How can I mitigate the effect of a fault with my internet connection?


Most of us feel cut off and unable to function socially or in business when we have no internet access. We can’t send or receive emails or access any of the other services that can only be accessed via the internet.

In recent years we have become even more dependent on the internet with many businesses using the internet for their phone calls using VoIP.

The problem is that many homes and businesses rely exclusively on a single internet connection that costs less than £50 per month and is expected to work all the time.

This is unrealistic, particularly as such internet services usually come without any Service Level Agreement and are provided on a “best-endeavour” basis.

Despite this, very few of us give any thought to making provision for a fallback internet connection that would come into operation if the main connection fails.

In order to make best use of a fallback internet connection you would require a router that can support two or more internet connections with automatic failover and ideally load sharing between the two connections.

Draytek offer a number of routers that can support multiple internet connection such as the Vigor 3200 shown above this post.

For most individuals and businesses their primary internet connection is provided using DSL technology over an ADSL enabled telephone line or fibre-to-the-cabinet VDSL enabled telephone line. In such cases the main options for a fallback internet connection are:

  • second DSL connection;
  • Virgin Media internet connection;
  • 3G or 4G mobile connection; and
  • satellite connection.

The above list is not a comprehensive and there may be other connection options available at your location. The options listed above are described in more detail below.

Second DSL Connection

Most DSL internet connections are provided using equipment that is owned and operated by BT Wholesale. The ideal fallback solution is therefore a second DSL connection from a service provider that doesn’t use the BT Wholesale platform.

The reason for this is that if you have 2 x BT Wholesale internet connections there is the probability that if one fails the other will also fail.

At exchanges that typically serve over 3,000 premises there are usually alternative internet service providers such as TalkTalk, Sky and O2 who have their own exchange equipment and backbone network and are therefore totally separate from BT Wholesale.

These competitors to BT Wholesale are known as Local Loop Unbundled (ie LLU) providers. You can find out if there is an LLU provider at your local exchange by using the Samknows website.

In summary , if your main DSL connection is provided using BT Wholesale infrastructure then you should have a fallback DSL internet connection from one of the LLU providers.

If there are no LLU providers in your area then you would need to consider one of the other fallback options described below.

Virgin Media Internet Connection

In addition to having access to various DSL service providers some premises are in the fortunate position of being served by internet connections from Virgin Media. This is usually only the case in city centres where Virgin (or one of their predecessors) have dug up the street and installed their own cable.

Virgin Media internet is typically presented as an ethernet connection and is usually only available in areas where it is possible to get Virgin Cable TV.

If a Virgin Media internet connection is available it is a better fallback solution than a second DSL connection since it uses completely different cable routes that do not terminate in your local exchange.

3G or 4G Mobile Connection

The simplest, cheapest and (in the case of 4G) most effective fallback internet connection is one that uses the 3G or 4G mobile data networks from Vodafone, EE, O2 and 3. These bypass completely the cable based broadband networks of BT, Virgin and other internet service providers

In order to use one of the mobile data networks you could buy a mobile data dongle that would typically plug into the USB connection of a PC, laptop or router.

Another option is to connect your laptop to the 3G or 4G network via a tethered WiFi link to your smartphone. Click here for more information on smartphone tethering.

However, the best option is to insert a 3G/4G SIM card into a 3G/4G  modem/router which would in turn be connected to the second internet connection port of your main router.

Some routers support a 3G/4G dongle connection to a USB port on the router. However, I would avoid this option if possible as there may be compatibility issues between the router and the USB dongle.

Despite its apparent advantages, there are a few things to be aware of when using a 3G/4G internet connection as a fallback solution.

The first is that (despite misleadingly high advertised speeds) a 3G internet connection is much slower than a regular internet connection. This means that the 3G connection may only be good enough for sending and receiving emails.

This could be particularly significant during a widespread internet connectivity failure when congestion on the 3G network would be expected to increase.

These problems should not apply to 4G connections which are significantly faster than 3G and may even be faster than your main internet connection

The second point to be aware of is that it may be necessary to use the 3G/4G network’s mail servers for sending emails. This would require a separate fallback email account to be configured.

The final point to be aware of is cost.

Your 3G/4G SIM card will be supplied with a data download limit which would depend on the monthly service charge. If you go over the download limit then the excess usage charges could be significant.

If the outage on your main internet connection is more than a few hours and/or your router doesn’t automatically switch back to the main internet connection then there is the danger of a large bill.

Satellite Connection

A satellite based internet connection would be the only fallback option for rural customers that don’t have 3G/4G network access or the choice of an alternative Internet Service Provider to BT Wholesale.

The output from the satellite internet modem would typically be available on an ethernet port that can be connected directly to the fallback internet port of your router.

Satellite internet access is now available for less than £25 per month and its performance is approaching that of land-line internet.

However, as with 3G/4G fallback connection there is the issue of costs associated with exceeding relatively low data download limits.

Get in touch with Premitel if you have a specific requirement or if you wish to discuss how your business could make better and more cost-effective use of its existing telecommunications and internet infrastructure and services.