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.  

Data Hub Information Updated 26 Oct 11

There has been a rash of recent activity affecting the deployment, operations and cost of using a 3G HSPA data hub in the Algoma District.  
Tbaytel confirmed that their hub can only be used when connected to a Tbaytel cell site. They recently corrected a software glitch that allowed their unit to connect to Rogers sites as well. This is no longer possible.  I understand that Tbaytel is allowing persons who acquired the units for use in non-Tbaytel service to return the units for no or minimal cost.  It is best to check with agent where you purchased the unit.  As of this date, Roger data hubs can still connect to Tbaytel cell sites as well as the parent Rogers sites. 
There appears to be an associated issue with the data hub in the North Sault and East Algoma areas due to the proximity of US carriers. The current model of data hubs used by Rogers and Tbaytel can operate in the 2G GSM mode as well as the 3G HSPA. This means they connect to a 2G cell site either directly or as a fall-back if the 3G HSPA site fails.  There are reports that under some limited circumstances in the immediate border areas the hubs are locking on to AT&T 2G sites from the Michigan Upper Peninsula. This has been reported from the south-west  part of St. Joseph Island and the west shore of the Goulais Peninsula  Not only does this drastically reduce the data speed but there is a chance that the user may incur  huge roaming charges. 
The NetComm 3G10WVR2 (Black) has a separate indicator light for 3G and 2G.  The  NetComm  3G10WR (White) and the Ericsson W35 have a single light that changes its display to indicate either 3G or 2G connectivity.  Users in the identified areas may want to monitor the indicators to see what mode they are using. If the 2G indicator activates than they should check the units status on the software interface to see what network they are connected  to and if it is a the US AT&T network than they should disconnect.  I have heard reports that there were  similar situations along the border in the Fort Frances area.
The Bell NetGear and Ericsson data hub specifications do not identify the capability to operate in the 2G mode and I have not heard of any problems with their hubs in this regard. That does not mean there may not be a problem, just that I have not heard reports. Some users reported problems when the new site at Echo Bay came on line as the antenna on the Laird site needed to be adjusted.  This was partially due to the potential of interference from the US sites.  I believe most of these issues have now been resolved. In an associated issue, Bell is adding 1900MHz capability to existing 800MHZ capability on the HSPA only Desbarats site this week.  This should provide some relief to the congestion problem at this site.
As noted in this blog entry, Tbaytel introduced a 4th tier of Flex Data Plan pricing. Rogers has now added a tier but they have also increased their rates to match Bell’s equivalent rates.  As of today’s date, there is no indication of a 4th tier on the Bell site nor have I heard anything from other sources . Here a summary of prices as of 13  Oct 11
Data Cap Bell  Rogers Tbaytel
Flex Rate Per GB Flex Rate Per GB Flex Rate  Per GB 
3 GB
5 GB
$ 55.00
10 GB 
15 GB


20 GB 


See this link  for additional information on a price cap for Rogers service.