If you work from home in the UK then you probably have a broadband connection that is carried over a plain-old-telephone wire from the cabinet in the road to your house. You can buy your broadband service from many different providers but it will still be delivered by that fragile copper wire which is owned and managed by BT Openreach.

Yesterday my copper wire broke, no dial tone on the wall phones and no Internet. I told my children and they were not worried, they just turned the mobile service on their phone.

I decided to tether my phone and start working on my laptop but I soon found that even with minimum services running I was burning 100MB an hour. I quickly burnt though the tiny data allowance on my ancient phone contract.

I decided to work out the options for providing a redundant data connection for home workers.

Permanent Solutions

A Broadband Service with 4G backup

This is the best value fix and provides permanent protection at no extra cost.

Vodaphone’s new Pro service costs no more than rivals but includes a hybrid router with built in 4G capability. If the DSL service (telephone line) fails then your internet traffic will go over their mobile network. Rivals BT plan to launch a similar service later in 2022 but as a premium service.

I presently use PlusNet because of their excellent customer service but I will switch to the Vodaphone service with a hybrid router if PlusNet are not offering a similar service when I come to renew my contract.

A backup modem for your existing router

Another permanent fix is to add a backup 4G modem to your existing router and a very good choice is the Netgear LB-2120. You can in a low cost sim from the Smarty network on the minimum tariff and then just upgrade the contract if you need more data during a period of outages (see below).

Quick fixes

An unlimited data contract on your phone

A simple alternative to using a hybrid router is to create a wi-fi hotspot on your phone and connect your devices to it. For this to cover a potential outage that lasts several days you will need a large data allowance, I would suggest 40GB to unlimited. If you are on a contract then you can easily upgrade your contract but this comes at a price because you will be locked into this higher price for at least 12 months.

I investigated the market and found that by far the best option was the Smarty network who offer 1 month contracts. You can get unlimited data for £20 for a single month. This is a very cheap way to solve the problem because I can have a low cost Smarty plan and then upgrade it to unlimited data for just the period I need. They offer European roaming included (check small print).

I will be transferring my phone contract to Smarty. I will be paying less and have more flexibility. This will give me network redundancy until I can move to using a hybrid router.

A Wi-Fi router (not so good for some users)

Most phone networks and shops will sell either full size or mini mobile Wi-Fi routers most of these come with expensive contracts however you could simply buy the hardware from Amazon and put in a low cost sim from the Smarty network.

If you have a wired network or any sophisticated configuration (or simply HP printers that often refuse to work) then you may need to do a little work to get the behaviour you want.

And finally

I live in London and the BT Openreach engineer arrived 24 hrs after I raised the fault. He quickly found where my telephone wire had pulled out a the junction box that is on the wall of my neighbour’s house. He put the wire back and restored my broadband service. Great work from BT Openreach.

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