Mobile Broadband

It is often common for smart phones purchased in the last few years, whether bought on contract or PAYG (Pay As You Go) to come with a minutes allowance, a text allowance as well as data allowance.

The data allowance will typically refer to a 4G connection where the average download speed is about 8Mbps (Mega Bits Per Second). The allowance represents how much data you can transfer from the internet to your device, whether that may be pictures, music, movies or browsing the internet for the latest news or train time information. Even your apps on your mobile phone chew up some of your data allowance as they are trying to sync with a server to obtain the latest information.

The latest mobile phones use an OS (Operating System) to offer you a nice friendly user interface so all you have to do is tap the screen or drag and drop icons and the device knows exactly what you want it to do.

The Operating Software basically sends instructions to the hardware in your handheld device and gets it to behave as requested. These instructions can be quite lengthy and complicated but as long as they work and do everything you want them to do, then you do not have to worry about what instructions they contain.

Common operating systems used on mobile handsets are Windows (used on Nokia devices) IOS (used on the Apple Iphone devices) and Android (used on everything else). This blog is MY blog so I can state my point of view whether it is factual or correct and so in my eyes, Android is the better OS simply because it isn’t licenced which means that you aren’t paying extra money for a polished turd and simply the fact that Android is a form of Linux so it is open source and you can therefore create your own apps and download them to your phone from any source as an APK file and then just install it. This cannot be done on Iphone as you have to get files from the Apple store so you have to register them first which is a lot of hassle if you just want to test a simple app that you have developed. This was also the same issue with the Blackberry phones but I haven’t mentioned them as I am not even sure they are still making phones any more and if so, their app store isn’t brilliant so has quite a lot of limitations.

Anyways, you will be surprised to learn if you didn’t know already that you can use your phone as a mobile hotspot. which means that you can tether devices to it like you would with your wireless internet at home.

You would turn the hotspot on using the network settings on your phone and then you can change the network name which may be known as an APN (Access Point Name) or the SSID (Service Set IDentifier) name. This is the name that shows up when you search for wireless networks available in your area and how you can distinguish which one is which. You can also set up the network passphrase or network key. It is known by many different names. This typically has to be at least 8 characters long and seeing as you are using this code to connect numerous different devices at different times, why make it too complicated for yourself? Why not just set it to a simple date of birth or something memorable like 11223344.

Once your device is connected, devices such as a laptop, tablet or even another phone will start using the data package you currently have in place.

I am writing this blog in Hull which at present has one main service provider – Kingston Communications, also known as Kcom. They pretty much own the monopoly in Hull and even have different colour phone boxes rather than the traditional red ones.

Majority of their customers found on forums comment that the prices are extremely high as there is no other competition and the quality of the internet is poor and people have experienced issues. Please notice that I have not stated how many people and not stipulated that this is a recurring issue, just an observation that has been brought to my attention through the means of social media.

On this information I have realised that in most areas of Hull, the only available network service to a property is ADSL (ASymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) This is what a lot of people just refer to as broadband or “The Internet”. The key word in all of this jargon, if you were to remember any of it, would be ASymmetric. This means non-symmetrical. So in other words, your download speed will be faster than your upload speed.

When you want to connect to a website, you type the web address into your web browser, it will then knock on the door of a DNS (Dynamic Name Server) and returns an IP (Internet Protocol) address. This is like a physical postal address you have for your property and it will give you the address to where the big computer or server is that stores your website that you want to visit. It will hold all the pictures, the text and the format of how they want the page to look on your screen.

When you hit the return key on your Google search, you are then sending your request along the network to knock on the front door of that IP address and say “Please Mr Computer, may I see the site that you are sharing”. You will also send a few of your credentials as well to that server such as your internet IP address so it will know from which country you are wanting to view from (This is useful if you want to purchase something so it will show a price in the correct currency for you). Then the server decides that it will share the information with you and send the data back down the network and to your computer for your browser to decipher. This is a good example of why you need an upload and download speed. Another would be downloading files such as music from the internet or uploading all your newest photos on to Facebook.

