe Voda/Three, just tethering through my phone to start with.

On the hardware side, I've heard the TP Link TL-R605 is a pretty cheap and configurable load balancer. I'm also looking at getting a few TP Link EAP225's (or maybe 245's) to handle the wifi, so being able to use Omada to control them all seems handy. For the 4G connection, I've heard that the Huawei B535 or B818 are the ones to go for - the latter if money allows.

My main questions
  • Am I sane - Is going for a load balancer worth it for the extra redundancy and low latency/higher speed options?
  • Is EE a good choice for 4G data?
  • Are my hardware picks reasonable?
Any advice would be hugely appreciated! Sorry for the essay and thanks in advance.
 

kommando828

ULTIMATE Member
I use a Draytek 2925 bought cheaply off ebay, it's been used to load balance adsl and mobile, area wifi and mobile and now mobile and mobile. You can leave it to self manage and that works most of the time or get it fixed on one connection and it automatically changed to the other a few seconds after the first fails.

EE will give the best downloads.

As for hardware I have never used that lot so cannot comment.
 

Lucian

ULTIMATE Member
If you want to separate traffic like that, it's best you maintain 2 separate networks (SSIDs) rather than try to balance them, imho.

Get the B818, it's prolly the best 4G router available.

Watch out EE's unlimited plans have some limitations, 600GB for personal, 1TB for businesses. Btw, the 24 month business sim only ultd data is around 25£, that is what I'd get.

O2 claim reasonable coverage of your post code, you could try with a giffgaff sim.
 

Iamhere123

Casual Member
Depending on how far along the chain you are might be worth factoring in the cost of FTTP as part of any potential work you may need doing when you move in. Granted will be expensive though
 

sheephouse

Top Member
Welcome to the Wye Valley, I'm not too far away in the FOD - just above Chepstow. I used 4G load balanced with ADSL2+ for a couple of years, but have now dropped the ADSL as it didn't add much, and the difference in the latency caused problems with some applications.
I use a MikroTik LTE kit and a Draytrek 2860n+ (both now superseded by newer models). The 2860n+ can load balance and be configured in a variety of ways to always use one or other of the connections for certain traffic.
I would be tempted to try the 4G before committing to a FTTC connection - unless you really need the lower latency the FTTC may not justify the cost.
I have an EE business unlimited SIM for £27+VAT - which has higher AUP limits and is cheaper than than the personal equivalent (not allowing for any cashback deals etc.).
 

GaryW

Regular Member
I'd echo a combination of what others have said. EE is fast, good and reasonably priced (and the FUP never seems to be enforced...worst case is they'll throttle speeds). B818 is the best modem I've used (but a mediocre router like pretty much every other 4G router is!).
I wouldn't bother load-balancing. Based on my own experience with rural VDSL, your big problem will be upload speeds. BT always use 0.8-1.2 as their upload claim on long lines, but the reality is slower - on my 15 Mbps download line I never got better than 0.5 Mbps upstream sync....
 

Gandi69

Pro Member
Decent Router with multi WAN links (pfsense, sonicwall, opensense etc). Split your traffic up accordingly using rules, really simple and works beautifully.
itss what I do, farm the stuff that doesn't need good latency such as streaming etc out to LTE and keep the wired connection with low latency for stuff that does - in my case gaming
 

jimwilluk

Member
Thanks for all the replies, really helpful!

I think you've given me confidence to try and rely purely on the 4G initially, most likely with the Huawei B818 as it seems well recommended on here. I still have some reservations about Huawei kit given their privacy/security concerns - is this anything worth worrying about?

Great tip on the EE business contracts, I hadn't thought they would be cheaper than the consumer plans.

If I run into issues with stability, congestion or latency I may explore the FTTC + load balancer route but I'll cross that bridge if I come to it...

For what it's worth, I have tried giffgaff at the new house (it's my current network) and got no signal inside or out. I'll probably end up moving to PlusNet mobile for my phone as they seem to have decent 30 day plans and should have good reception from the EE mast.
 

