Dalkeith

Reference Library – Scotland – Lothian – Dalkeith

Can I give up my landline and use 4G broadband?

‘I am wondering about signing up for Three’s 40GB HomeFi. It has to cover our home internet needs – two computers, two mobile phones … Would this be feasible?’ Photograph: Maskot/Getty Images/Maskot

When we went travelling, we gave up our Virgin contract for an internet and TV package. We have been using Three’s “Feel at home” for mobile phone internet access on data roaming quite successfully. Now, going home, I am wondering about signing up for Three’s 40GB HomeFi. It has to cover our home internet needs – two computers, two mobile phones – in central Edinburgh. I’m not bothered about internet TV because we can get a new DVD player/Freeview HD recorder. Would this be feasible? Paul123

The general answer is no. Today, most people are better off paying for a wired internet connection.

The specific answer is: it depends.

Millions of people have replaced wired with mobile broadband for a variety of reasons. These include the (low) quality of the wired broadband available, their online needs, and their personal situation – like you, they might be travelling, either for business or pleasure. Consider a family with two teenagers who watch lots of movies on Netflix, stream music on Spotify and play online games. They will probably use well over 100GB a month, and would benefit from having the fastest unlimited broadband they can get. By contrast, singletons who only use broadband for email and social networking can probably manage with a 4G service, though it may not save them any money.

Of course, the final decision will depend on what’s available. Type your post code or phone number into the UK Broadband Availability Checker4 at Sam Knows to find out which companies offer broadband services in your area. Click the Wireless button for wireless services such as Blaze, Lothian Broadband and Urban Wimax. There are dozens of these FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) systems in the UK, using wireless systems such as Wimax5, which are not 3G/4G networks. Check reviews at ISP Review6 and similar websites before you sign up. Sam doesn’t know about 3G/4G services, but you can check those with Ofcom’s free broadband and mobile checker app7 for Android and Apple’s iOS.

If you live in central Edinburgh, you should have plenty of options. Virgin does not appear to offer cable in the city centre, but Virgin, BT and CityFibre (sold to business users by Commsworld8) all have fibre networks.

Cellular broadband

The 3G networks launched in the UK in 20039 were too slow to replace wired broadband. However, in 2012, we got the first 4G networks10, offering speeds of 8-12Mbps, and current versions generally offer 18-24Mbps. In theory these are fast enough. The main drawbacks are the availability of 4G services, the variability of download speeds, and the high prices. Cellular networks are expensive to build and run, and being designed originally for voice calls, they have limited bandwidth.

This is reflected in the high prices they now charge for data, and the even higher prices they charge once you go over your data cap. If you sign up for Three’s HomeFi11, you get 40GB for ?24 per month, which is a fairly reasonable ?1.67 per gigabyte. However, once you have used your allowance, you have to buy an add-on12. These appear to cost either ?10 for 1GB, or ?15 for 3GB. Cellular networks also prioritise voice calls, which means they may limit “tethering” (using a mobile phone to connect a PC to the internet) or block it altogether.

Either way, “contention” – too many users competing for a limited resource – is more of a problem with cellular than with landline networks. One operator, Giffgaff, explains why it uses Traffic Flow13 to maintain services. It says that “as few as 1% of members were using around 30% of the total network resource. This unfair distribution causes an inconsistent experience for the majority of members”. In fact, “there are examples of members using double the average monthly network resource within a single day, during peak hours.” As a result, it now limits people who use its Always On service to 6GB of data at full speed, after which it caps the speed at 384kbps between 8am and midnight.

Contention problems are more likely in big cities, but your 4G performance may be perfectly acceptable in the evenings when fewer people are making phone calls. You may be able to find test results for your local area at Broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk14 or uSwitch15 etc, though most of the tests are of wired not wireless broadband.

According to Netflix16, a standard definition movies consume about 0.7GB per hour, high-definition movies about 3GB per hour, and Ultra HD movies 7GB per hour. You won’t want to do much of that if you are paying Three ?1.67 per gigabyte, let alone ?5 or ?10 per gigabyte. Photograph: Ryan Anson/AFP/Getty Images

5G cometh

The next generation of mobile broadband is already being tested in the UK17, and 5G FWA18 broadband should be a viable substitute for landlines, depending on how it is priced. It might be available in 2020. Arqiva has negotiated the rights to install small cells on tens of thousands of lampposts in a dozen London boroughs, and a few cities including Manchester, Southampton and Colchester.

