Monday, February 15, 2010

Rural Connectivity

So, as I mentioned a few days ago, we're moving in a few weeks.

Where we're moving, we're going to have several internet options; all of them wireless.

The good news, is that there are both DSL and cablemodem providers in the area.

The BAD news, is that as of today, we're just 200 feet beyond where the signal path degrades too much; on both the local cable company, and the local phone company (Verizon) DSL.

The further good news, is that we've got full 3g from Verizon in the area. The further bad news is that Verizon has a 5gig a month download limit for consumer accounts. Obviously not acceptable for my current internet use.

That said, I WILL be getting a 3g USB adapter and UNLIMITED service paid for by my employer. Right now they pay for tethering on my blackberry, but you can't use voice and data simultaneously, and I'm certainly going to need that. No problem, they'll spring for the USB 3G adapter and account as another option; and with our corporate account, they don't put any download limit on our wireless broadband usage.

So, that give me work access, and perhaps a backup to my primary connection.

The third piece of good news, is that we have two other wireless options. The first, is satellite internet; which we can get at a substantial discount in a bundle from Verizon with landline, DirecTV (and don't get me going about how much I'm going to LOVE giving up my TiVO to be stuck on DirecTV...), and WildBlue.

The wildblue ProPackage actually seems like a great deal, for a satellite ISP anyway. 1.5Mbit down, 256k up, and a 17gig monthly download limit (considerably higher than most other sat providers).

However, there are three disadvantages to satellite net:
  1. The download limit. 17gb is much better than the 5gb offered by most providers, but it's still throttled and limited.
  2. The latency. Sat net has a latency too high for VOIP and video conferencing, and can be iffy for some VPN connectivity.
  3. The weather degradation. Sat net degrades significantly in heavy rain, and heavy snow; both of which are a factor where we're moving.
Thankfully, because we're in direct line of sight to two different microwave repeaters, we have a third option: microwave wireless internet (not WiMax, classic point to point wireless).

We can get 3Mbps synchronous (for those not ISP savvy, that means we get both 3 meg up AND down. Usually you get asynchronous data, with much lower upload rates than download rates), at low latency, with no bandwidth limit, and up to five static IP's for just $80 a month (believe me, thats a good price for wireless broadband, and getting a static IP at all is great). From the same provider we can get as much as three times that, for up to around $200 a month.

So, that is what we're going to do for our primary connection. We'll start out with the 3meg option, and if we need more, we'll pay the upcharge.

However, microwave is not without disadvantages itself. In particular, it has the same issues with heavy weather as satellite net does. Of course we're rather a bit closer to the transceiver (twenty-two thousand someodd miles closer), so the signal strength and discrimination will be higher; but it's also on frequencies that are more sensitive to water in the atmosphere. So rain/snow fade is still an issue.

So, our plan is to take the combination of terrestrial microwave internet, and the 3g wireless (which doesn't really get weather fade except in the most extreme conditions... besides which there's 5bar coverage at our new address), in a loadshare/failover configuration.

Near as I can tell, the best way to do that right now is with a cradlepoint home office router. There are other solutions available, through non specialist vendors; but no other router solution offers automatic load balancing, failover, and QOS, with as much support for different wireless USB adapters... at least as far as I know.

Of course I could build a little linux box router and config it myself... and I may still do that if I investigate the Cradlepoint more and find a linux router might do the job better; but I suspect that won't be the case because of 3g modem support (which can be iffy on linux).

There may be even MORE complexity here, in that the bundle pricing for landline, sat tv and sat net, is actually the same price as doing just landline and sat tv... so I may end up going with a THREE way load balancing/failover/load sharing. If it doesn't cost me anything extra, why not.

At that point, I'm pretty sure I'll have to go to a custom linux router box. I don't know of any consumer router that can support threw way provider diversity... hell I may grab a couple of "real" routers (as in small office routers or firewalls from a major networking vendor) and rig something up there... though somehow I doubt anyone is going to let me run BGP over their wireless networks...