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WiBE Shared Hotspot Pitched For Rural Broadband in UK

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the until-the-cows-come-home dept.

The Internet 51

justice4all writes "A British company claims to have solved the problem of delivering a reliable broadband connection to people in rural communities. Deltenna has developed a small, self-installable gadget called the WiBE (Wireless Broadband Enabler) that uses the 3G mobile network to create a 2Mbps web hotspot. The device sounds similar in concept to devices like Novatel's MiFi, but Deltenna claims it works even in places where a 3G mobile phone wouldn't register a signal. The WiBE has five times the range of a 3G dongle, and can deliver 30 times data throughput compared to a 3G USB modem dongle, Deltenna believes."

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51 comments

Slashvertisement (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688154)

Yeah, and has anyone ever had any reception in a 'rural' area? I don't know what definition they used for rural here, but it is most likely the park in the center of the city if they can pull 2 Mbit of 3G.
Also: prepare to be massively overcharged by the providers who have to build the 3G towers in the middle of nowhere now...

Re:Slashvertisement (1)

Nick Fel (1320709) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688166)

The summary specifically states that it can get reception where a normal phone or dongle wouldn't. (Whether it's true or not is another matter.)

Re:Slashvertisement (4, Interesting)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688594)

I'd be surprised if it wasn't. You house generally doesn't move about all that much, so it's trivial to point a high-gain antenna towards the nearest mobile phone mast/strongest local reflection. You can even stick in on it's own mast to increase line-of-sight.

Re:Slashvertisement (1)

Pete43 (1843060) | more than 4 years ago | (#32707978)

The clever part is that although it's trivial to point a high-gain antenna towards the source of the best signal, most people don't. Deltenna pack extremely high-gain antennas into a small package and all the user needs to do is sit it somewhere near a window. The WiBE' uses electronic beam-forming to get a high gain in the correct direction and periodically repeats the process so that the best signal is always selected.

Re:Slashvertisement (1)

BandoMcHando (85123) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688226)

If you follow the article through to the manufacturers product description page, they mention using multiple antennas and 'locking on' to the best local cell base station, presumably using some variant of phased array/beam forming/etc to minimise interference etc.

Although it's hard to tell from the pictures, the unit does look fairly large compared to a dongle, maybe about the size of a large dog food tin can? (i.e. next size up tin can from a normal size one) (But that is pure guestimation based on comparison of what looks like an ethernet socket towars the bottom).

Re:Slashvertisement (4, Informative)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688268)

It all seems like a bit of a double up.

While I'm no fan of Telstra here in Australia, they have recently trialed LTE at 75km using Nokia Siemens Networks equipment.

http://www.itnews.com.au/News/215787,telstra-lte-trial-100-mbps-wireless-over-75km-cell.aspx [itnews.com.au]

I know I'd prefer 100Mbps peak (88Mpbs average) over 2Mbps.

Re:Slashvertisement (2, Interesting)

thijsh (910751) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688372)

Now that sounds like tech to be used in rural areas! When they combine the receiving station with a 3G node you would have broadband with an added mobile broadband bonus... This is the way to go, I'm pretty sure Australian farmers would see the benefit of using their mobile all over the ranch and would see a box like that as a good infrastructure investment. The cell companies would probably charge them big time, but this way there should be a mutual benefit, the farmer gets coverage and pays a little more for it, and the telco gets coverage and pays a little less for it...

On that same note, there should be more access points that double as 3G node, so you can have fast cheap mobile internet everywhere you are willing to make the investment where the telco's aren't. Another added bonus is this: transmit power can be lowered significantly so less radio-noise is produced... and your cell's battery will last twice as long when using the internet.

Re:Slashvertisement (2, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688572)

the unit does look fairly large compared to a dongle, maybe about the size of a large dog food tin can? (i.e. next size up tin can from a normal size one)

How many Kilderkins would you say that is? Or I may with difficulty be able to visualise the volume in Firkins if you'd prefer to stick to conventional units.