Also, Ofcom is about to auction 190MHz of spectrum for 5G19 in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands. These are similar to the 2.4GHz and 5GHz used for wifi. It’s not clear how much speed 5G will actually deliver, but more than 100Mbps should be practicable, given that 1Gbps is theoretically possible. However, like fibre and cable broadband, I expect 5G FWA will mainly be available in town centres and rich suburbs.

DIY options

Three’s HomeFi system includes a Huawei B310 router, which costs ?59.99 but is free if you sign a 12-month contract. Alternatively, you could buy your own 4G router and shop around for cheap sim-only data deals. Huawei E5577C (?69.99)?232.3724). Note that performance will depend on how close you are to the 4G mast, and whether there are any walls or buildings in the way.

If you choose a router that can take two or more antennaeinternal26 or external LTE aerial27, you should be able to get a faster connection. Unfortunately, you may also have to learn about SMA, CRC9, TS9 and TS7 connectors.

Catch-up TV

Your suggested Panasonic DMR-EX97EB DVD/Freeview recorder looks like a good choice, though you might consider opting for Blu-ray instead of DVD. One advantage is that you can use the EPG (electronic programme guide) to record whole series rather than individual programmes. The disadvantage is that you can’t watch catch-up TV without an internet connection. If you have an unlimited connection, you can happily use services such as BBC iPlayer, and if your broadband isn’t fast enough to watch them live, you can download them to watch later.

According to Netflix28, a standard definition movies consume about 0.7GB per hour, high-definition movies about 3GB per hour, and Ultra HD movies 7GB per hour. You won’t want to do much of that if you are paying Three ?1.67 per gigabyte, let alone ?5 or ?10 per gigabyte. However, if your broadband consumption is light, you may find you have spare bandwidth that you can use up at the end of each month.

No landline?

Standard broadband services are usually delivered over a landline, which can cost roughly ?15 to ?20 per month. The wholesale price of these connections, supervised by Ofcom, pays BT’s Openreach division to operate and maintain the network. If you have an alternative connection, such as Virgin cable or 4G broadband, then you might save money by not having a landline.

However, bear in mind that BT has a standard reconnection charge of ?13029.

Also, the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) changed the rules last October30, so now broadband prices include both broadband and line rental, and sometimes evening and weekend calls as well. As a result, you can get unlimited broadband and line rental for less than the cost of HomeFi, with prices starting at less than ?20 per month. This makes 4G services much less attractive.

Have you got a question?

Email it to [email protected]

References

  1. ^ Feel at home (www.three.co.uk)
  2. ^ HomeFi (www.three.co.uk)
  3. ^ DVD player/Freeview HD recorder (m.johnlewis.com)
  4. ^ UK Broadband Availability Checker (availability.samknows.com)
  5. ^ Wimax (en.wikipedia.org)
  6. ^ ISP Review (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  7. ^ Ofcom’s free broadband and mobile checker app (www.ofcom.org.uk)
  8. ^ Commsworld (www.commsworld.com)
  9. ^ launched in the UK in 2003 (news.bbc.co.uk)
  10. ^ the first 4G networks (www.theguardian.com)
  11. ^ Three’s HomeFi (www.three.co.uk)
  12. ^ buy an add-on (www.three.co.uk)
  13. ^ Traffic Flow (community.giffgaff.com)
  14. ^ Broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk (www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk)
  15. ^ uSwitch (www.uswitch.com)
  16. ^ Netflix (help.netflix.com)
  17. ^ already being tested in the UK (www.zdnet.com)
  18. ^ 5G FWA (www.arqiva.com)
  19. ^ 190MHz of spectrum for 5G (www.ofcom.org.uk)
  20. ^ TP-Link’s M7350 (uk.tp-link.com)
  21. ^ Scan (www.scan.co.uk)
  22. Huawei E5577C (?69.99) (www.amazon.co.uk)
  23. ^ Asus 4G-AC55U (www.asus.com)
  24. ?232.37 (www.amazon.co.uk)
  25. antennae (www.amazon.co.uk)
  26. internal (www.amazon.co.uk)
  27. ^ external LTE aerial (www.solwise.co.uk)
  28. ^ Netflix (help.netflix.com)
  29. ^ standard reconnection charge of ?130 (bt.custhelp.com)
  30. ^ the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) changed the rules last October (www.asa.org.uk)

Wednesday Freebies- March, Week 2, 2016

This week s Wednesday Freebies section consists of topics on- a) London to hold huge free Search Party; b) Free sessions at electric car show in Dunbar; c) Get free sample of Spicebomb perfume from Viktor & Rolf. Also, check out for more freebies in our blog section everyday.

