Thursday 13 October 2011

My Canopy Installation in Goulais River

This blob entry is a bit of a personal indulgent with maybe some lessons learned.

After seven plus years of satellite service, I finally had Canopy fixed wireless broadband (high speed) Internet installed on 06 Nov 11. It took four site visits; signal strength test on three different days spread over a 5 month period; a lot of extra work and determination by the installer and his assistant to make it work; creativity and initiative to get the antenna and head unit high enough in the air to get the required signal; and a lot of message exchanges and telephone calls with various Tbaytel personnel to get the necessary paper work issued.

I made the initial service request in Apr 2011 when I received mistaken information about the Goulais (buttermilk) site being operational, During site visits in Jun 2011 and Jul 2011, the installer was able to get a signal from both the Goulais (Buttermilk) and Heyden sites, although not at the minimum signal strength needed for installation. There was no signal from Bellevue and the Heyden signal was weaker than Goulais (Buttermilk).

After a technical adjustment by Tbaytel at the Goulais (Buttermilk) site, the installer conducted a third test in Sep 2011. After an initial failure, the installer’s assistance suggested another test with the head unit as high in the air as they could get. Once the head unit got above some nearby trees, the signal came booming in! The installer was confident the system would work but he needed a new installation order from Tbaytel to proceed. It took considerable effort to get Tbaytel to issue a new work order.

There was a classic case of the theory not agreeing with the reality. Apparently the theory, the formulae and the software being used in Thunder Bay did not correspond to the reality of the signal strength in Goulais. It seems a little local knowledge is considered a bad thing. In any case, persistence paid off and Tbaytel issued a new work order.

The problem the installer faced was getting the head unit high enough in the air. After discussing the cost of a few options, we went cheap and decided to use a couple of metal fence poles from Home Depot. Each pole cost $14.00.

As you may discern in the picture, an old Direcway satellite dish mount served as the bottom support and an old TV antenna pole mount stabilized the Canopy pole at the roof line. The Canopy head unit is at the top and a cellular 800 MHz Yagi is the antenna just above the roof peak. Since the installation there have been some strong winds in the area and the antenna has held rock steady.


It is obvious to me, that foliage has a far greater impact on the reception of the signal strength than anticipated.. The roof level Canopy signal coverage is not what was projected and there are a large number of users that cannot receive the signal. This is very unfortunate.

At one time, Tbaytel was offering a pop-up tower option which would have got the head unit above the tree line in a lot of areas. Unfortunately, this option is no longer available from Tbaytel. In my case I have a two storey house which gave me a bit of an advantage but I still needed an extension.

For those unable to get the Canopy service, the 3G HSPA data hub seems to have better signal distribution. I also have a NetComm Data Hub and am able to get a speed of 1.5 - 2.5 Mbps downloads using the built-in antenna with the unit sitting on my desk beside my router. When I use my cellular repeater to connect, the speed jumps to the 3.5 – 4.5 Mbps range. Since the data hub is a shared service, as is Canopy, the actual speeds obtained vary with the time of day and the number of users on the network at any one time.

This is a sample of my Canopy speed. It has remained very constant.  


  1. how far are you from the Canopy tower? I wonder if the installers would revisit other sites that previously got no signal...?

  2. I am located about 5.8 km from the Goulais (Buttermilk) tower, about 13 km from the Bellevue tower and about 9.3 km from the Heyden tower.

    My problem was not distance from the tower but the inability of the signal to penetrate the foliage. The output power of the Canopy Access Point is about 10 times less than the output power of the collocated cell site. In my case, the cell signal was getting through but the Canopy signal was not strong enough. Thus I was able to use the 3G HSPA data hub with little problem but not get a solid Canopy signal.

    It is unknown whether or not Tbaytel would do a retest on a customer service basis alone. In my case, the fact there was a signal present during the initial test and the reading was within a few dBm of the reading needed to do an installation supported my argument for a retest. Also, with over 40 years experience in the telecommunications industry, I was in a position to make some technically sound arguments for a retest. Finally, I was willing buy the mast hardware myself and have it available for the installer.

    At one time Tbaytel offered an option where they would install a 50ft mast for $300.00 charge or free if the user signed a three year contract. While I was told orally this option is no longer available, as of 14 Oct 11 it was still identified as a service option in the FAQ section of the Tbaytel website.

    Tbaytel normally does not charge for the initial visit if a signal is not present at the site. I am not sure if a revisit would involve a cost if a signal was not found. This is something that would need to be discussed with Tbaytel Customer Care. Their contact coordinates are available at the FAQ link noted above.

  3. Hello again - do you know roughly what the total height of the antennas are above ground in your case (both the yagi and the canopy head unit)? Wondering if an additional 10' in my case might make a significant difference.

    I see the pop-up masts for sale on various web sites - The Source (the old Radio Shack) still lists these on their web site, although I'm not sure anyone in the store would know much about them (such an uncommon item nowadays?). Can get 50 or even 60' units on some sites. But stabilizing these (guy wires, etc.) to get them up that high looks like a bit of a project. Too bad the TBaytel installers don't do this anymore.

    I like the fencepost idea - might use that to push the existing mast up another 10 or 20 feet if I can, without spending $$$. Thanks again for posting the details of your experiences.

  4. I estimate the head unit at around 45 feet or so and the yagi around 30 feet. In my case, I had to get above the tree line in the vacant lot beside my house. Each scenario may be different. The nearest Access Point (AP) may not always be the best as there are instances where line-of-sight is more important.

    That’s the good news

    The bad news is that in response to my query about potential customers installing their own masts or other support structures now that Tbaytel no longer provides the service, Tbaytel informed me this week they cannot install or support Canopy service on third party (new or existing) structures on customer premises. I am not sure why but I think the “cannot” is more of a “will not”.

    I don’t think there is a way around this dubious decision. Unfortunately, at the moment, there is no fixed wireless service alternative to the Tbaytel offering.

    To get an installation, Tbaytel has to issue a work order to the local installer. They will only issue the order after the installation receives approval in principle from their engineering department. Based on their current policy I doubt if Tbaytel would issue a work order if a previous test has shown no signal in the unless there has been some concrete action by Tbaytel to alter the signal radiation pattern or other reception factors. At one time Tbaytel had an option to do a retest if the customer committed to paying a service if no signal was found during the retest. This option is no longer listed on their website.