Re:Slashvertisement (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688438)

Yup, I have. My mother lives in north Devon, the land that time forgot. It took them ages to roll out ADSL, so until last year I'd use my mobile phone for Internet. GPRS reception was pretty poor, but it was faster than a modem for transfer (2 second RTT sucked though). UMTS reception is a lot better. The house has very thick walls that block the signal, but if I put the phone near the window I get a strong signal and can get 50KB/s downloads with around 200ms RTT over that. I don't think they've rolled out HSPA (or LTE) yet. Now they have ADSL, I can use their WiFi. I get downloads of 50KB/s. The latency is better than the UMTS connection, but the speeds are the same (and some of the latency may be caused by the bluetooth hop to my phone - I'm not sure how that compares with WiFi).

Re:Slashvertisement (4, Interesting)

xaxa (988988) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688476)

Yeah, and has anyone ever had any reception in a 'rural' area?

This is UK-rural, which isn't really that rural.

See, for example, the yellow bits on this map [gsmworld.com] .

Re:Slashvertisement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32688742)

wow. that might actually be helpful...if only your link pointed to *A MAP*...and not just every map of every coverage area in the entire world.

Re:Slashvertisement (2, Informative)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 4 years ago | (#32689486)

Try this: http://www.gsmworld.com/cgi-bin/ni_map.pl?x=0&y=0&z=0&cc=gb&net=hu [gsmworld.com]
That's the map for "3 mobile", IIRC the first to roll out 3G in the UK, and advertise the best 3G coverage.
See also: Orange [gsmworld.com] , T-Mobile [gsmworld.com] , Vodaphone [gsmworld.com] and O2 [gsmworld.com] (haha).

Mobile coverage in UK (1)

Cato (8296) | more than 4 years ago | (#32713700)

Another useful tool is http://www.sitefinder.ofcom.org.uk/ [ofcom.org.uk] - from the regulator, this shows the exact position and type of base stations (cell towers) in the UK, for all networks apart from T-Mobile. The user interface is a bit annoying and only worked on Internet Explorer, but the data is very useful, particularly for external antenna planning.

Re:Slashvertisement (1)

ralphrmartin (1711260) | more than 4 years ago | (#32689132)

Nonsense. Much of Scotland has no 3G signal (not just a weak signal, but NO signal). See for example this map
http://www.gsmworld.com/cgi-bin/ni_map.pl?cc=gb&net=hu [gsmworld.com]
which shows Three's coverage.

Re:Slashvertisement (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 4 years ago | (#32689596)

According to this map [coveragemaps.com] (I think made by the same people) coverage is better if you combine all the networks' coverage. Scotland still misses out, but when considering the whole UK there really aren't that many rural people in Scotland.

(The percentage of British people who live in Scotland but don't live in the Central Belt or in a town is quite small.)

Note that there is 2G coverage everywhere (IME not on all networks, but almost always at least one network).

Coverage (2, Interesting)

Cato (8296) | more than 4 years ago | (#32690082)

The only problem is that UK residents can't combine all the networks' coverage without swapping SIM cards - there is no roaming agreement between UK operators. However, this is changing with the merger of Orange and T-Mobile (http://www.shinyshiny.tv/2010/05/orange_and_t-mobile_everything_everywhere.html), and also network sharing between some other operators.

Ironically a visitor with a non-UK phone will see much better coverage - even UK residents willing to pay extra can't get access to this coverage without using a foreign SIM card.

Re:Slashvertisement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32693510)

Really? Complaining about lack of 3G coverage in Scotland? At least they have basic service so they can at least make a damn call. There is a coverage hole in south-eastern Oregon (absolute zero coverage, not just lack of 3G) that is nearly the size of Ireland! There are other areas nearly as large in Montana, the Dakotas and Nevada.

So, yah, the million or so people in the US who live in areas with ZERO cellular coverage are crying terribly for the few thousand in Scotland who have to live without 3G.

