Monday 10 August 2015

Are Data Caps the New Rural Internat Divide

Complaints about broadband (high-speed Internet) in the Algoma District area have quieted down considerably over the past year. I attribute this mainly to the activation of the Deferral Account services have come on line under the marketing name Bell Wireless Internet 5.  

As far as I can tell, there are about 300 subscribers to the service spread over the five areas covered by the program.  As to the service itself, all indications are that the Deferral Account network can handle the load. I have only heard one or two complaints about dropped connections and speed degradation but they are rare.  I am glad to see that even with the growth in the number of users, the Deferral Account service is consistently delivering downloads and uploads that is in excess of the CRTC/Industry Canada 2017 target of 5/1 Mbps.

I have had to remind some people that they should do a data hub/router/modem reboot on a regular basis to clear out the "corporate memory" that is built up over time as this can negatively affect speed.  I recommend every two weeks. It could require action more often depending on use.  This action appears to resolves speed and connectivity problems people have contacted me about. Recent third party studies have found that poor wireless LAN performance and congestion at major Internet peering points can be a major cause of slow network speed.

The major draw back to the Deferral Account (BWI 5) service is the data cap.  Latest statistics show a huge increase in the average webpage size in the past 5 years: 

Nov 2010 = 626 KB;
May 2012 = 828 KB;
  May 2013 = 1246 KB;
 Nov 2014 = 1935 KB.

One can attribute much of this increase to growth in the use of images and video. Video's contribution to the data cap overload is insidious as in many cases website "designers" are causing videos to start automatically upon page download. In addition, it is common practise for the video to default to the data hungry HD standard.  I have carried out various local tests that indicate it is possible to reduce a daily data usage in the multi-GB range by controlling the display of video. In many news and technical sites that I access, the sound track from the HD video is almost identical to the written story on the webpage. You can get the information without huge hit to the data cap.

This means that routine web browsing can cause a significant hit to data caps. Of course, the other major hit to the data caps is the growth on popularity of the streaming video services such as Netflix, Crave and Showmi.  User numbers for all three streaming services continue to grow in an almost exponential manner.  

The use of cloud-based services can also cause a user to burn through a data cap quickly.

Overall, Deferral Account (BWI5) users have to monitor their data usage.

Many of these challenges do not exist for users with terrestrial connectivity with the availability of large or unlimited data caps. 


  1. Hey Hermes looks like it has been a success as I too have not heard much from friends complaining about their service. I'm usually someone my friends call when things go south lol. The hub reboot is generally considered a good thing, good tip.
    As of today I have used 10 gigs in 10 days and I use the internet heavy so the 60 gigs per month has been serving me very well.
    Now I can also watch the odd movie without fear.... I'm pleased.

    On a seperate note, do you know of a cheap brand of LTE Booster Rogers network band are:
    2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
    3G Network HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100
    4G Network LTE 1700 / 2100 / 2600

    Sorry if this is irrelevant to this post... I'm looking for a Booster to be used in my house where i get 2 bars of lte outside, none inside.

  2. Railroad Rog: Out of curiosity, how many devices are you using on you BWI5 connection on a regular basis?

    In my case, I have 2 laptops in daily use mainly for e-mail and web browsing, and a desktop for normal office related functions and blog writing.

    I upgraded these devices to Windows 10. I have noticed a big difference in data cap usage since I set up automatic update to use the home network to share the updates rather than each have each device download directly from Microsoft. In my estimate, this feature along has made the free Windows upgrade worth it. In addition, I used the option to download the upgrade to a USB flash drive ( and used it to do the three upgrades. Since the Windows 10 upgrade is about 3 GB, this also saved a lot of data cap capacity.

    I usually do routine data updates for 2 HSPA telephones and 2 android tablets over WiFi hot spots in town when I can.

    As to signal boosters, you get what you pay for.

    I suggest you visit the Northland Consultants ( website to get the skinny on the best systems.

    If you do decide to make a significant investment in a booster, it is important to get maximum bandwidth coverage. While you list your current bandwidth capabilities, you need to be aware that the 700 MHz band is currently very active in your area on all Robelus (Rogers, Bell and Telus) networks. There are also bands in the 2300 MHz, 2700 MHz and 3500 MHz range in use. The band under most recent consideration is 600 MHz. Canada and the US recently signed a cross-border share agreement.

  3. Well said Hermes. As you know Tbaytel's network's in Sault North are not LTE enabled as of yet. Given Roger's rides on TBaytel neither is their network. I acquired my TBaytel Rocket Hub LTE SIM card in March 2015 and hope to see LTE by the end of the year. The question is what frequency will their LTE be available on?