As data allowances grow, they are still quite limited in size at present due to the fact that 4G is newer technology and so they do not want to give away too much allowance as it will strain bandwidth connections so some mobile phone providers only offer as much as 20GB of 4G data per month and even if you contact them asking how much more data would be, they wouldn’t sell it as a standard package and so every month, for extra data you would have to top up with a booster or a bundle or whatever exclusive name the provider has created for the purchase of additional data.

I do not use a phone line any more. I am always out and about and so prefer to give out my mobile number and also the fact that line rental costs money. I only ever had one previously as a donor line for my ADSL to run on.

Although Fibre broadband is now available in some areas, including small areas in Hull, which means faster connection speeds and no need for a PSTN phone line for it to run on. The downside to a Fibre connection is that people learn to expect that speed and also willingly accept the cost that is involved and so are paying at least £50 a month for this “treat”. I was sat here thinking carefully as to how to word the privilege and I can really only think of it as a treat because it isn’t essential, you could get by with ADSL for what most homes use the internet for, the cost in my eyes is not justified and also you have to weigh in the factor that you may have an extremely faster connection and you can download X amount of Mbps but what if the server you are getting the data from has poor bandwidth, has a low upload speed or numerous requests so it can only remain stable if it sends data out at a slower speed?? It then wouldn’t matter what spec you have as you are reliant on a third party resource and I cant see you offering to pay their bill too!

So back on to the subject of mobile broadband… There is now a device called MIFI and it is provided by numerous different phone service providers.

The MIFI is a small box (Sorry no free licenced images available to add to my site) that has a SIM card installed, just like your mobile phone would and then it will connect to your service provider and establish a network connection.

The MIFI device will then project its SSID name (as mentioned above) for you to be able to pick this network up on your mobile phone, tablet or laptop.

The MIFI I have is an EE one, it also has a network port in the back so that I could connect a device directly to it which should in theory, make my connection faster, as it would be hard wired and therefore not be susceptible to the flaws or problems that can be experienced whilst using the 802.11 WIFI protocol.

My contract is currently £44 a month and includes the free device which meant all I needed to do when it arrived was insert the SIM card which also came in the same box. The device itself needs to have a mains plug connection, I could have got a device that’s more flexible and could be operated by batteries but then I assumed that even with Lithium-Ion batteries, they wouldn’t last that long and the lack of power may contribute to the lack of signal. Plus I am using this device for my laptop which eventually needs to be plugged in so this was a trivial issue for me and saved money.

So as soon as I plugged in my device it took seconds to establish a connection and the small little card that came in the box told me what network name to search for and also the password to enter. Then Hey Presto! I was connected and able to search the internet and stream videos and do anything I wanted to with my 50GB of data that got replenished every month.

Being a geek, the first thing I did was a speed test. I wanted to know exactly how fast my data was travelling. I went to www.speedtest.net and got quite a quick ping reply (that’s the response to the knock on the door I mentioned). I then got a download speed averaging 11.32Mbps and an upload speed of 7.74Mbps This was quite impressive seeing as though service users using the local ADSL service were commenting on their connections losing sync all the time and their download speed being as low as 2Mbps.

Going further into the geek dimensions, I didn’t want to stick with the classic MIFI**** SSID I was set up with by EE and I also didn’t want to have to keep going to find this little card to find the WIFI credentials every time someone wanted to connect to my internet.

The following information can also be followed for your router at home, even if you have ADSL or Fibre and you are using a WIFI connection.

These instructions are for Microsoft Windows users as this is the Operating System I use on my laptop and Microsoft was my choice for certification back in the days.

The following will allow you to change your WIFI name and also your WIFI password:

First of all, on your laptop/computer keyboard, you will see the space bar, to the left of that you will see an ALT key and to the left of that, the Windows key (seen as the Windows symbol). Hold down the Windows key and push the R button on your keyboard at the same time. This will open up the RUN box on your computer. Then clear anything in that box and type in “CMD” and hit the return key or click OK. This will then open the command dialogue box which has a black background and text that looks like its written in the old MS DOS format.

In this section you need to type in “IPCONFIG” and hit the return key. This will show your internet protocol configuration details. You will see a lot of gumpf that you really don’t need to worry about but one bit of information you are trying to find is something that says default gateway and then it will be followed with an IP address. Usually this is something like 192.168.1.1 or something like that. Please make a note of this as this is easily forgotten when you get distracted and then you have to repeat the method again.

