Bushveld broadband and fibre close to the North Pole

Fast Internet access has become a necessity in our modern society, and some people are willing to go the extra mile to ensure they are not stuck with poor connectivity.

Svein Nordahl, a tech enthusiast who lives in a remote cabin in Bjorndalen on the island of Svalbard, is one such person. Although he has no running water and is living close to the North Pole, he has a 50Mbps fibre connection in his cabin.

The Wall Street Journal reported that he wanted to get in on the action when he heard that Telenor was planning to bring fibre broadband to every household in Longyearbyen (Svalbard’s capital).

The fact that his cabin was too far away from Longyearbyen did not stop him from demanding a fibre connection from Telenor.

He collected 43 signatures from cabin owners in Bjorndalen to convince Telenor that they should connect him and others living in the area.

Nordahl and other people in the region “punched through the hard ground with shovels to excavate the few inches of trench needed to lay the cable,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

Today, Nordahl (and others in Bjorndalen) have a symmetrical 50Mbps fibre connection, allowing him to download movies and enjoy his flight simulator hobby.

Photo of Bjorndalen, Svalbard
Photo of Bjorndalen, Svalbard

Broadband, the South African way

In South Africa most farming communities do not have access to ADSL, and typically rely on cellular, satellite or Wi-Fi (WISP) services for Internet access.

One example of people struggling to get fast, reliable Internet connectivity is the semi-retired Diedericks couple who live on a bushveld farm outside of Bela-Bela in the Limpopo Province.

The location of the Diedericks’ house means that they are in a cellular blind spot. To date they have relied on local Wi-Fi service provider Belanet for their Internet connectivity.

While Belanet’s service provides fair connectivity, Mrs Diedericks’ remote working environment requires her to have a fast connection, with a backup solution if the primary connection goes down.

Luckily the Diedericks’ children are Roelf and Paul Diedericks – two well-known South African techies.

To solve the connectivity problem Roelf and Paul built a ‘self-powered’ tower which receives a strong signal from a nearby Vodacom tower, and then forwards the signal via Wi-Fi to their parents’ home.

The setup used the following affordable components:

  • Mikrotik RB-SXT2G – R850
  • Huawei E3131 USB modem, with external antenna connector – R299
  • 3G/GSM Poynting external antenna – R495
  • 3 x Ellies 30W solar panels – R450 each
  • 12V 50 AH deep cycle battery – R600
  • Ellies Charge Controller – R400
  • Vodacom 3GB+3GB monthly contract SIM – R169 per month
  • Galvanized electrical cabinet – R350

Roelf and Paul constructed a tripod made of freely available steel poles, connected using threaded rods. They mounted the USB modem inside the cabinet, with a long USB cable to the Mikrotik USB port.

The end result is that their parents now have a stable 4.5Mbps HSDPA connection on Vodacom’s network, with a backup connection using Belanet’s Wi-Fi service in the region.

Bushveld broadband
Bushveld broadband

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Bushveld broadband and fibre close to the North Pole