  4. Hi Hermes, I have an Android phone and Tablet plus 3 PC's running here of my hub. 2 PC's I upgraded to Win 10, 1 is Pro and the other Home 64bit.
    The upgrade path I chose was the download tool where i created ISO's of each version to install offline. My download was under 10 gigs however I did the download in the Sault from aDSL connection.

    The update across a local Lan is oddly interesting, I've turned it on thanks. That will save a lot data over time however will the Pro and Home version take the same updates?

    About the Cell band and the new 6 band in particular, does that sound like we'll be using this band shortly as i didn't read that in the article. What i understood is the band will alleviate cross border hoping to US carriers such as AT&T, also a smoother data channel with hiccups they'll struggle with somewhere as there are always issues.

    At the moment I bought a Verizon factory unlocked HTC M8 and inputted the APN to Rogers which is working however out here in Desbarats I'm fighting for a 3G sig in my home where I used to get 1 to 2 bars of LTE. In the Sault i love into 4g LTE and driving home i had it again at the Laird tower. Speeds were as high as 50 meg down wow. Regardless I've leaned that AT&T phones play nicely with Rogers so I'm returning this phone and bought an Unlocked AT&T M8 which is shipping now.
    Also about the home Booster, I do have a Wilson 3g 1000 foot Booster which I can setup to the Rogers tower but at present I'm aiming it to Bell where it's drawing in a blue connection status light on my Bell hub (74dB). Without the Booster I'm a green signal or 86(dB) which makes no difference in speed so I suppose I could use back to Rogers.

    What I wanted to do was get a WeBoost 4GX with the dome antenna and install it in my new addition, I'm in the 800 dollar range with this model so I want to choose wisely. For my truck i currently have a cradle 3g Booster but picked up a 4 user 4g Wilson 460108 shipping now.

    Your likely wondering why I'm going through the trouble with boosting Rogers when Bell is burning the Ozone layer in our area? Well I have a low priced 6 gig data plan with Rogers that will be removed to 2 gigs should I touch plan, buy a phone etc on Rogers hence me buying an unlocked phone cheaper online.

    Neither Bell nor Rogers will offer 6 gigs and I use it so I'd be paying 4 gigs overage which is expensive (45 dollars). Also the 2 gig new plan costs more than I pay now!

    So what do you think about the home Booster, it doesn't offer band 6 but it'll solve the LTE issue.

    1. With regard to the 600 MHz band, I don't thing it will be used in Canada in the very near future but the fact that the government is looking at it is tacit recognition that the current spectrum allocations is getting crowded due to the rapid growth of cellular based data usage.

      It is usually a chicken and egg situation when regulators introduce or re-allot new spectrum. We saw this with the recent auction of the Advanced Wireless Services 3 (AWS3) Bands in the 1755-1780 MHz and 2155-2180 MHz range. Existing hardware did not have the capability to operate in this band at the time of the auction and there was little chance that hardware manufacturer would produce the necessary hardware until a successful auction created the demand. I understand AWS3 hardware will be available by year-end. (As a side note, Canadian demand alone is likely not sufficient to convince the hardware manufacturers to build the hardware but the US also held an AWS3 auction and they do have the market forces needed.) The adoption of the 600 MHz band will require similar considerations.

      I am not sure how much you know about the differences in the designation of various bands depending on the vendor and network. In the case of AT&T (and therefore its hardware), the handset icon may show 4G but in the AT&T world this is operates on what we would refer to as the 3G band. Likewise, when an AT&T handset is using a true 4G network the icon indicates 4G LTE. Some times the phones are not truthful.

      As to your booster needs, if you are willing to pay the price indicated, I strongly suggest you contact Northland Consultants. They are WeBoost agents and have experience installing hardware in the east of the Sault area.

      If you want to do the job yourself, be sure to keep the cables as short as possible, ensure there is sufficient vertical and horizontal separate between the external and interior antennas, use the very best quality cable such as RG 6 (avoid RG-59) or LMR-400 (avoid RG-58) depending on needs. Since you need to access both Bell and Rogers, you may want to try a good quality, multi-band, omni-direction antenna.

      I looked at specifications for the WeBoost 4GX. The frequency band covers the current Bell and Rogers LTE and HSPA service in your area but does not appear to cover the newer AWS bands. This is another case of hardware needing to catch up with the rapid changes in spectrum allocation. I do not think you are taking much of a risk by sticking with the existing bands operating to the east of the Sault area. Unless one of the new carriers moves into the area, I doubt is there will much demand for the alternate AWS frequencies. There is a greater chance the alternate AWS frequencies will show up in the North Sault area due different spectrum allocations and carriers.

