Sorting out wifi at the house

First things first! This is a very geeky post and really only for those regular visitors who are frustrated with internet access at the house.

Background

We have had quite a challenge trying to sort out wifi and satellite TV in the house over the last few years.

Now it seems that there may be an answer. It may seem odd that 4G may be the solution, given that mobile phone reception in the house seems to be close to be non-existent, but the coverage reports suggest that we may have what’s called 4G+, as long as the reception point is right. It’s a gamble because, if it doesn’t work, it will be an expensive failure, but we have to get something better than we have at the moment.

So, a little recap. We started in 2004 with a fixed landline and an Orange Livebox. At best the connection was about 1.5Mb download and 0.5Mb upload. Although unmetered it was no use for streaming or for TV use. Also, wifi coverage was close to non-existent upstairs or in the garden.

In 2016 we moved to satellite broadband, with a dish and metered access at 25Gb per month, whether or not we are there. It costs 55 euros a month or 660 euros a year, which is ridiculous. If that’s not enough, if you run out in any month then extra tokens cost 15 euros per Gb, so an average top up will cost 150 euros.

The possible solution

So it’s time for a change. This is the Bouyges Telecom coverage in our area (last updated 26 June 2019):

Look at the top left hand corner for the house

The dilemma is that, as you can see, we have 4G+ coverage at the front of the house but nothing at all at the back. It seems to me that if we can get the main signal then hopefully wifi will take care of the rest.

Here’s the map version of the coverage:

It’s a real touch and go option

So where is the mast?

Here it is.

Curiously, given the coverage reports, it’s behind the house

Here’s the link: https://www.cartoradio.fr/index.html#/cartographie/lonlat/0.1175188755863446/44.961177968343

Given the close location to the house, I’ve decided to give it a go.

How does it work?

It’s pretty obvious that the standard signal on a phone won’t be enough so we have to use some tech add-ons and, according to many Brits (and others) in France this is the answer.

It’s from Huawei (yes, I know):

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Huawei-UNLOCKED-300Mbps-mobile-Router/dp/B071CYR18L/ref=pd_rhf_ee_p_img_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=MMRP1R0G8BJYGVGA4VNN

This is a mobile router that works with any PAYG SIM. The reports on its use in rural France are really good. Here are the specs:

Product Description


WHAT THIS PRODUCT DOES:
Huawei B525 is a LTE CAT6 Wireless Router, which pushes and eliminates black spots giving you a smooth and quick Internet connection. The WiFi covers a huge distance, reaching through to each device in any room. Have high-speed Internet for family, friends and yourself all day long!

SPECS: 
Download speed: 300Mbps 
Upload speed: 50Mbps 
Sim Card Size: MicroSim 
Dimensions: 16.3 x 22.6 x 5.2 cm 
Share: Connects up to 64 WiFi enabled devices. 

USE: 
The Huawei B525 Router is ideal if you don’t have access to a phone line, it is also perfect for small businesses, caravans and general home use. 
Explore with the B525, as it can be used across Europe, Africa and Asia. 
Use any network provider of your choice as the device is unlocked. 

WARRANTY & TECHNICAL SUPPORT INFORMATION: 
Technical Support enquiries: support@modem.co.uk 
2 year warranty with Livewire Telecom Limited

But that’s not the end of the story

The router can be combined with a 4G booster aerial which, if properly positioned, can secure connections of up to, realistically according to people using it in France, 50Mpbs.

The advantage of this one is that there is no need for a fixed aerial and it can even be attached to an upstairs window if that works. It can be tried all around the house.

If it works?

There will be no need to have any monthly account because you can put any data SIM into the unlocked router and use that for internet access, including streaming to TV, such as iPlayer and, maybe, Sky (if it doesn’t work then we’ll still have satellite TV for non SkyQ).

If it doesn’t work?

Well, we’ll at least have improved phone reception at the front of the house.

How much will it cost?

It’s pretty reasonable and you can even buy your data before you go to France, here:

https://www.bouyguestelecom.fr/carte-prepayee/vacation-prepaid-plan/

Basically, it’s 40 euros per 15Gb which isn’t bad, but for those of us who pay for the house is vastly cheaper then the current option. By the way, what’s needed is a micro-SIM.

Of course, if other SIM cards work (e.g. Three which apparently works really well in France), it could be much cheaper.

The other option is to buy PAYG data only SIM cards and you can do that from loads of local locations including the books and tech shop at Intermarché in Montpon.

I’m sure that visitors will find much cheaper options. Please let me know if you do.

Purchase made!

I’ve taken the plunge and made the purchase of the 4G router and the aerial so we’ll find out in little over a month.

Here is the kit. The aerial screws into two connectors (hidden behind a removable plastic cover on the back of the router).

Add your MicroSIM card

Make sure that you buy a MicroSIM because that’s the only one that will work. Quite often, they are sold as dual SIMs so you may need to click off the larger SIM fittings.

This is where you fit it. Pretty straightforward really (on the bottom under the router). It will click into place.

Connect the SIM card before plugging in the router. Failure to do so may damage the SIM card.

The messages to look for are as follows:

  • cyan/blue/yellow – connected to a mobile network
  • white bars – more signal bars indicate a stronger signal
  • red – no network connection – try adding the aerials and moving them around

If it does what it should then that should be it.

Connecting to the Wifi network

Refer to the label on the bottom of the router for the default wireless name (SSID) and password (Wi-Fi KEY).

Good news

I’ve tried it out at my UK home where 4G is virtually non-existent and it works really well! I’m currently getting 10Mb download and 5Mb upload. Looking good!!

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