Solving Connectivity Challenges for Rural BusinessMartin Langmaid
We have been spending quite a lot of time stomping through fields and prowling round farmyards recently. Andy spent a lovely day on a beautiful lavender farm in Kent, whereas I’ve been traipsing through manure on diary and pig farms in Devon – in both cases the aim was the same, to search out bandwidth wherever it could be found and do something useful with it.
We get calls all the time from rural businesses who are not only frustrated by their current broadband speeds but desperate to get ‘online’ in a meaningful way to enable digital transformation. That can something as mundane as reliable internet connectivity for online shopping and email, to the more advanced deployment of agricultural IoT solutions, or to a farmer looking to diversify the use of outbuildings – and so needing connectivity to make rental to other businesses viable, and everything in between.
In most cases we’re a last resort, either referred by a local business advisory group or county council who has heard of what we do, or discovered via google after hours of searching for alternatives to DSL internet connectivity. Sometimes the businesses have been quoted for (or have tried to use) satellite internet connectivity, sometimes they have bought MiFi’s and cellular contracts, whatever they have tried so far they are typically underwhelmed by the results.
It often leads to an interesting dynamic when we arrive. After so many attempts to find a way to get connected, the business owners are demoralised and fatigued by the amount of effort they have put in to trying to fix their connectivity issues, so we tend to get a wave of the arm and a shrug that says ‘have at it, do what you need to do – but I don’t like your chances, and I’m not getting my hopes up’.
We’re not miracle workers, we don’t have magic tricks and we can’t change the laws of physics, but what we do have is a wealth of experience in solving connectivity challenges of just about any type, and vans full of the very best kit and products on the market for finding and harnessing cellular data. And we are as stubborn as they come. We’ll walk and drive across every yard and field and along every lane on the property until we find a signal, and if we don’t immediately find anything in those locations buried deep within valleys and in the shadows of hills, we go further and further until we find internet bandwidth that is actually useful.
Once we’ve found the bandwidth required, we’ll then work out how to get it back to where its needed in the office or farm house. That might mean running network or fiber optic cable along fence lines and up hills, or installing mini off-grid solar powered cellular/wifi repeater masts on hills in the distance – whatever it takes to get them connected. And you know what? It works. So far we haven’t found a single location that we can’t connect in a meaningful way to the internet and that’s great news for smart agriculture because without internet connectivity, any plans for Smart Farms with the promised land of IoT monitored crops, animals and precision farming is impossible.
So if you run a rural business and you’re having trouble getting connected to the internet, or if you need CCTV to keep an eye on remote barns and animal enclosures (and a watchful eye out for fly-tippers) but you don’t know where to start – get in touch, we love a challenge.