Additional Internet Connection

A second connection to the Internet at the remote site to eliminate dropouts and choppiness is being tested. The new service is a mobile hotspot and it has been in the works for over a year. The idea is to dedicate the hotspot to the Flex equipment and leave everything else on the original Internet service. The hotspot provides faster service when it works. The challenge over the past year has been getting the hotspot reliable. It now seems like the magic has been discovered and the hotspot is ready to be put into service at least for a test. Here is the whiteboard sketch of the new layout.

The goal is to eliminate short dropouts which have plagued the existing Internet service. A hotspot might provide faster service with no dropouts. Attaining reliability has not been the only challenge. Double-NATing had to be overcome which just means a double firewall preventing remote access. Port forwarding would not work. Chrome Remote Desktop is a solution. It overcomes double-NATing by originating a connection out from the hotspot to a Chrome server. To access the Desktop remotely one just has to connect to the Chrome server. A firewall is no longer an issue and port forwarding is also eliminated.

The device is an AT&T Mobile Hotspot with unlimited data for $35 a month. Hardware is a Netgear Nighthawk mobile hotspot. Speedtests show 25 Mbps download and upload with a latency of 40 ms. Latency is much worse than the existing provider. Whether the high latency will work is one reason for the test.

Two different LAN’s are no problem as long as all the Flex equipment is on the same LAN. The peripherals, like rotator control, power control, security cameras, for example, don’t care what LAN they are on so long as they can reach the Internet and can be reached remotely.

After two days the hotspot is staying up and the service seems to have no dropouts.

The Flex cannot be reached by the Maestro with this Internet arrangement. Ooops. The connection has been restored to the original configuration and the hotspot is surplus for now.

Back to square one. Meanwhile there is something new on the horizon. No pun intended but the something new is Starlink which is a new satellite internet provider. The next Starlink satellite might be coming over the horizon at this very moment. (Get it?) What sets this satellite service apart from previous satellite companies is speed and latency. Starlink will be a huge grid of very low earth orbiting satellites linked together with laser beams. Speeds are promised faster than cable internet now. Latencies are low because the satellites are so low. The project is being done by none other than one of the world’s super entrepreneurs, Elon Musk. Based on his track record that means it will probably be successful. A thousand satellites are already in orbit and in beta test in the far north. Beta testers report speeds of 100 Mbps. Mr. Musk is launching 60 satellites per month with a goal of 10,000. This service should be perfect for W0QL.

Nerd note: A light beam in space is faster than a fiber cable because a vacuum has less propagation delay than glass. Therefore the backbone between Starlink satellites will beat the speed of a fiber backbone on Earth. Upload data from your Starlink dish in Denver. The data goes from the bird over Denver to a bird at the destination and down to ground faster than the same data can go over a fiber network on the ground to the same destination.

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