I’ve been working from home since before the pandemic and working with IT I have to maintain a reliable, always on connection to the internet to do my work – like I am sure most of you do too. Using just one internet provider is not reliable enough to maintain service each and every day of the year.
For about 6 years now we’ve had two internet connections, one with BT and one with Virgin. There have been some outages with them over the years, but never both at the same time. I use a router than can handle failover and load-balancing. So if my main connection drops the backup takes over right away. Typically you get disconnected from Teams or Zoom but it reconnects right away and it is much faster than the current crop of broadband services with mobile backup. And that is why I am here.
With the recent price increases and line rental I have found keeping a BT line just for backup is a little expensive. Mobile broadband (4G/5G) is fast enough to keep working and even doing some light streaming of Netflix and YouTube too (you’ve got to keep the family happy).
So I set about investigating all the options and after some trial and error with various modems, antennas and SIM cards I’ve come up with a pretty cheap and reliable backup for my main internet connection.
In my area Vodafone and O2 have a base station just down the road so these and their partner providers seemed to be the sensible choice. Giff-gaff do a good data plan which is supplied by O2 but I found Voxi had the cheapest 5G deal. For backup I only need around 15GB of data to tie me over for a few days so the Voxi 20GB plan seems fine. Actually at the moment they are doing it with free Social Media and Video Streaming and a boost to 30GB for only £12:
So that is the data plan sorted. On to the hardware.
Depending on your current Wi-FI Router you might be able to connect a USB Modem or another wired Modem via a second WAN or Backup port on your router. Personally I use a USG UDM Pro, but I’m into IT and networking so have a bigger network than most regular users. For only around £100 you can buy a 4G modem like the Teltonika TRB140 and this provides a lot of features, but best of all it is an industrial grade modem/router specifically for 4G.
I tried some of the portable battery powered 4G hotspots you can get on Amazon but the battery suffers if they are plugged in all the time and you can’t attach external antennas. In the end I opted for a Poynting Omnidirectional antenna as I don’t have line of sight to the base-station down the road. If you are a bit further from the phone tower but have an unobstructive view from the ground or the roof then go with a directional antenna.
I appreciate there are a lot of solutions out there and some people will be find hot-spotting on their mobile phone acceptable but this method is a bit more robust and performant.
Happy to answer any questions in the comments.