London to hold huge free Search Party

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, will be hosting a massive party, the Search Party. This is a free event as part of the Find Your London festival and it will be held on 20th March, offering 4,000 free tickets to participate. Only that, the party location has been not revealed and it has to be found by those who wish to attend. To find it, you will have to trail through 4 treasure hunts. As part of the event, 4 trails of clues and capers will attempt to lead or mislead those taking part, through secret squares, side-streets and hidden gardens. Participants would have to take risks , collaborate, interact with strangers, to go through the trail, over 2 miles of open spaces in London.

As each clue is solved, it will be revealed in surprising ways, such as a disguised actor or a message in a bottle, to reveal part of the address. Search Party is being organised by Sing London, a not-for-profit group. Find Your London is the final celebration being held from 18th to 28th March. Find everything from photography to bee-keeping, yoga to cycle trails, even an Alice in Wonderland Tea Party hosted. For more details and free tickets1, check out @LdnSerchParty, or register at the website- eventbrite.com.

Free sessions at electric car show in Dunbar

Dunbar will be hosting an electric car show, with two free taster sessions on 17th and 19th March. The show hosted by Energy Saving Trust, at this coastal town of East Lothian, will see the most advanced electric cars available on the market, making their appearance here. Local residents also get the opportunity to find out how the region is ideal to own an electric car. Those visiting will be able to get free taster sessions driving electric vehicles models that include the Nissan LEAF, Renault Zoe, BMW i3, Mitsubishi Outlander and the Tesla Model S. Electric cars claim to be silent, offer reduced pollution and a more comfortable ride. It is hoped that the event will encourage more people to switch, with funding availability to install home charging-points, to benefit from fossil-fuel free transportation. Numerous convenient public charging-points are now live across the region, many within commuting distance.

Harry Mayers, head of new services at the Energy Saving Trust, said the region is an ideal place for electric transport. The first free session2 of the event is in Countess Crescent, at the Bleachingfield Centre, on 17th March (Thursday), from 7:00pm to 8:30pm. Next is on 19th March (Saturday), at Dunbar Garden Centre, Spott Road , Dunbar.

Get free sample of Spicebomb perfume from Viktor & Rolf

Here s your chance to get the free sample of Spicebomb perfume from Viktor & Rolf. You just have to join their club, the Secret Service , to receive the free sample. Spicebomb caters to the masculine user, giving a balance between intensity and subtlety, elegance and strength, with interesting notes blended. Fill up the form online and as a member you get to access also the exclusive offers, great gifts and latest news. To get your free sample3 delivered to your address, give them up to 28 days.

References

  1. ^ free tickets (metro.co.uk)
  2. ^ free session (www.hawick-news.co.uk)
  3. ^ free sample (www.secretservice.viktor-rolf.com)

George Kerevan: East Lothian’s broadband problem

09:24 Thursday 10 March 2016

Once a month, on a Thursday morning, Westminster has a knockabout comedy show. This consists of Ed Vaizey, the minister in charge of broadband and the digital economy, answering questions from MPs. And lots of questions there are. This month I chided Mr Vaizey again on the poor quality of broadband reception in East Lothian. Other MPs, including Conservative members, made similar local complaints.

Smug Mr Vaizey responds to these queries with a broad smile and an occasional joke. Invariably, he claims the UK has the best and cheapest broadband in Europe. And that soon it is always soon those few corners of the land where decent broadband remains illusive will soon be covered. He then proceeds to rubbish the litany of complaints about nonexistent local broadband and mobile coverage, inferring that MPs are whingers or unduly influenced by commercial competitors of BT. In case you had forgotten, BT has near monopoly control over the supply of fixed-line broadband, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Openreach. The delay in supplying fast broadband to rural areas is largely down to BT s inefficiencies and monopolistic protection of its copper wire connections to most homes. My own position is that BT should be forced to give up ownership of Openreach, which should become an independent utility working with all internet service providers.

Sadly, Ofcom, the communications watchdog, has refused to order BT to make Openreach independent. As a result, money that Openreach should be using to fund new investment in rural broadband has ended up funding BT s entry into sports television. Mr Vaizey was true to form when I reminded him recently that despite his bluster even Belgium has a better digital economy than the UK. He simply took the opportunity to make jokes about Belgium. Where is Hercule Poirot when we need him?