The default gateway opens up access to your home router as you will see soon.

If you then close all the boxes and open up your internet web browser, this could be either Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer or anything that suits your browsing needs.

Once your browser is open, where you would usually type in a web address to go to, instead, clear that box and enter the default gateway information you previously wrote down: 192.168.something.something and hit return.

This will take you to your router settings and depending on who provided your router, you may be prompted to enter login username and password details to access these settings. On the EE router, these credentials were also provided on the card which was extremely useful. If you have a Sky router then typically the defaults are as follows: username: “admin” Password: “sky”.

You can usually find these credentials written on a sticker on your router or they can be easily found via Google so don’t panic too much.

So once you are in the default gateway, you can even change those initial security details to a suitable username and password that you will remember.

Make sure you go to the wireless LAN or WLAN tab and then change the SSID to anything you like.

You can then do the same with the password key and then once you click apply, your wireless connection will drop out.

You will then need to search for available wireless networks in your area again and then enter your new password if you changed it.

That’s it! You have now got a customized broadband router which will be easier to connect future devices to.

One thing I will mention on here, which is not totally relevant but I was asked this question by a gentleman at the last Raspberry jam I attended – he said that IP addresses have sections so go as high as a certain amount. If there are a limited number then how can his home printer have an individual IP address.

This was a really good question and I am glad he asked me it.

I was able to explain to the gentleman that IP addresses at present use IPv4 which means that they have 4 sections. These sections are known as an “octet” which means a group of 8 things. In computing and the use of Binary, there are 8 bits to a Byte and when calculating, the highest number they could reach is 255 but there are only 254 combinations, which means that in each octet, you can have a number combination going from 0 to 254.

As there are only 4x octet’s this means there are limitations on the amount of IP addresses you can have and the max amount will be 254x254x254x254.

If you have read a few IT/Networking journals then you may have heard of IPv6 which adds another 2x octet’s and therefore adds a lot more numbers available in the list of available IP addresses. I think a journal that I read stated that every human in the world population can have about 13 IP addresses.

Another thing that I had to explain to the gentleman is the different between a public and private IP address. Companies like Coca-Cola, which is a huge company only own about 6 public IP addresses and they are extremely expensive. Instead companies use one IP address and then can do clever things on servers to split domain names, hosting and key words so that you can find exactly what you are looking for within one IP address.

When you connect a device such as your laptop, tablet, mobile phone or wireless printer to your router, you are connecting it to your private network and so therefore it still has a unique IP address, otherwise information being sent back and forth would become scrambled, but the router itself assigns an individual IP address for each device and typically routers give out a 192.168.something.something IP address (does this look familiar to the format of your default gateway). If you turn your wireless router on for the first time and then try and connect your phone, it will use DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). This means that it will assign an IP address to it, typically 192.168.0.1 and will send across the network details including a DHCP lease time. That means that if after a certain period (stated in minutes) a connection isn’t established with the device given the original IP address then this allocation with expire and the IP address will then be back on the list of availability.

The alternative to DHCP is static IP addressing. When you set up your wireless router, it may not be on all the time, just when you want to print something so it could be that the device lays dormant for longer periods of time and therefore a DHCP IP address would expire. This wouldn’t be good when you have configured your printer to send print information to a specific network device when you click on the print button. Its like sending postal mail to a caravan that keeps moving plots so you would establish a static IP address that it would keep and then you would instruct your computer to keep sending the print data in that direction.

The last question the gentleman asked was, if he has security cameras in his house and he can connect to them using their IP address, then doesn’t that make them vulnerable to other viewers. The answer to that would be that in purchasing the cameras, he has paid for a subscription to the company server where he will be able to live stream the cameras images on a laptop or mobile device and it asks for his camera IP addresses so it can establish the route it needs to take to make a secure connection to allow him to view his cameras from anywhere in the world. The security behind it would be as much as you can assume from a company who transfers data over the internet and allows its customers access to relevant cameras by a username and password which the credentials would be stored on an SQL database on a different partition of the server.

I guess the more you know about technology, the scarier it can be but then you also have to remember that you are a small fish in a big pond and if you are not doing anything sinister then you should have nothing to worry about, including paranoia.

If you have any further questions or queries about what I have written in this article then please feel free to contact me.

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