Thinking Aloud on A Sunday

Signals.

Much of modern life depends on signals. Those received by mobile phones, Internet modems, Wi-Fi, 4G, and via satellites. As well as things like Internet surfing, receiving and sending texts, or using satellite navigation systems, we also depend on them to be able to watch television.

Living in Norfolk, you might expect that we wouldn’t have issues with signals of any kind. It is one of the flattest places in Europe, and outside of the two cities of Norwich and Kings Lynn, few buildings exist that can obstruct the passage of any signal. I certainly made that assumption, before I moved here. And I was wrong.

Despite the flat landscape, and absence of high buildings, this county is a notorious black spot for signals of all kinds. After years of getting ‘Emergency Only’ mobile phone signals, we had to threaten to leave our provider until they gave us a booster that enhances that signal. But that only works in the immediate area around the house. Make a short journey, and you will soon see the annoying ‘no bars’ appear on the screen of your phone. And you can forget about going online when out and about. The signal is rarely ever strong enough to connect to the Internet, when using a smartphone.

It used to be the same with the home broadband connection. Erratic at best, too slow at worst. I am relatively lucky, as my PC is connected via a direct cable into the modem. But using laptops or tablets on Wi-Fi was a cause of constant frustration. Then we got a fibre broadband connection. Speeds almost doubled, and the Wi-Fi was more stable, except at the times of peak usage. That meant we could connect the TV to the Internet, albeit through a monthly-fee smart box, from Now TV. Slowly but surely, Norfolk seemed to be dragging itself into the 21st century.

My idea that the flat landscape and small buildings helped proved to be well off the mark. All these signals depend on powerful transmitters, and booster masts that have to be close to the equipment you want to use. Because of the relatively small population of Norfolk, investment in such infrastructure has been sadly lacking. Some parts of the region still have 56 kps dial-up connections, and many more remote areas have no connections at all. Imagine that. Life in 2018 with no Internet, and an unusable mobile phone. They tell us things are improving. Churches are being paid to site masts on high spires, and new-build estates have underground cables already laid. But any retro-fitting is difficult, and no new transmitter towers are being built in the foreseeable future.

This has now begun to disrupt our TV signal. Often previously affected by the weather, and interfered with by short power cuts, it is unable to cope with the number of new channels arriving all the time, and the constantly changing frequencies sold off by a greedy government. Some of these frequencies are so close together, the TV receiver cannot differentiate between them, so picture break-up and interference is a daily part of our viewing (or not viewing) experience. We frequently have to resort to using online ‘catch-up’ services to watch anything, with the irony that the TV box connected to the Internet is one of the reasons why the picture breaks up in the first place, as signals clash, and fight each other for the dwindling space available.

Isn’t progress wonderful?

58 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud on A Sunday

  1. This is really very sad, Pete! The big companies or not interested in rural development. Here we should get fiber cable, but so expensive as it could be. Since over 10 years there are CISCO routers available to connect wireless with high power 3G, but the officials think the connections have to be built with cables. 😉 Here we use a mix of satellite and 3G internet – freedom at all. 😉 With a own built antenna on our roof. Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It would seem that you are even worse-off than we are in Beetley, Michael. At least we can afford the fibre-optic connection, as it doesn’t cost too much. (Currently £28 a month including most phone calls, and unlimited Internet.)
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes really. ;-( The costs for your fibre-optic connection are not expensive. Here we should pay 120.– Euro, but not really with the power we should get. We are only 5 km away from a better connectivity in the Czech Republic, but there is no cooperation planned. ;-( That is life! 😉 Michael

