Improving Your Connectivity - Colin Mair Guest Blog - 16 February 2021

One of the side effects of having to conduct most NFUS meetings online now is that it has really shown up who has decent broadband and who has not.  

On Wednesday 17th February, at 12:00 – 13:15, NFU Scotland will host a meeting with Digital Scotland, chaired by Tom French. The agenda for the day will be the rollout of the R100 and Scottish 4G infill programmes to improve digital connectivity across the country.   
Ahead of this webinar, I have been asked to tell you my story, as I have made some simple changes which have vastly improved my service.  It may help some of you who are still struggling with a copper landline and cannot even watch iPlayer without it buffering!

There are several approaches to consider when improving your connection. The options available to you will be dependent on your situation, and a little research to explore the different routes may be required.  

The Scottish Government have set up ‘Digital Scotland’, tasked with helping ensure superfast broadband is reaching 100% of premises in Scotland. Independent and clear information about superfast broadband, and the investment programmes available to get online, is available on their website. Service providers are also good a source of information as they are aware of the different technologies available in your area - so give it a ‘Google’. Services such as Ofcom and Which also provide independent guidance.   

Thinking about your connection options to the farm:

The number one option, if you are ever offered it, is of course fibre optic cable straight into the house.  

However, a couple of other options include a microwave signal to a dish at your property, (if there is fibre cable within a mile of you and it is in line of sight), or full satellite broadband (although it is not so good for video calls).  

Another option is 4G mobile broadband. All the mobile operators offer this, and it is the solution I have adopted - I can tell you that it really works for me!  

Obviously you need a reasonable mobile signal at the farm, but it is the signal outside that matters, not inside the house. When it comes to the installation there is a cost.  Set up is done by an engineer, which cost me £100, and this included an outside antenna and a Wi-Fi router inside as normal. Then you are good to go.  

Now most of the time we get a download speed of nearly 30 Mb, which is enough to stream two different TV programmes or films at the same time (which is good to know if different generations live with you). It is a bit more expensive whatever option you choose to go for, but I now pay around £50 per month for a vastly better service and less arguments in the house.

Here’s a couple of tips based on my experience:

  1. Seriously consider an unlimited usage contract.  You will use more data than you expect, especially if doing Zoom calls.  Purchasing top-ups can be very expensive, and sometimes it is cheaper to just bite the bullet and go unlimited.
  2. Do not rely on Wi-Fi inside the house. Stone and brick walls cut down the data speed. Buy good old fashioned ethernet cables and plug in the TV and PC to the router.  It will make a big difference, and then you can Zoom away to your heart’s content.
  3. Zoom calls with all the participants shown uses a vast amount of bandwidth – so try just showing who is speaking. Think of 20 video call screens as like trying to download 20 films at the same time!

The webinar on 17th February originally started as an idea for the Ayrshire region.  However, because the benefits of this event will be Scotland-wide, this has been scaled up to a national event and it will be open to all members.  Please join us if you can - I hope you found my experience useful.

Colin Mair

Colin runs a 320-acre good upland farm in partnership with his wife.  They run 30 suckler cows and 350 ewes, producing forward stores and prime lambs.  Colin works part time as a fieldsman for Farmstock Scotland and has two grown up daughters and two grandsons.

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