Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The ins and outs of mobile communication aboard

Have you noticed, that now we all have these so called "smart" phones that the quality of service is often not as good as that of your old 'phone, when in the boat, or out in the country, and wondered why?
Up until the so called "smart" mobile telephones became available, most users were, by now, utilizing what is known as the "2G" system. A standard mobile phone could be used for reliable calls, texts, and when connected by WAP, (Wireless Access Protocol), could view basic Internet pages, designed for viewing with a mobile device, and sometimes have applications which gave access to email. These phones were reliable, and could be used almost anywhere, including within the confines of a steel narrowboat.
The new smart phones, however, use a system called 3G, when there is sufficient signal, to access the Internet and make and receive calls, which is supposed to be a much faster service, so that much more complex Internet pages can be viewed in much the same way as your laptop computer.
Without going into too much technical detail here, 3G requires a much greater bandwidth, (the difference between the upper and lower frequency limits of the signal), than the older 2G system. There is as much as a 500 times increase in the bandwidth required for 3G over 2G. The 3G frequencies which are available for the mobile communications companies to use, had to be bought from Ofcom in an open auction which was designed to bring in the maximum financial return possible for the benefit of the British government. The probable result of this, in my opinion, was that the companies involved in the bidding could have overstretched themselves in the rush to secure the frequencies, possibly leaving a shortfall in capital funds available to provide an adequate infrastructure required to run an efficient service in the short term.
The consequence of this is a 3G service which is often lacking in coverage in comparison to that available if using 2G, and this subsequently shows itself in that when trying to use a 3G appliance, be it phone or Internet "dongle" within the confines of a steel narrowboat, it often shows "no signal" and will not work. So much for new technology!
However, all is not lost. A narrowboat can be rigged with an external aerial for a mobile phone, and the signal can then either be hard wired to the phone within the boat, or alternatively, it can be fed through a router, in much the same way as it is done for the Internet in the home. The phone or dongle is now connected to the external aerial with a much better chance of reliable operation due to a strong signal. This can be set up at quite a reasonable cost, and saves the need to be hanging out of the window every time the phone rings!
For further information, Google "3G networking" or have a look at this website, which provides lots of information, and the route to a reliable narrowboat communications setup.

Introduction to 3G Networking

I hope this information will help decrease the time I spent pondering why, having spent hundreds on a new phone, it didn't work as well as the old one while on the boat!

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