        Liked by 1 person

  2. How frustrating. And you can’t really do anything. City vs country definitely has trade-offs. I still think I’d take the lack of signals for the peace and quiet, and the beautiful countryside. Best to you, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The joys of rural living, Pete. I was out with my walking group once and the hill we climbed had a mast on the summit – people were astonished to find five bars on their phones for the first time ever!
    PS Have just watched the final episode of Unforgotten. It has been an enjoyable drama. I won’t say anything more in case you haven’t been able to watch it yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did watch it tonight. Very good indeed. The actor playing the serial killer was chillingly calm.
      But the discovery of the second body, and his confession, ruined my own theory.
      Right from the start, I was convinced she had been killed by her identical twin sister! 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Scary indeed! Companies have forced us to be reliant on and beholden to the internet, I can remember the days walking into Town and British Gas Thames Water had offices where you can speak to a human being, not now you have to go on-line. My fear is in 10 years time (5) there won’t be such a place as a High Street Bank PLUS it’s already happening companies are doing away with contacting by phone! You want to speak to someone? Afraid not contact will be all by webchat but that’s another story because I’m still fuming at………….. yes progress but it’s only to save money for shareholders pockets!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tried contacting NOW TV about a problem with the service. Live Chat only at first, then a closed messenger service, (not real email) but only if you clicked that the live chat had not solved your problem. No phone number provided, (or available online after lots of research) and the names of the live chat ‘operatives’ were suspiciously old fashioned. I remain convinced I was ‘live chatting’ with a machine! 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pete, remember 20 years ago when you could get “online” in under a minute, just by using your phone! Now, we are so used to having it instantaneously that any else is unacceptable…I live near the top of a hill, and another hill south of us blocks out signal, so my phone service is notoriously hit-or-miss…I am so used to it always being there for me that it’s a constant annoyance…that said, technology!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am surprised you have problems in your area, John. The population of Beetley is under 1400, which is why there is so little infrastructure. But where you live, there is a huge market for everything tech.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I can well imagine Las Vegas ensures it has everything its residents and visitors might need. I wouldn’t mind paying, if the signals were reliable, but we pay already, and get erratic and unreliable services. Nobody is bothered about making rural life easier, it seems.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have never used dish tv and cannot understandwhy when it rains or the wind blows everyone complains their signal’s lost. Seriously? A satellite can not communicate to its receiver? Just don’t get it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t have a satellite dish either, but the main TV transmitter 30 miles away is often badly affected by the weather, especially heavy rain. In the 21st century, that does seem incredible to me.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s just so inconsistent, Sue. One day nothing but problems, and the next apparently fine. I would be happier to have access to a lot less TV channels, as long as the ones we did have were reliable. The mobile phone signals are much the same. Along one short stretch of the A47, you can go from full signal to no signal a couple of times at least. With so few public phones now, it does make life tricky.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Compared to some people, we are lucky. One local businessman has to drive to a lay-by on the A47, to get a signal on his phone strong enough to go online. It’s always on the local news here, the issues surrounding all sorts of signal reception. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Progress really is wonderful…but one would expect that in this day and age one would at least get the internet working right. More often than not, it’s been horrific. But that might just have something to do with the fact that I live 12 floors up in apartment building and we have pretty much one of the worst internet providers. But…tv though, we luckily hardly have any problems with. Hopefully the troubles you have will be cleared up soon 😊 Have a great sunday Pete 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Michel. When I lived in an apartment in London, TV signal was always good. We had a huge communal aerial high on the roof, and it got a good reception. Bur since then, so many new channels are arriving every year, the frequencies are just too close together.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. When you are used to using gadgets like Wi-Fi and cellphones, you wouldn’t find it easy without them. After three days without internet, it is some sort of luxury now. There are so many cell sites here in Metro Manila that is why cellphone signals are always good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The technology exceeds the capabilities of the existing infrastructure. And once everyone buys into it, then all use it at the same time, it can’t cope with the ‘overload’. I believe it is only a matter of time before it is all overwhelmed, and crashes completely.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Living here on the southern side of the border between our counties wasn’t much better until BT offered a cable connected modem Pete. For a few years I relied on a a plugin stick. Even that was lucky if it reached two bars despite the fact that Vodaphone insisted my area was a strong reception one!!! Now, thanks to BT I get five bars. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ah, the joys of rural life! I spent a few days in Norfolk in June and only had no mobile signal once (near Heacham). Maybe I was lucky.

    On the subject of TV, I only ever watch it online now, either Amazon, Netflix or catch up. It has the advantages of recording, without having to remember to record.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You were in Heacham? You should have let me know. I would have driven up and seen you. 🙂
      It’s only 27 miles from Beetley, just over 35 minutes by car.
      I think we are heading in the same direction, as far as TV is concerned.
      Cheers, Pete.

      Like

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