So it's an industrialised Mifi? (2, Insightful)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688170)

Presumably it's an industrialised unit, with proper antennae that allow it to pick up a 3G signal in poor reception areas. OK, nothing too exciting there.
1) What agreement do they have with the phone companies? Presumably they need a special licence to resell their bandwidth?
2) Cost - what's the charging model for this?
3) ...Profit!

Re:So it's an industrialised Mifi? (1)

tpgp (48001) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688274)

What agreement do they have with the phone companies? Presumably they need a special licence to resell their bandwidth?

WTF? Do you need a special license to resell bread? Books? Beer? If you've paid for the bandwidth, why not resell it? Or waste it?

Re:So it's an industrialised Mifi? (3, Insightful)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688326)

Don't remember signing a contract for bread/beer/books either. Common sense has little to do with this - I would be amazed if the phone companies didn't raise legal objections if you were to start a business using standard phone contract SIMs on their network to resell connectivity to other people.
Also, on a cost-per-gig basis you'd almost certainly have to negotiate for a reasonable price for a data plan that wasn't subject to a far-too-low "fair use" policy.

Re:So it's an industrialised Mifi? (1)

tpgp (48001) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688358)

Don't remember signing a contract for bread/beer/books either.

I don't remember signing a contract for a sim card last time I was in the UK.

Also, on a cost-per-gig basis you'd almost certainly have to negotiate for a reasonable price for a data plan that wasn't subject to a far-too-low "fair use" policy.

I am assuming a $x-per-GB rather than a bullshit limited 'unlimited' plan you typically get in the US.

Re:So it's an industrialised Mifi? (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688442)

Let me get this straight. If you want an account with a phone company you either sign a contract and go pay-monthly, or you buy a SIM card and prepay for your service. (NB in the UK even the latter usually requires signing some sort of agreement - partly to prevent the use of anonymous SIMs)
You are positing that a company that is selling internet access to the general public will be running their infrastructure using pay-as-you-go SIM cards, and thus would be pre-paying for this connectivity?
Presumably topping up their SIM cards from their debit cards? No, no, no.
They will have a contract with a phone company, and this will be a business account, with specially-negotiated bulk discounts on data. They will pay for bandwidth used after the event, rather than having their cashflow ruined by having to prepay for it.

Re:So it's an industrialised Mifi? (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688492)

you buy a SIM card and prepay for your service. (NB in the UK even the latter usually requires signing some sort of agreement - partly to prevent the use of anonymous SIMs)

It does? But phone companies give away pre-pay SIMs sometimes, I don't think they track them.

(I'm not sure there's any point. Criminals can very easily steal a phone if they want an anonymous SIM.)

Re:So it's an industrialised Mifi? (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688948)

(NB in the UK even the latter usually requires signing some sort of agreement - partly to prevent the use of anonymous SIMs)

I've never had to sign any sort of agreement for a pre-paid SIM. In most high-street mobile phone shops (T-mobile, Virgrim, O2 and Orange, at any rate) you walk in and buy a SIM. Typically it's around a tenner, with whatever you paid preloaded as credit. You can pay cash, and no-one is interested in getting you to sign anything.

Re:So it's an industrialised Mifi? (1)

Cato (8296) | more than 4 years ago | (#32689980)

They aren't reselling mobile operator services or bandwidth - this is another way to access the mobile network, and will be sold by mobile operators and others, rather like a new handset. The charges will be whatever the operator charges - possibly a special package as data usage will be heavier than a phone, maybe like 3G dongle charges plus a bit to cover extra usage by several people in a house.

hmmm (3, Interesting)

lampsie (830980) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688186)

While I applaud any effort to bridge the gap between rural and urban internet access, two things strike me here:

1) No mention of price in the article - if current 3g broadband setups are anything to go by, don't expect to see much of a GB allowance compared to standard 'wired' dsl
2) Apparently it can scale to a maximum of 7.2mbps, with a claimed rural 'average' of 2.8mbps - is there much point in a network investing in rolling out these sorts of standards if the average speed is going to be pretty slow? I understand that in rural area's its better than nothing, but the limitations of speed and download allowance I suspect makes this sort of broadband access not very appealing. Frankly, I'd prefer a group scheme using line-of-sight where you are at least going to get a reliable, fast connection. My 0.02 lampsie

