In this day and age, it is virtually imperative that every construction site is able to access the Internet. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. In this article we will show you the current alternatives that are available, particularly in the United States and Canada. Please feel free to comment on your own opinions and experiences.
Construction sites are often isolated and remote. This presents issues as not all types of internet connections are available everywhere. Some alternatives are quick and easy to set up, but expensive. Others are affordable but not available in your area. Some are available and affordable, but it would take so long to have it installed that your construction project would be well underway by the time you can email stakeholders about its wonderful progress.Let’s look at what’s available and their pros and cons.
Though definitely a dying breed, dial-up internet service is still available. To access this kind of internet service, you need a computer with a modem, and an phone line. To access the internet, you need to run a program that will literally dial up a number through the modem and connect with the provider. As an example, in the US, you can sign up for dial-up service with Netzero, while in Canada you can choose from a variety of providers. Visit canadianisp.com to see who offers this service in your town.
- Pros: The only thing going for dial-up is that it may be the only option that is available to you, short of using a satellite connection – which we will cover later. Other than that, there’s not many good things to say about dial-up.
- Cons: Dial-up is the oldest way of connecting to the internet, and it shows. First, you need a working phone line. While you are online, you cannot use your phone line. If a phone call comes in while you are online, chances are your connection will drop. Also, this is the slowest way to connect to the internet. Since you have to dial up to connect, your internet is not on all the time, which can be a problem in many cases.
- The bottom line: dial-up is definitely the worst choice you can make, and based on other alternatives that are available, I cannot recommend this solution in any situation I can think of.
Short for Digital Subscriber Line, DSL is a very popular choice. The connection is fast and it is widely available. Providers such as Verizon and Yahoo in the US, and Telus and Bell in Canada offer the service. This service requires a physical phone line but it allows for phone calls to be made when connected to the internet. Usually the internet company will provide a DSL modem which connects a local computer or router to the phone line.
- Pros: DSL is definitely fast and reliable. It is available in most urban areas and does not occupy your phone line, letting you make and receive calls while online. It is also affordable. If you would like to avoid the big internet providers, this is a great option as there are many local companies that offer the service. Usually these companies will have better, personalized customer service.
- Cons: DSL is a good option but you still need a physical phone line for it to work. Depending on where your site is, that may not be an option. If phone lines are not available and the phone company needs to bring it to you, this service could be extremely expensive. It also takes time to activate, anywhere from 4 to 10 business days. If you need to be online in a hurry, this may not be the best option. If your site is remote, this service is most likely not available, as the client needs to be close to one of the telephone company’s central office. As it is a wired option, if you need to move your trailer to another location within the site, it could become difficult to re-connect it.
- The bottom line: DSL is a great option provided you have a working phone line, the service is available in your area, and you can wait a few days.
Cable internet is usually provided by cable TV vendors such as Comcast in the US and Rogers in Canada. Cable needs to be available in your area, and the cable company will supply a cable modem for the connection.
Pros: Cable connections are fast and very reliable. They do not require a phone line, and sometimes cable companies will also offer phone services on their cable infrastructure, so you can address two needs with it. It may not apply to many construction sites, but usually basic cable TV will be available when you sign up for the internet service.
Cons: Cable internet is definitely not available everywhere, mainly in remote areas. The cost of bringing a cable line to an area where it is currently not available can be in the thousands of dollars. Cable, like DSL, is a wired solution, so if you need to move your trailer during the project, it may become an issue. It also requires a few days for installation and a technician usually needs to visit the site.
The bottom line: Cable is a great solution if it’s available in your area and trailer portability is not a concern and you can wait a few days. It is fast and reliable.
This service is known by different names and many don’t realize they are all the same technology. In the US it is marketed by Clear and other providers, and in Canada is known as Rogers Portable Internet and Bell Unplugged. This is a wireless modem that provides internet service anywhere in the country where the network is available. With the advent of 3G service, it seems like providers are slowly phasing this service out. I received a call from Rogers just last week asking if I wanted to switch one of my Rogers Portable modems for a Rocket Hub one (more on that later).
Pros: Highly portable, this is a great solution when DSL and cable are not available, or when you need fast and mobile deployment. It is wireless, so if your trailer moves, your internet moves with you. Unlike the other wireless solutions it does not have a data usage limit, so you don’t have to worry about surcharges. The monthly service is very cheap and the modem costs about $1oo to purchase.