Bubblesthefish6

ULTIMATE Member
Just so ya know...... BT only let you have "Unlimited" data if you have fibre broadband + BT Halo with them. Also, you have to pay for the double speed as they set an AMBR speed cap of 30/10. Double speed lifts that to 60/20 which isn't great as I've seen 90-100 down and it doesn't fully utilise the network. Now onto BT groups understanding of "Unlimited"....... Unlimited entails 600GB of data, 12 tethering devices (if you break either of these rules twice within a 6 month period, they will kick you off if you use more than 600GB or move you onto a buisness plan (the most expensive one cos they are b*stards anyways) if you tether more than 12 devices). This is clearly NOT unlimited, and afaik any MVNO that offers unlimited data via EE has to follow this rule. Where there's three, there's EE usually. I would recommend you try them before you commit to a contract with EE as threes understanding of Unlimited is unlimited, no caps no speed restrictions and no tethering limits. Oh almost forgot, EE also like to slow down your speed to >5 Mbps for the rest of the month if you do break the tethering limit.
 

sheephouse

Top Member
...
Oh almost forgot, EE also like to slow down your speed to >5 Mbps for the rest of the month if you do break the tethering limit.
I've never had problems with the number of devices attached - I've had ~100 for weeks at a time (and never less than 20) with no issues at all. I did ask EE about the limit before I took out a contract, and I was told the 12 limit was there because the devices they sold for home broadband could only cope with 12.
 

Bobr

Member
Just as a thought, utility warehouse do an unlimited sim for £20/m on the EE network ( additional sims at £10 each) on a one month contract. Some discussion about fup banning router use and ofcom net neutrality laws, but may be worth a punt before committing to a longer contract.
 

Bubblesthefish6

ULTIMATE Member
Just as a thought, utility warehouse do an unlimited sim for £20/m on the EE network ( additional sims at £10 each) on a one month contract. Some discussion about fup banning router use and ofcom net neutrality laws, but may be worth a punt before committing to a longer contract.
You have to have landline and credit card and all sorts to use Utility Warehouse. Also 600GB and tethering limit still applies. it does to all EE mvnos as i mentioned before.
 

Darsh

Casual Member
You have to have landline and credit card and all sorts to use Utility Warehouse. Also 600GB and tethering limit still applies. it does to all EE mvnos as i mentioned before.
I've just ordered a SIM to try it. You don't need a landline or credit card, but you need to pass a credit check and set up a Direct Debit.
Fair Use Policy doesn't mention the data limit, only says that "You must only use our mobile SIM in a personal mobile device. It is not intended for use in any other type of device, including 4G/5G routers, and is not intended to replace a fixed broadband service."
I'll give it a try, it's a 1 month rolling contract only.
 

Bubblesthefish6

ULTIMATE Member
I've just ordered a SIM to try it. You don't need a landline or credit card, but you need to pass a credit check and set up a Direct Debit.
Fair Use Policy doesn't mention the data limit, only says that "You must only use our mobile SIM in a personal mobile device. It is not intended for use in any other type of device, including 4G/5G routers, and is not intended to replace a fixed broadband service."
I'll give it a try, it's a 1 month rolling contract only.
They can’t legally do you for that anyways, it’s against net neutrality. Hopefully it goes well.
 

Darsh

Casual Member
They can’t legally do you for that anyways, it’s against net neutrality. Hopefully it goes well.
Well, they are clearly stating further down that they "reserve the right to:
• Impose further charges for use of our service
• Move you to a more suitable tariff, which might have a fixed data allowance
• Restrict your usage of, or throttle, calls, SMS or data
• Temporarily suspend your SIM card from use
• Disconnect your SIM card"
Let try it ;-)
 

Bubblesthefish6

ULTIMATE Member
Under net neutrality they can’t restrict what device you use it in and if they do it’s against the law.
 

Darsh

Casual Member
Under net neutrality they can’t restrict what device you use it in and if they do it’s against the law.
If I understand it correctly, net neutrality is about equal access to all resources. Your ISP is not allowed to give faster access, say, to bbc.co.uk, and slow down access to guardian.com. But it has nothing to do with ISPs rate limiting subscribers, as long as they rate limit the whole Internet equally for them.
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but, from this aspect, net neutrality shouldn't prevent UW/EE from throttling subscribers breaching FUP.

Device neutrality must prevent this - but, as far as I'm aware, we don't have a law for this in the UK.
 

Bubblesthefish6

ULTIMATE Member
If I understand it correctly, net neutrality is about equal access to all resources. Your ISP is not allowed to give faster access, say, to bbc.co.uk, and slow down access to guardian.com. But it has nothing to do with ISPs rate limiting subscribers, as long as they rate limit the whole Internet equally for them.
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but, from this aspect, net neutrality shouldn't prevent UW/EE from throttling subscribers breaching FUP.

Device neutrality must prevent this - but, as far as I'm aware, we don't have a law for this in the UK.
I'm not sure about the deeper details on it - I'm not a law boff but afaik they can't stop you via the law, what stop constitutes I am not aware.
 

Darsh

Casual Member
It turns out that UW are doing it differently: they are simply rate limiting downstream to 40Mbps and upstream to 20Mbps. This is still better and cheaper than what I get with Lebara (20/5, £25/month), but I was hoping to get full EE speeds of 160/30...
 
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