Finally back online after 3 weeks

On November 30, 2013, in My Technology, by wx4sno

Latest view of the WX4SNO Communications Tower overlooking Copper Valley

Since we moved into the house on April 1st our internet service has been with Millenicom, a mobile broadband company based out of Washington-state.  The monthly cost was around $80 for unlimited use and our service was provided over the Sprint 3G network.  Sprint is notoriously unreliable here in Snowville and surrounding communities simply because Verizon has more towers and more of a footprint (and choke-hold) across this part of the Commonwealth.  However, I installed a directional yagi antenna to help boost the signal from one of the nearby Sprint towers down towards Christiansburg and this worked rather well.  We were pleased with the internet service…after all, we figured the choice was between dial-up, satellite, or mobile broadband.  With the horror stories I have heard about satellite (and since they have data caps), we had no choice but to go with a mobile broadband provider and thus we settled on Millenicom which had the best plan and price available.  The 3G service provided us with everything we needed.  Sarah could easily access Facebook and YouTube, I could continuously update my weather station data online, and we could both enjoy playing Battlefield 3 and CoD on the PS3 (without much lag surprisingly).  Here’s a typical speed test of the 3G service we had for 8 months:

Sprint 3G mobile broadband speed test

However, on October 30th Sprint decided against renewing their contract with Millenicom as a gateway provider, thus our service was terminated.  We were offered an alternative to switch to another company (Blue Mountain Internet or BMI) which offered the same exact service…so I initiated the transfer.  However, after waiting 3 weeks without internet service, I gave up on BMI since they couldn’t get their act together and activate my new aircard device.  Luckily Millenicom offers another mobile broadband plan, except it has a cap of 20 GB per month and runs on the Verizon 4G network.  I knew we could easily get signal on the Verizon network, but 20 GB a month was really going to limit what we could do on the internet.  Again, thinking it was the only option, I called up Millenicom and within 3 days I had a new device and was online again!  The service is great and much faster than 3G through Sprint…take a look:

Verizon 4G speed test

However, I simply couldn’t believe that I was having to pay nearly the same price ($69.99/mo.) for this as I was the unlimited plan.  The speed, while being much faster, simply meant we were going through the data at a faster rate and 20GB per month wasn’t going to get us anywhere…then I remembered NRV Unwired.

I first encountered NRV Unwired while I was an undergrad student at Tech and living at home with the parents.  Having dial-up internet, I needed something better for my studies and asked NRV Unwired to come out to my folks house to see if we could get service.  Unfortunately they couldn’t provide service because mom and dad’s house wasn’t within sight of any of the company’s wireless access points.  I muddled through and survived dial-up for more than eight years in both high school and college.

With the recent happenings here at our new place, I decided to give NRV Unwired a call to see if we could get signal here on Flinchum-Montgomery Mountain.  After all, we live in the second-highest elevation home in the county…surely we could be within sight of some of their internet towers.  I emailed them on Monday, November 18th and two technicians arrived the next day to survey our location.  Within minutes they were able to receive signal from a wireless access point located on the water tower behind the old Hill’s shopping center in Christiansburg and a second signal from another water tower down the road.  However, they weren’t pulling in the best signal from 13 miles away or the best speeds (3 Mbps down/1 Mbps up) and they decided to try for another wireless access point located across Route 8 from Sinkland Farms.  This access point provided better signal and was much closer in distance.  They told me to get back with them in a couple days and they’d review things with the company’s engineer.

The new 2.4 GHz yagi and webcam

The communications array including the new 2.4 GHz yagi and webcam

On Friday, November 22nd I got a call from NRV Unwired and they agreed to provide me with service and asked what day would be best for an install.  The following Monday was scheduled and they arrived on time and started getting things setup.  Since I have a 10 meter tower near the house, they installed the 2.4 GHz antenna atop it and ran the necessary ethernet cable into the house, through the crawlspace, and into my structured wiring distribution panel.   Here’s a video of the install:  http://youtu.be/odjRY5i0jNs It was the same two gentlemen who came out to do the site survey, and they were extremely pleasing to work with…they even installed a weather webcam up on the tower for me, which saved me from having to rent a lift myself.  It wasn’t long until they had everything installed and ready to go.  They ran several speed test, getting up to 10 Mbps down/3 Mbps up which was extremely pleasing.  However, at times there seemed to be some sort of interference causing the speeds to crash down to 2 Mbps down/0.5 Mbps up.  Thus, I opted to go for the 6 Mbps plan since they couldn’t guarantee the 10 Mbps deal.  The tech did set the cap at 8 Mbps down/2 Mbps up…which was more than fine with me.  They also provided me with my own static IP address for making FTP much easier.  I’m thinking the interference is either because of the large hickory tree in the line of sight of the antenna or some other phenomenon between me and the access point.  Apparently the best signal was with an access point located in a subdivision just off of Fairview Church Road and the intersection of Childress Road.  Here’s a recent speed test of the new service:

Speed test of NRV Unwired on 2.4 GHz

To put these speeds into comparison…here are some speed tests I took while at Ball State University in Indiana and from the office at Virginia Tech:

Speed test from Ball State Univ.

Speed test from Virginia Tech

While not as fast as university access, I’m looking forward to enjoying internet service with NRV Unwired for many years to come!  It’s more than adequate for our needs, plus their prices are very reasonable and cheaper than what I was paying.  For my BBB review of their service, click here.  I’ll also likely hold on to the Verizon 4G service for a while.  Since it’s a mobile hotspot device, I can take it anywhere I go…dad and mom’s computer is in need of some service updates anyhow.

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