Broadband super highway or a slow and winding lane?

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

A reader contacted me about broadband speeds this week and it got me thinking.

Internet connection speeds are vital in my line of work. Not only do they impede or empower my ability to build, maintain and host websites, but they also impede or empower my ability to fix client PC issues in a timely fashion.

For example, at a recent client visit I made, I remarked on the fact that I had a good 4G signal on my phone. I tested the speed of the client’s broadband service and compared it with the speed of my 4G signal and found that my phone’s connectivity was a whopping 20 times faster!

That to me is pretty silly. Especially when I know I have faster broadband speeds at my home in Storrington (twice again that of 4G). Which incidentally has no 4G signal!

It really does feel like living in the country. Lots of slow winding lanes interspersed with great big dual carriages and motorways with people tearing along over the speed limit. That’s fine if you are lucky enough to live near a major junction, but rubbish if you live even a little way off the beaten track.

Why are services so sporadic? Broadband you can understand to an extent, because the major companies need to go where it is economically viable and therefore target the larger population centres first. 4G is different though. It doesn’t rely on being physically linked up to every house and business and yet there are still vast swathes of land that are dead spots. I often find my mobile signal at home (indoors and out) is nonexistent and yet if I travel just a few minutes up the road (literally speaking, to the top of Chantry Hill where the sheep like to graze) I have the most fantastic 4G in the world. I tell you, those sheep must be up to something with that kind of connectivity at their beck and call.

So the question is, what can you do if you live in an area with poor connectivity?

If you have a good broadband connection, but a poor mobile signal, did you know you can use your home WiFi to make mobile calls? Some carriers (like O2) have their own apps which you can install. They use your regular mobile plan, but your calls will be made using your WiFi signal and your broadband line. Some phones (like the Nexus 5) are capable of doing this anyway. As long as your carrier supports internet calls, you just need to switch it on in the settings.

If you have a good 3G or 4G signal and poor broadband, you can buy a 3G or 4G modem or router. You can get decent speeds using these, but watch the mobile costs. If prices come down, these will be an even more viable alternative to using broadband.

These workarounds are all well and good, but what we really need to happen is for both broadband (the super fast fibre optic variety) and mobile signal strength (the super fast 4G variety) to be rolled out countrywide.

If you want to find out about broadband availability in West Sussex, then a site you should probably visit is The Better Connected site gives you some decent information on what is happening to broadband services in West Sussex. One point I noticed which will be of interest, is that they do not cover 4G roll out. There is an explanation as to why on the Q&As page.

One last piece of advice. If you live in an area that isn’t covered well and won’t be for some time, then tell someone about it. If enough voices are raised in support of faster broadband and better 4G coverage, then the suppliers will take notice and will likely act upon it. If you stay silent though… Well, enjoy the peaceful countryside.

Alan Stainer