Wireless struggles in rural Australia

It is confidently predicted by the people of my parish (yes, I have been reading Trollope again!) that if you go into the main street of the nearest settlement and yell out the name of a national comms provider, you will cause a riot.


If you can call 20 people brandishing modems and mobile phones that won’t connect a riot. In our quiet neck of the woods it would be.


Recently, I moved back to use my rural abode set on 500 acres as a home office after two years of sharing a factory space with my manufacturer and inventor partner. It was getting too busy, noisy and dusty there.


But handy. Because since the industrial estate was only about 30 minutes from the nearest regional city, we had a landline, ADSL and 50 GB of internet data access a month for a reasonable rate.


Being assured that the new wireless modems would enable me to work from the home office – another 30 minutes further away – I took the plunge. There is no ADSL available; no NBN (and no word available about when), so wireless is the only option.


I am now paying twice the dollars for less than half the data allowance. I started on 8 GB and used it up within two weeks because I had underestimated completely how much info is sent via video, and how many different sites to which I upload stuff to keep my social media happening. I’ve never really had to add it all up before.


My colleagues from the city are constantly confounded by my uncharacteristic negativity on this subject.


Let’s have a Skype on that they propose. ‘I might be able to do that if the wind is in the right direction,’ I say, ‘but without the video.’ They look bemused: why would that be? ‘Not enough bandwidth.’ What? Where on earth do you live? ‘Two hours from Melbourne.’ Huh?


If I stand on the corner of the veranda I can get a clear telephone line. This is fine in summer.


The modem is tucked into the corner bedroom nearest this spot and in theory should beam its five bars into the rest of the space so all my devices can connect. And usually it does.


But it feels like there is just not enough wireless to go round, despite the fact that my nearest neighbours are three kilometres away.


Join a webinar. Forget it. Watch a TED talk? Not a possibility.


Yes, this is a rant and, yes, I am feeling very frustrated. But at the same time, this article is a word of warning to the wise; those who would love to enact a sea or tree change and are quietly confident that the internet network of Australia will support them in this endeavour.


Maybe. But make sure you check out the real, as opposed to the advertised, capabilities of the system in the area you are heading for.


My solutions are:


  1. Work out of a shared space in Melbourne once a week and save up all my podcast downloads, RSS feeds, webinars and YouTube visits until then.
  2. Get an iPad with a prepaid sim card that gets better (and cheaper) reception in the same spot from the same provider (the ONLY provider).


But I am sure others have more ideas?


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