Wireless Internet For a Rural Community: Broadband Almost Anywhere in Spain
Posted by The Editor
Kevin Dillon finally shares his secrets with expats everywhere. You too can now setup a wireless web connection for your rural home in Spain. Check out more conventional ways to connect to the Internet at our more general Internet in Spain page.
Background- Why do it?
This article came about as a result of my having moved to Spain to a valley where Telefonica had claimed to offer ADSL (Broadband) internet service. In short, they couldn’t do it because they use equipment considered obsolete in other parts of the world. They have no interest in widening their operating range beyond the current 3km from an exchange, and they don’t allow other companies to use more modern RADSL equipment to extend their range to 6-7 km. Telefonica aren’t incompetent; they are allowed to cherry pick customers who are cheapest to service. For my Internet connection I was presented with the following choices and here are my reasons in summary for rejecting them:
Dial up Internet Connection
It typically costs around €25 per month, ties up your telephone line and, worst of all, drops out randomly causing much frustration. Its typical speed of around 40kbs is sedentary. If you have to use this service I can personally recommend ONSPEED (www.Onspeed.com) . For €40 per year it will improve most of your web surfing activity by a factor of 3-4 and may extend your sanity! I only twitch a little bit now that I’ve moved on!
ISDN Internet Connection
This technology is still pushed hard by Telefonica for rural users although it belongs to an era that passed over 10 years ago. It would be easier for them to provide ADSL but they charge more for ISDN. It’s an expensive way to improve the service by around 30% over dial up.
Unidirectional Satellite Internet System
You can get a free dish/PC card package from SkyDSL (http://www.teles-skydsl.com) for DIY installation. A download rate of 4 Mbs and data volume will cost around €30 per month. But you will still need a telephone link and and an ISP for uploading. The service has its problems because the upload speed is slow and although the download speed is good, you will have to wait half a second for the data to travel to the satellite and back. This effect is called latency and it doesn’t seem to be a problem until you try using voice systems (VoIP) such as Skype through it. Please note that ONSPEED will not work with this system.
Bidirectional Satellite Internet System
Apart from still having the latency effect (times 2 now, for up and down links) this system works well but it costs serious money. It’s around €3000 to set up and expect to pay over €100 per month for anything approaching a comparable terrestrial ADSL Internet package in Spain.
GPRS or 3G
This can offer around 300 Kbs, almost ADSL, using mobile phone technology. It’s worth considering if you live in an area where the network is enabled (test it, don’t believe what company claims) and your usage is limited to a relatively short time online (1-2 hours) and for fairly small data volumes. It would be very expensive if you want ‘always on’ broadband, which is what ADSL is all about. There is some good news; ONSPEED works for this technology and because it compresses data you can save a lot of money as well as improving the speed. Check out Vodafone for this service.
Purpose of this article
So now I have eliminated all the easily available options what options are left? By operating on the assumption that there is always someone else who may have solved a similar problem I searched the web and found hundreds of places in the world that have done so. They range from villages in Nepal, Africa, USA, UK. They have solved the problem in a similar way to that which I’m about to describe by using second hand, home made/modified, or off the shelf equipment.
Scope for WiFi in this article
The potential scale for WiFi (Wireless Fidelity, a type of wireless Internet connection using 2.4Ghz radio waves) applications is huge. San Francisco is becoming a WiFi enabled zone as a commercial operation through Google. Many areas of the world have large zones (40km long) where people have helped themselves to achieve ASDL networks through a technique called meshing. Meshing is a way of developing large networks with many users, say more than 10, but it is a step more complex than this article will cover. Fon, the wireless device manufacturer from Spain, is partnering with Google to try to blanket Barcelona with wireless coverage by offering customers access to 5€ wifi routers if they agree to allow open access to their Internet connection.
This article is limited to a wireless system that I have built and am operating along with 4 users. It uses equipment which can be bought either from local shops or through the internet. It is fairly simple to design and configure a similar wireless system if you have some experience with computers and basic networks. The cost is low and it doesn’t require any licensing to operate. I do not intend to address the question of whether the source ISP will be happy with such an arrangement other than to say that ISP’s typically supply WiFi routers and expect that their users may operate several computers within a household. What this system will do is extend the networks range beyond a house; by a long way!