I knew as soon as I started to tell people how fantastic O2’s new mobile ‘broadband’ (not) dongle thing was that I had put a curse on myself. I’ve just moved to a new house in the wilderness of Leitrim and obviously my first concern was who would give me broadband in such a dark and lonely place so far from civilization. I tried the usual useless suspects of Eircom, Last Mile, etc.. and predictably they couldn’t help. My comfortable existence working from home was under threat.
Then I remembered seeing my partner’s sister’s boyfriend with an O2 thing about 3 miles down the road in a house I used to live in and tried desperately to attract broadband to for 3 years, and it worked perfectly. So off I went to the local O2 store and picked one up. I had the option of bringing it back if I couldn’t get a signal but the coverage map I was shown in the shop indicated I should be within range and surely if a house 3 miles away could get it I could too because mobile signals are strong with a wide range and not line of sight dependant aren’t they!?
About a week later and after numerous calls to O2 data support I still hadn’t picked up a broadband signal but I knew there was something seriously wrong because I had identified the actual mast serving me and gone out in the car with the laptop and sat at its foot and still nothing. Eventually I managed to get through to someone in O2 who had their brain turned on before they came to work and he was able to suggest that I go in to the device’s menu and check to see what speed it what set to connect at. Incredibly the default setting was to connect at the lower speed even though this was supposed to be a broadband modem! So I set it to look for the fastest speed and for the next 2 months it worked pretty perfectly at home, only failing to find the 3G signal a small handful of times.
This is when I made the fatal mistake of telling everyone I knew, which included a group of about 50 local residents from a broadband survey I had done a few years previous, to go out and get one of these great new devices and forget about Eircom. A great new technology is born!
I had been keeping track of my download speeds via an online speed test site and I noticed a gradual decline in speeds which I put down to the fact that a good chunk of the people I told to go get a modem actually did, damn them! With any broadband connection the more locals using it the slower it gets for everyone. Indeed when I rang O2 support (again) and told them how many people I told to go get one of their modems, rather than congratulating me for bringing them extra business, they laughed at me!
Then the modem started acting weird, like the computer telling me the modem wasn’t connected to it when it clearly was so I rang O2 support again and they emailed me a link to go and download updated drivers which they ensured me would fix the problem and make my modem better. I reasonably assumed that this would happen and that the modem would now pick up an even stronger signal and be faster but in the 2/3 weeks since I updated the drivers, I’ve only got the broadband signal a handful of times. Seems the update made the modem worse so now I’m connecting at dialup speeds and trying to run an IT business with that. The horrible nightmares of having to scrap my business and go and find a ‘proper 9 to 5’ like everyone else have come back to haunt me.
Moving house for the 5th time in 4 years in not an option anymore and there are no broadband providers left that I can try so the future is bleak. Nothing has really changed for me since I first moved to Leitrim in 2003 and assumed someone would be able to provide me with some kind of fast internet to help me get my fledgling business off the ground. For me Ireland is still backward outside Dublin.
The moral of the story is, if you have to get one of these Mobile Broadband packages from any of the companies currently offering them, be prepared for serious unreliability in both hardware and connection speeds if you’re outside a major metropolitan area, don’t accept any driver updates and don’t tell anyone about it!