Rural Internet Access for SmartThings: Verizon vs Satellite?


(Andrew) #1

I’ve got a cabin in a very rural area that has no DSL and no Cable ISPs. There are two wireless ISPs, but neither has coverage at my cabin (I’ve tried!). I’m left with a choice between Verizon (the only cell provider with coverage, and it seems decent with LTE) and satellite (Viasat and HughesNet). Does anyone have any experience with using any of these providers as an ISP with SmartThings?

I’ve heard that Verizon doesn’t give you a public IP address (that they do double NAT with a firewall somewhere on their network), so I’m concerned that an LTE router or hotspot will actually break SmartThings.

With respect to satellite, I’m worried that the latency will be too high and ruin the experience.

With both, I’m worried that the relatively low data allocation (10 GB to 40 GB) that I can reasonably afford/justify might be too low. I’m looking at a SmartThings system that when fully built out over the next year or so will probably have < 100 total devices (about 15 contact sensors, 5 motion sensors, 10-15 switches, 4 thermostats (electric baseboards, ugh), 4-5 temperature sensors, 5 moisture/flood sensors, and 1 deadbolt), plus Hue system with < 20 bulbs).

Throughput seems okay. The lowest rate I’m looking at is 12 Mbps down and 1-5 Mbps up. But when my data allocation is consumed, who knows… Rates could be as low as in the hundred kilobits range, both directions.

I’m curious what the community thinks about this. All the providers have a 2 year contract with insane early termination fees, so I don’t want to just rush in blindly. But if you think my system will easily fit in any of them, I’d have somewhat less anxiety.

Thoughts?
Andrew


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #2

While more and more device models are being supported for Local Execution, SmartThings is really built on the premise and assumption that the home’s internet is a “utility” (like electricity, water, landline), so that cloud based control (App), execution and latency isn’t “supposed to be” a concern.

If you live in a situation where reliable, robust broadband isn’t available, I’d say that SmartThings isn’t the appropriate platform for that situation.

There are various platforms that may not be as powerful or popular as SmartThings, but can run independent of the internet, and I think you should consider those options instead.


(Andrew) #3

Thanks, Terry. I appreciate that point of view, and I’ve considered it for my house in town, actually. I don’t love relying on the cloud.

But, in this case, the point of the system is to monitor the cabin remotely. Internet connection is a requirement for me. I may be at my own requirements-induced impasse, I suppose. So I’m trying to find a way out, and that’s why I’m interested in what people think performance will be like with an LTE router or with a satellite ISP.

Andrew


(DanG) #4

I can’t speak for satellite but have been running my SmartThings system on 3G/4G for a number of years now. I bought a Tracfone SIM card (Verizon) and run it in a Netgear LB2120. I pay $20 every three months to keep the service active. There is also the purchase of data but that data does not expire as long as you keep your account active. So for about $6 a month and a data card for $10 x3 will cover me for about a year.

I have 63 devices that with an average daily data usage of 9.85 MB

I have also used, and still do, have a FreedomPop account with a Franklin r850 wireless hot spot that cost zero dollars per month for 500MB of reoccurring data. The only problem is FreedomPop has far less coverage area than Verizon so that may not be an option, but for the price its worth checking out.

Of course the SmartThings hub is Ethernet and unless you are using the first setup outlined you would need more equipment. Its cheap but still requires more setup.

Your best bet is probably with Verizon but if you can get it through Tracfone it sure beats paying much higher prices with Verizon direct.

Hope that helps


(Andrew) #5

Interesting! I briefly looked at the LB2120, but I thought it didn’t work with Verizon (Now I see elsewhere now it does). TracFone uses Verizon’s network, so that could work…

My carrier is AT&T, but coverage is non-existant. I also have an iPad on T-Mobile (200 MB free for life!), but again, no service. I have an AT&T iPhone on Ting that also doesn’t have service. I had kinda given up hope that anyone but Verizon would work, but I hadn’t thought of their MVNOs. Good tip! I’m also happy to hear that you aren’t using a ton of data every month.