Re:hmmm (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688270)

1) No mention of price in the article - if current 3g broadband setups are anything to go by, don't expect to see much of a GB allowance compared to standard 'wired' dsl

Indeed, most of the telcos in the Uk are now shying away from their initial "unlimited" (subject to FUP anyway) data packages in favour of tiered charges. 02 have gone from unlimited to 1GB per month plus £5 per 500MB above that (or else they throttle your connection if you're over your allowance). You're certainly not going to want it for streaming video or audio...

Re:hmmm (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688458)

The target set by the last government was at least 2Mb/s for everyone. For reference, 2Mb/s is enough to stream SD stuff from iPlayer, 7.2Mb/s is enough to stream HD stuff, 2.8Mb/s is not quite enough. ADSL at my mother's house (in rural North Devon) gets about 1Mb/s, which plays for a few seconds then buffers if you try using iPlayer (thanks to get-iplayer, it's possible to download shows and then watch them, shame the BBC doesn't want to support rural users).

Not sure what the download allowance would be, but I suspect that the government would lean on the providers to make it reasonable.

Re:hmmm (1)

Nevynxxx (932175) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688830)

Errrmmm, have you missed the "download this" button on the iPlayer?

Re:hmmm (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32689374)

Which requires that you install some Adobe AIR thing, which only runs on some platforms.

Re:hmmm (1)

lxs (131946) | more than 4 years ago | (#32689590)

Don't be so harsh on him. He's rural.

Re:hmmm (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32689544)

Apparently it can scale to a maximum of 7.2mbps, with a claimed rural 'average' of 2.8mbps - is there much point in a network investing in rolling out these sorts of standards if the average speed is going to be pretty slow?

2.8 Mbps is a lot faster than the 0.05 Mbps of dial-up.

vs WiMax? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688286)

Why not build a WiMax like network with towers and line of sight external antennas?
End users get ADSL like services if the network is well engineered.
China also offers McWiLL (Multi-carrier Wireless internet Local Loop)
http://www.commsday.com/commsday/?p=346 [commsday.com]

Re:vs WiMax? (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688778)

Like this: http://www.kijoma.net/tiki-view_articles.php

Re:vs WiMax? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688894)

Yes, plans offer a max 24Mbps down 6Mbps up, an arc of 20 km in a 120 degree radius from a single aerial :)

There's one that works perfectly. (3, Interesting)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688300)

Long-haul optical fiber combined with DSL/a reasonably modern landline phone system for more remote sites; taxpayer money funds the backbone, and the goverment (that isn't hideously corrupt and can be trusted not to use the lines to strangle kittens as soon as you take their eyes of them) leases the last mile to private companies. But of course, there's no profit in that, so such a thing can't possibly exist outside of covert communist dictatorships such as those found here in Sweden. And Japan, to take a ideologically neutral example. Actually, both Japan and Sweden's networks came about through cooperation and understanding between the public and private sectors, more than anything else; it would never have been pulled it off as good as it turned out if the gov. actually had appointed a public sector company in charge as ISP.
*Pets his RJ/45 jack connecting to a 100mbps line in an appropriately condescendingly smug manner*

Re:There's one that works perfectly. (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688336)

The problem with this is that there are areas that are very expensive to service with RF. In the UK the classic example has always been small remote villages in the hills and valleys of Wales. Line of sight doesn't work very well, so you will almost certainly end up with some sort of repeater service as in TFA. The switch-off of analogue TV in the UK was delayed for years whilst someone worked out a method for providing TV signals to these areas.

Re:There's one that works perfectly. (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688486)

Off-topic, but it's amusing how broadband access in Wales directly follows the Roman infrastructure. You get decent broadband (and mobile signals) everywhere along the south coast where the Romans built their roads, but as soon as you start going away from these bits it drops off dramatically.

