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Rural + Internet coverage?


Posts: 10
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Topic starter
(@genki)
Active Member
Joined: 3 months ago

Hi All,

Thank you for your time today. My wife & I continue to look for "The one" regarding property (initially a holiday home) in Portugal and have found a (some would say obvious) conundrum that I need your help and experience with, to know if it is a show stopper or not. The perfect property for us is one in the middle of a very very rural area (few houses in view the better). We are looking in Central Portugal with quite a wide area from Santarem up to Serta. Internet access is important to me especially for video calls (TEAMS/ZOOM etc) as a necessary part of life there. Very few properties that we've seen come with Fibre although every estate agent waxes lyrically about how 5G/Fibre will cover the country in a matter of days/weeks (mmm?) So the remaining solution seems to be a 4G (satellite) internet service such as seems to be available via MEO etc. As all of my experience (in the UK) is with either fibre or copper (telephone) cable speeds I have no idea how this might work for us. Im not on an amazing speed here in the uk (Download 25Mb, upload 7Mb) but it works just fine for video calls, streaming TV etc... so what are you experiencing with 4G in rural areas and is this a show stopper in your view that I should search for something nearer a city or an easy fix?

 

Thank you in advance 

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(@thomasribatejo)
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Joined: 5 years ago

I would wager you'll never get fibre to a remote rural property - it may reach the main streets of villages, even, but the costs of getting it to isolated houses aren't justifiable.  

Unless I am missing something, 5G is mobile, like 3G, 4G, etc, so rollout is rather different, and should be looked at alongside mobile data, not fibre.  I am unsure of the reliability and impartiality of this site NPerf but it purports to show the presence of mobile towers for each network and type of mobile data, including 5G.

Mobile data is the most usual substitute for a situation like yours, and this link (which is from the regulator, and so official and impartial, and I believe up to date) will help with coverage for 3G and 4G mobile data (and voice).  It's very location-dependent - down to the street, if the area is at all hilly, which much of your search area is.  The speeds you say you need are available (and I use them "on the road" regularly, with success most of the time for Zoom etc).  

2G 3G 4G voice and data coverage

Scroll down to the map, zoom in (or use a place name) and then use the options above the map to look at the three networks, and their various voice and data coverages.  "Boa" (green) should be sufficient for the needs you've mentioned, based on my experience, but beware the spotty edges where it becomes a lower strength.  As I say, this is very location specific, so make sure you're looking at the precise location - "it's great in [town]" is no guide to anywhere other than the location a person knows.  Of course, the map is non-contractual, meaning I don't think you could exit a contract based on any inaccuracy, but for what it's worth, I find it pretty accurate.

Mobile data of this kind should be available "unlimited" for €1 a day, either on 15+ days at a time purchases, or on contract, perhaps a bundle as well.  This price sometimes includes a hotspot device, or a discount on one.  Pricing doesn't, in practice, vary much between suppliers - coverage is the number one factor, followed by convenience of a company-owned store (franchise stores have very variable service when it comes to selecting the right package, and once you've coughed up; company-owned ones are usually better).

The final option is satellite, in the sense of dish-based services, of which I have no experience, but am told they can work well in areas beyond mobile data.

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Community Member
(@genki)
Joined: 3 months ago

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Posts: 10

@thomasribatejo 

Thank you Thomas for such a quick and detailed response. The link you supplied is excellent and fascinating how majority of focus is down the coast lines. Also shows fast 4G is available in most places we are looking which is a good starting point. I just need to now untangle the satellite (dish) option which I had assumed was 4G/5G but am starting to suspect it is different with different speeds and lag and also requires a dish on the building. Thought I was very tech savvy (its my job.. I'm in IT) but surprised how little I know of this world. 🙂

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Ask our Expat Consultant
(@thomasribatejo)
Joined: 5 years ago

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Posts: 191

@genki Glad it was helpful!  I know there are expat-focused satellite providers - another contributor may mention one in due course 🙂 I think they have a higher cost base (but am not certain, to be honest) but could be a help in areas with low/no mobile data, for sure.

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(@laguna_b)
Joined: 3 months ago

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Posts: 6

@genki The only satellite option that is worth a damn is low Earth orbit like SpaceX. Currently I live int eh coastal mountains outside of Silicon Valley and there are wireless options which while technically feasible in Portugal, probably do not exist. Satellite services like Hughesnet is terrible.

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(@barlaventoexpert)
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Joined: 14 years ago

Sorry, I just got onto this as I was busy yesterday.

I had many years experience in trying to arrange high speed internet into clients homes in the Western Algarve area. 

Thomas's reply is very good but I would like to add the following:

1) NEVER Trust what Estate Agents tell you about Internet Access! Most don't  know!

