Rural Internet Tech

Calxy Institute 4G Wireless – Incredibly slow, but works

I have had my Calyx 4G LinkZone2 wireless router for about 3 months now, and I am extremely pleased that I did not sign up for the full year. My experience with Calyx, in a city with full coverage has been abysmal. The common average I have seen is about 7Mbit down and 1Mbit up. Don’t get me wrong, if you have nothing then this is wonderful… but that is the average. In Woodville that average goes to 1 and 3Mbit down and 0.5Mbit up (and usually less). This is just barely enough to make a voice phone call and not enough to do any sharing + voice or video. Both of which are required for my job.

In the country admittedly the signal is weaker, bouncing between 1 and 2 bars and sometimes 3 (I guess if the wind blows right). I am certain if they supported more devices (specifially any device with a external antenna port) that this signal would improve significantly. But because I seem to be limited in the city as well, it makes me believe that this service is not truly “unlimited” speed and is being throttled considerably.

I can set this next to my Mint carrier cell phone and it easily pulls down 40Mbit but the Calyx connection is pinned at 5Mbit the majority of the time. In both locations where I use this service the coverage maps show excellent 4G and even 5G coverage.

If this would have worked it would have been a dream to have for the price it costs. Hell, it is almost still worth to have for a low speed mobile backup. with my cheap Mint mobile plan.

So now I have a choice between trying two new providers; Nomad Internet or Rarity Communications. Nomad looks like another Calyx Institute but the allow BYOD – which honestly could possibly make a massive difference in service. Rarity Communications is a local outfit that looks to do fixed wireless internet for Ivanhoe, but also has a 4G option for people too far out, though I was told they normally would not service Woodville, but I think I just got in touch with the right person by luck.

I ended up going with Rarity. The equipment they suggested is quite a bit more expensive than your average gear, but it is above average in every way.

The BEC RidgeWave 7000 runs about $750 USD. The main features that make it better than your average equipment is channel 14 support for First Net and up to 5 channel aggregation which allows it to pull up to a theoretical 1.2Gbit from the air. Not that I expect to come any where close to that any time soon; it will be nice once it is possible in my area.

Unfortunately this device is backordered with ETA’s ranging from three weeks to two months. In the intern I ordered a Netgear M1 which oddly has support for channel 4 and up to 3 channel link aggregation (1Gbit max) along with the antenna kit from Netgear to go along with it. This should hopefully be enough to catch a good enough signal so I can move out to the country house (and also save me $100k+ in buying a second house closer to the city).

The cost for 4G service with Rarity is $125/month. No contract so if it does not work then it can be canceled at any time. Not sure if there is a full refund window for the month or not, but I will for sure be testing out putting my Calyx SIM into the M1. Some say they will ban the SIM some say it will continue to work. It should be here tomorrow so I am excited to see what way it goes.

I am still signed up for StarLink service which should be available in late 2021 or early 2022, but the more I keep reading about it the less appealing it starts to become.

Rural Internet

Starlink Beta. Thoughts

I have been on the Starlink beta list for about a year now. While I am going to try and make the 4G work (because I have no choice), once the deal closes I will also put my deposit down for the Starlink beta. It looks like the minimum wait for the service will be about six months from the date of signup.

Starlink is one of many startup satellite internet service providers coming online in the next few years. This is going to cause a major shift in terrestrial internet offerings. Elon Musk is lighting a fire under every and all current internet providers. From dial up to fiber, from 3G to 5G wireless. Starlink and the other service offerings from other providers. This is likely to shift the amount of work being put into 4G and 5G wireless offerings for rural services.

Pricing for Starlink Beta is set at $99.00 a month with no data caps. Compared to most terrestrial connections this is not an excellent deal by any means, but compared to wireless (4G / 5G) that typically include ridiculously low data caps, this is an absolute bargain. The catch here being of course that for Starlink you need a hefty sized dish and quite a bit of electricity to power, so comparing that to 4/5G wireless is not really fair either.

Right now the bigger problem with Starlink appears to be coverage. The United States and even more so Canada has coverage / line of sight to Starlink satellites for service. The problem is that with the current number of satellites deployed there is not coverage for 100% of the day. Here around Houston Texas I would get coverage 75% of the day. As each payload of satellites are blasted into space this will eventually fill out to 100%. In Canada they are already closer to that number. You can use this awesome tool to look at estimated coverage in your area.

I look forward to Starlink, but more for the friction it will cause in the 4/5G wireless space. For incredibly remote places Starlink will be a godsend as it will be for semi-rural dwellers in the short term.

Thank you Elon for once again for screwing up monopolies and forcing people to follow your lead.

Networking Rural Internet Tech

How to get rural internet access in Texas.

Probably my biggest obstacle to tackle here in the woods is the task of internet access. As you can imagine there are not many options and at the moment it looks like it is going to be 4G wireless. There are several towers within 5 miles with both T-Mobile and Verizon access. No fixed wireless providers service this area, DSL may be an option but is still under investigation — I do not have high hopes. The previous owner had Huges satellite internet service, but it kept his kids glued to their screens so they turned it off to try and get them to go outside.

For the moment I have joined the Calyx Institute to get ahold of one of their unlimited 4G hot spots. I am uncertain if this will work off of the towers as the device I ordered will only work on post merger T-Mobile service, at worse I am out $150 for the first 4 months of service. If this works then I will pay out the rest of the membership and keep that going ($500/yr paid annually). While visiting the property for inspections and what not I did test with my Mint phone and was able to get about 6Mbit down and 0.5Mbit up with varying latency. These were just spot checks from the porch and just in front of the property. I will spend more time finding the best spot to lay that 4G hot spot.

Speaking of that 4G hot spot, it would not be a very geeky blog post if I didn’t at least go into some detail about how I plan on getting that to work. When you join Calyx you are given two options of devices you can order. Sadly neither of them have antenna connectors so you end up with either getting a device that can be tethered or a device that cannot be tethered. For my use a tethered device would be great since I can connect it directly to my router as a USB modem and use it that way. The non-tethering option could still work, but I would have to use the router to connect to it via WiFi as a bridge and then connect my other WiFi router to that to provide service to the rest of my devices. To be honest I am not sure why you would get the other device at all. You just have a better device all around by getting the tethering option.