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Jun 19 2015

Who can connect my cottage? I’m willing to pay!

This blog is by Tarmo Virki at Nokia Networks Twitter: @virki

Do you remember that awkward feeling of being deep in a conversation and realizing that you’d been talking to yourself for who knows how long? Yup, no signal. And how you had to reach out the window or stand on one leg to keep the connection? How annoying that was? For many of us, that may be a distant memory. But then, maybe not...

"I’ll call you from my cell phone in 15 minutes," I could barely hear John say over a Skype call. I was in Finland, he was in a small village on the East Coast of the US, not far from Boston. When the phone rang I asked what he needed the 15 minutes for? I will always remember his answer: "I had to get out of the house and drive up the hill to get a signal.”

It wasn’t that long ago, it was 2008, and he worked in the mobile industry. I told John's story to many people over the following years until 2012, when we bought a summer house on an island in the middle of the Baltic Sea. Surely, by operator’s coverage maps, the region is well connected. Operator advertisements even boast having coverage 70 km out to sea. Reality for the consumer like me is somewhat different, however.

During our first summer in our cottage, we ran quickly out of the house to maintain the signal through the call. We kind of got used to it. The first winter we switched all our subscriptions to a bigger carrier whose network was somewhat better on the island. Things improved a little. Sometimes we’ve even been able to stay indoors throughout the call.

We also found a magic spot in the house to leave our iPhone or Lumia in order to share the wireless signal with tablets and laptops in the house. But the connection is shaky, sometimes it falls back to 2G so that even e-mailing or Twitter is touch and go, and we can forget television broadcasts on tablet, something we’ve grown accustomed to in the city… Sure we’re happy to escape from it all, but today’s reality is that you need a daily connection – long gone are the days when it was a corporate need only.

So our challenge for the summer of 2015 is to go wireless.

Firstly, we contacted all three key operators and the message was loud and clear: When living at the cell edge, you have to understand that the connection might not always be perfect. Fine, agreed, but we need a solution. And I’m willing to pay! After talking to experts in the wireless industry and consumer service people at telcos we found three possible solutions.

Our technical friends advised us to search for amplifiers on the web. You can buy devices online which boost your mobile connection at home, costing a few hundred euros. The amplifiers send out a radio signal, kind of like small base stations, hence before ordering one, check whether they comply with local regulations.

The experts’ solution No. 2 also seems rather challenging for non-technical consumers: Buy a mobile broadband WiFi router with an extra antenna, they advised. These haven’t been on the shelf in the few gadget shops I’ve visited, so before investing in such a device, we will try out the most consumer-friendly solution No. 3 offered by the third national telco. The competitor has had the smallest network in the country and on the island too, but it checked on my situation and reported that an antenna on its closest mast actually points towards our village. So here we go again: switching all the family subscriptions.

So stay tuned fellow cell-edge dwellers, wherever your home away from home might be and I’ll report back after my holiday – if my e-mail works, that is...

Please share your thoughts on this topic by replying below – and join the discussion with @nokianetworks on Twitter using #NetworksPerform #longhotsummer #LTE.

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About Tarmo Virki

Tarmo Virki is responsible for Nokia Networks’ executive communications in West Europe. He can barely make calls and answer text messages on anything but his iPhone which he also uses for photography and chess on top of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.