How did you activate your LB2120 on TracFone? Did you activate the SIM on a phone first and then drop it in the modem, or did you activate it in the modem directly?


Andrew


(DanG) #6

I used an old verizon phone to activate it, then took the SIM and installed it into the LB2120. That’s it!
Also, the LB2120 has the ability to connect external antennas. I haven’t had the need to try it but may help if you are really far out. One thing I have found that even if the signal is weak, even at one bar, the hub works flawlessly. The weaker the signal the slower the data but the hub requires so little bandwidth it has no affect on service.


(Kirk Hilzinger) #7

Remember that SmartThings “calls home”, which means it initiates the connectivity to the Samsung cloud data center. Double-NAT’ing is not going to be an issue, plus there really is not much bandwidth that happens with SmartThings, typically day to day. I highly doubt bandwidth will be the issue, unless you want to start putting cameras up.

The more you choose devices that are locally executed on the platform the less you rely on the Internet. So, I would try to steer yourself towards that if the circuits are less than reliable.

At a previous job, I used to connect up construction offices to our network that were located in oil refineries, so I understand the lack of options you may have. My general rule was 4G LTE over Satellite. Satellite does have high latency. Basically, we only did satellite if all other options were not available. With 4G LTE, if you are really worried about it, they do make external antennas for the cards. We were in blast proof trailers so those little Faraday cages had to have external antennas on them to work.

You can get devices that hand off Ethernet from 4G LTE, such as a “Cradlepoint” router or similar. I, myself, run Spectrum with Verizon 4G LTE as a backup.


(Eric) #8

I just check my Smartthings hub internet usage on my google wifi and it shows 150 MB down and 420 MB up for the month. YMMV


(Andrew) #9

Wow. How big is your SmartThings system? Also, it looks like your system had an out-of-family spike around July 25.


Andrew


(Eric) #10

I have 68 things only one camera. I don’t use the camera much but some but that was probably the spike.


(John C) #11

My deployment at a second home has a Verizon Internet connection. It’s been very solid, needing a reboot only once—perhaps a power glitch.

More here…


(Paul) #12

I would feel totally comfortable running a Smartthings system over a cellular link… just make sure you don’t install any cameras. Without a camera, I can’t imagine you’ll see usage greater than 25MB/day.

I would stay away from satellite. You’re right that the latency will be a problem.

If you really want to be stingy with data, stay away from devices that report temperature changes constantly. Those changes will all get sent to the cloud. Instead of getting multi-sensor motion detectors, just get motion-only detectors.


(Andrew) #13

Thanks for the feedback so far, folks.

I picked up a TracFone SIM for Verizon phones and activated it in an old unlocked & jailbroken iPhone I had on hand. That part seems to work great, and iOS says “TFW” is my carrier in the status bar.

I also picked up a Netgear LB2120. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but when I put the SIM in it, it will not acquire the network. Manual scans list Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T networks. Trying to manually connect to Verizon results in a warning about roaming charges … and no active connection. (When I put my post-paid AT&T sim in the LB2120, it connects up fine and seems to work okay.)

Curiously, when I put the SIM in my iPad, it shows Verizon as my carrier but otherwise seems to work fine.

Forcing tethering using a jailbreak tweak on the iPhone works fine, but that’s obviously not a long term solution. Also curious, the personal hotspot options don’t show up unless the phone is jailbroken. I guess TracFone doesn’t want users to tether…


(Andrew) #14

Ha! Sometimes, all you need to do to fix a problem is complain, and then the solution comes right after…

I messed around with the LB2120 a bit more. I reset it, entered a new APN setting for TracFone (APN: tracfone.vzwentp), and configured the router for “bridge” mode. A restart, and presto, it works!

I’m going up to the cabin this weekend, and I’m looking forward to trying out my makeshift internet connection.

Thanks for the suggestions, folks!


(DanG) #15

I don’t remember having to do all that but I am glad it works. Now hopefully there is enough signal when you get to where you are going. Good Luck.