Non-line of sight Internet presents different option for screen networks

December 19, 2007 by Dave Haynes

I try really hard not to write about my company’s pots and pans or hype my clients, but something one of my clients is doing is quite interesting and unique, and more than worth passing on.

The guys at Toronto-based Blast Media, who operate the The Bar Channel (which is focused on info and ad screens in guess where), don’t use DSL, cable or satellite to get connected. They use non-line of sight Internet.

I thought that was Wimax, but Blast Media’s technical guru Jory Lane says it is a little different. Beats me.

So I asked him, unprompted, to bang me off a note to ‘splain what they do, and why.

They use the Rogers Portable service, essentially an upright, modem-sized box that just needs power and gets you high-speed over the air in Canada for about $50 a month. Coverage is good in major centres. Bell has a similar “Unplugged” service, that costs a wee bit more but I have never seen promoted. For those living elsewhere, and probably not buried in snow right now, Rogers and Bell are major communications companies up here in the sub-arctic.

Jory’s pros

– Plug and play.
– Ready to be deployed once its activated which only takes 10 to 15 minutes after confirmation.
– Flexibility to use your modem in different cities without having to use other commercial wireless services for a nominal fee.
– Uses 2.5GHz Non-Line-of-sight (NLOS) radio frequency, not WiMAX network or system in spite of other common references.
– Option of purchasing indoor and outdoor modem depending on location. Indoor modem is the best option for most locations within the urban areas. Outdoor modem is typically used for suburban or rural areas which DSL or cable high speed Internet isnt offered.
– Service is available across in most major Canadian cities and some towns.


– 30 gig bandwidth cap per month is probably enough for regular users but not enough for power users. Plenty for most DS purposes, including ours.
– Getting reception isn’t as tricky as it seems, but in order to get great reception, it needs to be placed in a room that doesn’t have huge interferences or obstacles such as electrical rooms and in the basement. Placing the modem near the window with the antenna side facing outwards is the most ideal location but your mileage may vary.
– Surrounding buildings will still affect signal quality even, when its a NLOS radio frequency.
– Indoor modem has to be within 3-4 km range from the transmitting tower. Signal strength will vary if surrounding buildings is present. It’s best to call Rogers and see how far the nearest transmitting tower is located before ordering the service.
– Slow connection speed in comparison to top DSL or Cable speeds.
– The price of the service isn’t necessarily ideal for users fixed in urban areas. More money and less speed, plus $100 for the modem purchase. It’s designed for people who are on the road most of the time, live just outside of suburban areas, or deploying unique services that need a quick Internet service without hassles (ie. DS).
– Dynamic IP Addressing only

By comparison, he says DSL is faster and cheaper, and you can get Static IPs, if you need them. The downside is that DSL can be flakey, and anyone who has worked with telecoms has lived the ongoing nightmare of lighting these things up location by location.

The one time I tracked a DSL rollout, of 75 locations to be installed, the the telecom screwed up more than half of them and required second visits — meaning more cost and more delays.

The cool thing about this technology, from what Jory is telling me, is his installers can pretty much walk in, find power, and within a few minutes they have decent high-speed and are rocking. Because it is using dynamic, plain vanilla Internet, there is no monkeying with with a lot of numbers in settings, meaning a propeller-head on site is not required and the pace of deployments is theoretically much quicker.

There are, of course, arguments for other types of connectivity, and this won’t work everywhere, but for network operators looking for speed and ease of deployment, this sort of thing seems to be a truly valid option.

Jory and his team have been lighting up screens at a pretty good clip in the Toronto area, and this little-known option has evidently served them well.

  1. Minicom Blog says:

    Very interesting. Thanks for posting it.

  2. Ian G says:

    We’ve used it- it’s not bad at all. Would always go hard line first, but when you’re stuck the ‘magic black box’ does a pretty good job.

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