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Judi's avatar

Internet in an off grid house?

Asked by Judi (37693 points ) December 4th, 2012 from iPhone

We are considering purchasing an off grid house. We are happy with the solar, battery and generator backup system and we get cell service fine. Our only concern is the Internet. It looks like he is currently using a Verizon mobile hot spot. I had one of those a few years ago and at the time you got very little for the money and it wasn’t very fast.
What options are out there for Internet in remote places? We won’t have a utility bill so we would be willing to invest in hardware to create some sort of base unit or repeater. We just are not really familiar with the technology.

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14 Answers

jerv's avatar

It depends on where you are.

3G is still faster than the 26.4k dialup I had in rural NH back in 2009, but really not good for streaming; it loads pages fast enough to be good for normal surfing, but video gets a bit sketchy. 4G is fast enough for streaming, but runs into other problems which I will get into below. And forget about gaming! I play MMOs where ping time matters; even 100 milliseconds (0.1 seconds) can make a devastating difference; cellular connections have ping times about 5–10 times longer than “unacceptable for gaming”.

Cellular network speeds have improved greatly in recent years, and data caps allow you to do quite a bit of surfing; you only run into trouble when streaming. That includes internet radio as well though, so don’t fire up Spotify and leave it running all night or you will use up your monthly data allotment in a heartbeat.

Satellite is another option, but some of them still have data usage caps just like 3G/4G hotspots. Also, there are other requirements such as a view of the right area of sky; I was the only one on my old road that could even get satellite. Plus, it costs a bit more. The big plus side over cellular solutions is that the coverage is just huge. If you are within thousands of miles of a satellite, range isn’t an issue.

I am unsure if there are other radio-based options available any longer, so I won’t go into those except to say that they may exist, and possibly be where you are.

Judi's avatar

The house is basically on top of a mountain. The current owner said he had been negotiating with a cellular provider to lease space for a cell tower on the property.
Our iPhones have unlimited data grandfathered in, but we really like watching tv from the apple tv and I’m not sure that would be feasible with the data limits on sattelite. I guess we could download them to the iPad at Starbucks wifi and watch them that way.
Edit: our AT&T cell phones work there but we only get an E and 4 bars. He’s been using a Verizon hot spot.

jerv's avatar

(Forgive me if I start to get a bit disjointed; I’ve been up for…. too many hours)

I know that my Verizon phone has bars in places where AT&T has no coverage within miles. I also have 3G coverage where my buddies with Verizon 4G have spotty/no coverage. Networks make a big difference, even different networks from teh same vendor.

Not all satellite plans have limits; some have moved into the 21st century.

A sufficiently high data cap is functionally the same as unlimited. My wife streams a lot, and we got through about 1GB/day if it gives you any da of what sort of cap you would need.

Judi's avatar

It does. So when I look at Hughes and it says:
$199.98/Month
Download Up to 3.0 mb/s
Upload Up to 300 Kb/s
75 X Faster than Dial-Up

Then I shouldn’t have to
Worry about surfing and fluthering and about 3 hours a night of apple tv?

jerv's avatar

If it’s worth $200/mth for you then you shouldn’t have too much problem; HD video may be iffy at 3 mbps, but regular videos would be fine. Then again, I have occasional isis with HD on my 7 mbps pipe, so it’s expected.

Hughes isn’t the only game in town either, so shop around. I forget who I almost went with, but it want them.

jaytkay's avatar

The current owner said he had been negotiating with a cellular provider to lease space for a cell tower on the property.

Any chance of pursuing that, with a wired Internet connection as part of the deal?

Judi's avatar

We go into escrow tomorrow. I was mistaken. The agreement will be with an Internet provider so my problem might be solved.

JLeslie's avatar

Exciting!

jerv's avatar

Yay!

Judi's avatar

It is exciting. Not only will I have 77 acres on top of a hill with stunning views, but we will get some an cellars income from the Internet provider.

Judi's avatar

looks like we will close escrow Thursday. its loaded with snow. i hope we can get our stuff up there!

Judi's avatar

I’m sitting here in my living room typing from my off grid house. I only have the AT&T service from my phone and iPad and it doesn’t even have 4G.
At least I’m connected, even if I can’t watch videos. I guess I should just get out there and shovel snow or something.

wundayatta's avatar

Congratulations, @Judi. Welcome home!

jerv's avatar

@Judi While actual streaming isn’t possible, I was able to watch videos on my 3G Droid X and even on 26.4k dialup. The thing is, you have to wait for buffering, so it’s best to start it, pause for a bit until it buffers a good chunk of it, then play.

What you cannot do is hit the play button and expect it to play immediately.

Still, given the quality of videos on the internet, I would rather play in the snow.

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