    2. Railway Rog:

      I did some further research on the LTE situation east of the Sault.

      The only Rogers LTE site is located Laird Hill and it uses the 700 MHz band and the 2100/1700 MHz band. All other Rogers’ sites are HSPA using the 800 MHz band and sometimes the 1900 MHz band as well.

      All the Bell s. well as HSPA in the 850 MHz and 1900 MHz bands.

      I hope this helps

    3. It appears some of my comments got corrupted in the publishing process above. It should read that Bell LTE east of the Sault operated in the 700 MHz band (LTE Band 28) as well as the HSPA bands noted above.

  5. I wish to expand on Marko's comments.

    Tbaytel is currently operating using LTE Band 4 in the Thunder Bay area. The Band 4 uplink frequencies are 1710 to 1755 MHz and downlink frequencies are 2110 to 2155 MHz. These frequencies are part of the original AWS auction held in 2008. I believe Tbaytel is operating on a sub-license from Rogers as they were not listed as a winning bidder in the official Industry Canada results.

    I am not aware of Tbaytel having any sites using this spectrum allocation in the North Sault area or indeed any where in the Algoma District but Rogers does have unused spectrum in the area.

    Rogers does use this frequency to the east of the Sault.

    Tbaytel does not have any spectrum in the 700 MHz band. It will have to acquire a sub-license from one of the Algoma District area holders, the most likely being Rogers again, to be able to operate in this more range friendly band.

    Bell has extensive 700 MHz LTE operations in the Algoma District. Unfortunately, this does not include the Hwy 556 corridor from Bellevue to Searchmont and beyond.

  6. Really, good info. Just saw that the other by using an app when connected lte near Laird and it showed band 4....thats 700mhz I thought. Think I might have a defective Wilson 4g Mobile booster as I'm not seeing any boost and it covers all the bands you mentioned.

  7. Replies
    1. Your mea culpa is correct; 2100/1700 MHz is LTE Band 4. The 700 MHz is LTE Band 28.

  8. Thanks Hermes, it's the 1700mhz band that my 4g booster doesn't appear to boost much so I'm going to return it and try again. After trying a couple antenna I'm pleased it gives me a bar more however from Wilson they are saying I should see more improvement. The biggest gap of 3g and 4g service on Rogers from Desbarats to the Sault is at Ojibway Park to Squirrel Island corner. In this zone you can actually see a boost and yet not have service or data. Always wondered if Garden River had a block in allowing any service providers from erecting a telecommunications tower on this land as I believe neither Bell nor Rogers operate a tower on any portion of this area.

  9. Rogers sites that cover the area in question is a Rogers only site at Laird Hill and a Rogers/Bell collocation near the Hwy17/Hwy 17 Bypass intersection. Both sites are GSM, HSPA (WCDMA) and LTE capable.

    The GSM and HSPA components connect to omni-direction rod antennas while the LTE components connect to panel antennas.

    As the name implies, omni direction radiates the signal more or less at the same strength in all directions, usually with a vertical polarization.

    Panel antennas are directional in nature. Standard practice, as in the Rogers case, is to use three antennas to provide all around coverage, although in some cases all around coverage uses only two panels. A vendor may leave one sector blank for some reason such as cross border interference or lack of customers in a specific area. On rare occasions, the sectors are so small that up to six antennas may be required for all around coverage.

    In the case of the Rogers towers, they optimized the LTE panels are to cover the highway corridors. The area near Squirrel Island is roughly the area where the hwy corridor orientation changes from east/west to north/south. This leads to dropped or lost of signal.

    Antenna design has made great strides forward in the past decade. New designs are frequency agile meaning they can not only send and receive on numerous channels but also change these channels in midstream. They are electronically steerable (beamshaping or beamforming) which allows their radiation patterns to be altered to provide stronger signals in a specific direction or vice versa to allow a reduction in an unwanted direction. Multi-polarization allows greater utilization of a single antenna by having numerous radiators sending and receiving signals at different angles, in some rare cases up to 64 difference angles although 16 or 32 are more common.

    There are Bell sites on other First Nations in the Algoma District. A few years ago, during public consultation for the Bell tower that is now located at Third Line and Old Garden River Road in SSM, the Bell representative state they originally wanted a site on one of the First Nation reserves but it had not worked out. He did not go into details but implied the quid pro quo requests were excessive.