Cons: As I mentioned, providers might be phasing this service off. It is definitely not available everywhere, only in major urban areas. The speed is adequate for most construction sites needs, but not as fast as cable or DSL. Purchase of the modem is mandatory for most providers.
The bottom line: If you need to be online in a hurry and for cheap, this is a great alternative. Service coverage is limited to large urban areas so if you are in a remote area chances are you will not be able to use it. This is also a great solution if your trailer will be moving around, but keep in mind this kind of service may not be available for very long.
Wireless internet providers usually will install a radio modem in a high location within your site as to achieve a line-of-sight connectivity with one of their access point towers. There are a number of wireless internet providers both in Canada and the US. Usually these will be local providers and there are many of them. As an example, there is Cherry Capital Connection which serves northern Michigan in the US, and Execulink serving southern Ontario in Canada.
Pros: Wireless connections are usually fast and reliable. Customer service is also usually good since the service is mostly provided by smaller, local companies. They are not as portable as other wireless solutions, but a lot more portable than cable or DSL. Also, it is very easy to obtain higher uplink speeds, which is great if you’re using services like Remontech‘s on your project.
Cons: Installation and monthly costs are usually a lot higher than cable or DSL, and it is definitely not available everywhere. The availability will depend on how far you are from one of the providers’ towers and whether you can get a good line-of-sight connection to it from your location. Also, because providers are usually local, if you have many sites across the country you will have to deal with multiple providers. The antennas can be rather large and because they need line-of-sight connectivity with the provider’s tower, you will probably need a pole or a tower of your own to be able to receive service.
The bottom line: This is a great service due to the speeds you can get. We at Remontech use it whenever possible due to its high uplink speeds which is great for cameras. They are more expensive than cable and DSL but sometimes it is available when those other options aren’t.
Wireless 3G internet availability is growing and providers are coming out with devices that allow you to use that technology in more ways than just on a smart phone. In the US, you can check out Verizon’s MiFi and in Canada you can use a similar system with Rogers RocketHub. These devices work as wireless routers, meaning you can connect your laptop wirelessly to it. Some of them will have ethernet ports so you can connect wired devices as well. The difference is that it connects to the internet using the 3G cell phone network, meaning the service is widely available. I drive a lot around Southern Ontario and 3G is available pretty much anywhere in the triangle between Ottawa, Windsor and Parry Sound, for example.
Pros: service is widely available, and set up is quick and fast. The first time I used one of these devices I was up and running within hours of deciding to use it. These are very portable and only require power to run. The service is pretty cheap too.
Cons: Though availability is broad, it is still not available virtually everywhere. Also, there is usually a tiered billing system in which you pay more as you use it more. It is necessary to be careful or you could end up with a very expensive bill.
The bottom line: This service is great, the monthly fee is reasonable. It is easy to set up and highly mobile. Just keep an eye on the amount of data you transfer. If you want to be streaming movies to your construction trailer, you may want to consider something else.
Tethering is for those who already have a smart phone such as a Blackberry or iPhone and use a data plan from their provider. You simply connect your phone to your computer and use the internet with your phone acting as a wireless modem.
Pros: This is great if you already have a smart phone with a data plan. The service is highly mobile and available anywhere there’s 3G or EDGE networks exist.
Cons: Because your computer is directly connected to the phone, you cannot share this internet connection with others as you would with a wireless router. Also, you’re limited to your data plan when it comes to how much data you can use. Besides that, some providers do not allow tethering, such as AT&T in the US.
The bottom line: a good way to connect to the internet temporarily when nothing else is available, but I would not recommend using this permanently.
Satellite connections lets you connect to the internet by using a satellite dish which communicates with an access point outside the Earth. It sounds like a great production, and the price tag reflects that. You will need a big satellite dish and an expensive modem, and installation needs to be done by the provider. The speed is low and there are caps on how much data you can use per month. In the US you can check out HughesNet, and in Canada you can call Galaxy Broadband.
Pros: Available virtually anywhere, from Manhattan to the Peruvian rain forest (believe me, I’ve checked). That’s it.
Cons: Installation and monthly fees are exorbitant at times. Very limited data transfer limits.
The bottom line: This is the choice of last resort. I can only recommend when nothing else is available.
I hope this was helpful.What about you? Can you add anything to this list? What are your experiences with each of these systems? Please comment.Cesar Abeid – Join our mail listEdit: Dan Richard explain in detail how to set up Bell’s Turbo Hub here.