2) Best thing to do about Fibreoptic or ADSL landline access is to speak with the nearest neighbour if they are less that 250m away. Ask them how they access the Internet. (if they do)!  

Even then one may have to pay extra to have lines connected.

3) Someone who understands about stringing up Fibreoptic cables can usually tell if there is a cable nearby.

4) As regards Mobile Internet, although the map from ANACOM is good, IT IS NO SUBSTITUTE for on-site testing. Mobile Transmission Signals work on direct line of sight. 

If you really want to assure oneself that there is a strong 4G or 5G Mobile signal within a prospective property, you need to take three mobiles or a dual-sim mobile with 3 pay-as-you-go cards, (one each from Meo, Vodafone & NOS) , and test the coverage INSIDE the property. Inside a property one should be looking for 4 to 5 bars reception. 

Many old rural properties have THICK walls and this dulls mobile signal reception substantially. I have tested properties where there is a good signal outside the property, but the moment in steps in the house the signal disappears.  I am working on a solution at the moment for a rural property close to Torres Vedras where there are several Mobile Masts within view BUT inside the house the signal just drops off. 

Although the Anacom map gives generalised info, I have encountered cases where a property is located in the shadow of a hill or there is just a small rise between the house and the mobile mast and the signal disappears. 

There is no alternative in rural areas, in my experience, for on site personal testing.

Also be aware that in peak periods, 

5) As regards satellite, there are providers around. However, the quality of service is dependent on atmospheric conditions. Heavy rain and the signal can drop substantially. I know of an installation in the hills behind Lagos & there are frequent problems with signal quality.

One possible solution might be Elon Musk's Starlink service as their satelites orbit cross to Earth than the old traditional ones. 

Hope this helps.

 

 

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(@thomasribatejo)
Joined: 5 years ago

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Posts: 191

@barlaventoexpert absolutely!

2 - for our rural property, where neighbours do have ADSL, the two companies supplying the hamlet have refused to set up new ADSL connections now - they have repeatedly told us our options are mobile, or wait for fibre.  So, if neighbours have ADSL, I'd check with the companies as to whether they will definitely give you a physical connection.

4 - very good point.  I didn't mention the "test all three" thing, as it's not the easiest thing for people to do - but it's absolutely right, to get the best information.

On the thick walls issue, we have this, and our workaround is to place a mobile router outside (clearly, in a sheltered place - in our case, a lean-to) and an extender inside, and this largely mitigates the thick wall issue (by placing the extender somewhere "in sight" of the the outside one through an opening, effectively).  This is not a guaranteed solution, but it may help.  I think one could also have an outside box, with a wired connection from it, into the house.  (We needed something similar for a TV box in another property - everything else was fine, but it needed that cable... even to a mobile repeater!)

5 - this seems to also apply to mobile broadband - certain weather conditions hinder signal quality, apparently...  It's never been to the point of not being able to Zoom, for us, but there are days when it's slightly flaky, whereas the majority of the time it's as good as a wired connection.

I omitted to mention before that some operators still have a "limited" tariff for mobile broadband - if taking one out, make sure it's the "unlimited" one, as they may not be explicit.  The "unlimited" one is not actually unlimited, but the monthly limit is very high for domestic and working-from-home use - it might be insufficient for people working extensively with high-demand software, games, etc, I believe, but day after day of 2 people Zooming, up/downloading docs/photos, and Spotify and Netflix etc outside of working hours has not been an issue.

 

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Posts: 697
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(@barlaventoexpert)
Honorable Member
Joined: 14 years ago

I agree on all those points.

As regards the "thick wall" issue, it is always better to connect routers and repeaters using CAT6 ethernet cable even if it means a couple of hours drilling through walls and installing conduiting!

Good point about the Packages.

As regards quality of Mobile signal, this can be an issue sometimes. I know in July & August, "Ferias no Algarve" can severely affect speeds & quality of mobile signals in the Algarve with half of Portugal & Andalucia visiting!!  

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Posts: 4
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(@chabu)
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Joined: 1 year ago

For remote and rural areas, I would suggest Starlink. Starlink is Elon Musk's company (love him or hate him :)) which provides low-level satellite internet coverage. It's not cheap (99 euros/month) but you get high-speed internet that's suitable for streaming, gaming, video-conferencing, etc. I've been looking to purchase a rural property in the Algarve and validated coverage and availability for several locations. I'm in IT so speed and reliability of internet is very important. OneWeb is the chief competitor to Starlink but I haven't checked out their viability. The real life speeds I've seen from people in Portugal seems really good 200-350 down and 50-150 up. As other have mentioned, the internal wifi network speeds/quality/coverage will be determined by your home structure (thick walls) and wifi router and switches used. I would recommend a mesh router/switch solution (i.e. Google Wifi, Eero, etc.). Feel free to send me a message if you want some free IT advice! 🙂

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