Rural Internet Access – Cornwall

All of my social media followers will now know I’ve taken a short lease on a converted church in Cornwall & plan to relax & research for the foreseeable future until completing my move to Amsterdam. This downtime is needed to really become an expert in my field again, over the past 24 months of downsizing & paying off debt all of my own personal development went out of the window. This time will put that right.

The first stumbling block I had when moving to Cornwall was perhaps the biggest, internet access. We live in between the villages of St Blazey & Lostwithiel on the south coast of Mid Cornwall. Coming from a major metropolitan area & back to Cornwall meant giving up any notion of 4G and hopefully falling back on 3G. That was a no go with my GiffGaff sim as the O2 coverage in my new house was 2G (gprs) only. And that was too slow to even send iMessage over. I therefore started ordering sim cards from all of the major mobile phone providers in the uk. This would prove to be a bigger challenge than I expected.

The first one to arrive was an EE sim. The coverage checker showed low coverage, but our property is near to 3 EE towers so I thought I would give it a go. No signal indoors and barely any outdoors. Certainly no data to speak of. Rubbish!

Before I go any further I need to set the scene in the new property. It’s a converted church from 1840. It has walls made of granite which are almost a metre thick. Couple that with the fact we are in a valley & things don’t look great.

The next sim I tried was a sim from 3. Again, their coverage checker said no coverage but what the hell, it’s worth a go. I tried outside and got a signal but nothing substantial and very weak. No signal indoors. Booooo!

The next sim up was a Virgin Media sim. At this point I ordered everything I could. Again, no signal.

The last sim I tried was a Vodafone sim. Vodafone are a company I’ve never used & I’ve always thought they are overpriced. Their coverage checker did show coverage & even said 4G coverage within 3 months. Great I thought. I bought the sim & topped up. Nothing. GPRS 2G signal only with zero throughput. This is where things got interesting. I got onto Vodafone support online & they said I had used all of my data. They reckoned I’d used all 500MB in 20 minutes over a non functioning gprs connection. Complete nonsense. We went through all of the scripted rubbish for over an hour in which time the agent kept contradicting themselves. Saying my internet wouldn’t work without the apn settings being correct, which they where, then saying I’d used all my data, which I hadn’t. Never did get that refund & I would advise everyone to be cautious dealing with them. I certainly won’t consider them in the future.

So I was left with my trusty GiffGaff sim on the O2 network, limited to GPRS only. I did find that forcing my iPhone 6 to only use 2G or 3G did allow some date transfer, but it took 5 minutes to send an iMessage.

The selection of Sim cards used for my conrwall rural mobile phone test
The selection of Sim cards used for my conrwall rural mobile phone test

I find it ridiculous that this is still the case in 2015 Britain. I can travel in all directions upto 4 miles before I get 3G & most of the time I only have a shaky gprs connection. The lack of rollout in rural areas has never really affected me until moving back to Cornwall but I can see it being a massive barrier to digital economy access for rural residents.

Luckily at home (thanks to the Superfast Cornwall initiative) I now have a solid BT Fibre connection at 38Mbps, but outside and around my home I have nothing but voice and limited gprs. Hopefully things will get better as O2 have a 98% coverage commitment and have access to 800Mhz and 900Mhz frequencies which allow for lower throughput but better range & building penetration. We will wait & see. Until then I will be constantly nagging O2 to upgrade my local masts.

UPDATE: 26th October 2015

Overnight, 3G & 4G where activated on my local mast. I now have 4G signal in my home and 3G signal for a mile or so around it. Thank you so much O2 for undertaking this much-needed work. And please keep working to get more & more rural residents & businesses connected. It is vital that people have easy access to the internet & the digital economy. Not to mention the boosts to a tourist area like this if people can use maps, review sites, social media and more to research and self promote the area.

4G with GiffGaff as of 26th October 2015
4G with GiffGaff as of 26th October 2015
GiffGaff Rural 4G Speedtest
GiffGaff Rural 4G Speedtest

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