Re:There's one that works perfectly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32693506)

Ah, but is that because they're intentionally just following the road, or is it because the Romans (wisely) happened to have built the roads in the most-navigable areas?

Re:There's one that works perfectly. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32697478)

The Romans built roads where they could get to. The hills were easier to defend, so the Celts prevented them from conquering most of Wales. The course of modern roads follows the older ones, so the bits that the Romans conquered got straight roads (that were later upgraded to motorways), while the valleys and the north got tarmac over the old winding tracks, but didn't have Roman roads to build on (while parts of England with similar topology did). The decent roads (and railways, which followed the same paths) caused industrial growth in South Wales, aided by the ports in the Bristol Channel, which caused population growth. This made it both easy and cost-effective for BT and the cable companies to lay decent infrastructure in these areas.

Being conquered by the Romans turned out to be one of the best things that happened to the South of Wales. I wonder if Afghanistan will feel the same way about the USA in 2,000 years time. Probably not - political pressure to withdraw means that they probably won't get a large infrastructure investment.

Re:There's one that works perfectly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32688456)

Why would the long haul fibre need to be publicly funded [relay-rutl...ecom.co.uk] ? The Rutland Telecom model looks like something that could be done in plenty of other places, to my eyes at least.

MetroNet (1)

Nevynxxx (932175) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688324)

Seems to me it would make more sense to just fund MetroNet-like [metronet-uk.com] connections out from the towers that already exist.

Timing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32688398)

Eh, signal strength aside, isn't there a timing limit on digital signals? At a certain range, which I don't expect to be more than 10 miles or so, wouldn't the network assume a timeout?

Re:Timing (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688510)

There was with GSM, and I think it was a pretty hard 35km limit - something to do with timeslot allocations. I don't know that CDMA and 3G signals suffer from the same issues though.

infoRmative GnaaGnaa (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32688460)

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Nobody will reach the WiFi hotspot (1)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688642)

While claiming that they can push more power is ridiculous (it's so easy considering that the standards and regulations are limiting to a ridiculous 250mW in Europe, 500 in USA), it's also totally useless. Of course, you can emit with more power, but then the person who will try to connect to your hotspot will have to emit also with more power, otherwise data are going on one direction only.

Leeching (2, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#32688826)

Great idea. Suck all the bandwidth out of the tower.

When O2, curses on its head, first launched the iPhone, I had constant problems with 3G dropout near iPhones. I began to wonder if O2 was somehow prioritising their iPhone customers, or whether they were bandwidth constricted and the iPhone was sucking up everything. Whatever. Change to Vodafone, no more problems.

Re:Leeching (1)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 4 years ago | (#32694862)

It looks like their purpose avoids that being an issue. The design is for rural areas where towers will be relatively under-utilised anyway. Depending on how it works out, it's plausable all this does is increase utilisation of capital infrastructure with minimal incremental cost - meaning the networks could actually do this quite cheaply if they can control the locations, because the revenue is getting on for 100% gross profit.

Where tower capacity becomes an issue, it's also more practical to increase the number of towers in response. I assume that in rural areas the bottleneck to increasing available bandwidth is insufficient demand for more towers (economic), while in cities the bottleneck is saturation of the spectrum (physical/technological). The device increases economic demand for towers in rural areas, so it's win-win.

Useless (1)

ralphrmartin (1711260) | more than 4 years ago | (#32689086)

What a stupid idea. Most places there is no broadband, there's no 3G signal either - e.g. mid Wales, North Scotalnd

Re:Useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32710878)

You must have missed the bit where it claims to be able to work where you don't get a signal with regular mobile devices. In cases where that still isn't sufficient, it will surely be cheaper to install 3G towers near rural villages than roll out wired broadband to meet the government's broadband availability targets.

self-installable? (1)

Spritzer (950539) | more than 4 years ago | (#32689468)

I'd like to see that.
1) Pull truck onto install location
2)Press self-installer button.
Cue transformers audio effects
3)Use Wi-Fi
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