Updated: Dec 18, 2021
After our blog about the October storm that hit Cape Cod, a few people asked me about the redundant mobile network that I mentioned.
Again, the basic concept is that if your home broadband network fails - you simply enable the mobile hotspot on your iPhone - and you carry on your work from there.
That works great for connecting a computer or two - but falls short when you consider the increasing number of home devices that we have connected to the internet.
I am totally dating myself, but I can vividly remember my first broadband connection. Comcast came out to the house and connected up a cable modem. The concept was crazy. No more dialing into the internet for remote access. The internet was always on. Constant live connection. I remember drilling a hole through my floor so I could run an ethernet cable to my shiny new iMac.
Fast forward 20 years, and ‘always on’ - home wifi networks are a commodity. Every year more and more things in our homes are connected. PC’s, Mobile phones, tablets, printers, security systems, cameras, e-readers, light switches, TV’s, streaming devices (music and video) - heck even my vacuum cleaner is connected to the internet. We call this iOT… the Internet of Things
Guess what folks - those things are not going to connect to your mobile phone’s wifi hotspot during an internet outage. Firstly, those devices are not tremendously simple to re-configure their connections, and secondly that number of devices will begin to overload the connection.
So what do you do?
Well let’s look at a common home network.
The Data Connection comes into the house via a provider and initiates your home network through the use of a broadband modem or router. If you connect to this router either directly or through wifi that will work great - but if the router fails, that’s it - you are out of business. Also, depending on where that router is in your house (often in the cellar), you may have wifi range issues, which will degrade service and slow down your connection.
A great approach to resolving this challenge is to distribute your network. The concept consists of simply plugging (and configuring) additional wifi switches into your main broadband router. These switches generally provide direct connections and wifi signals. They are relatively inexpensive so placing a few of them around the house provides good coverage - but more importantly establishes improved security by limiting attack surfaces, but also provides resiliency if a switch fails.
So now that we have a distributed home network, we can take advantage of using our mobile hotspot as a redundancy option for the entire network. The premise is that during an internet outage - either due to an issue with your provider or a failed broadband device, you replace your internet router with your mobile hotspot. As mentioned in my previous post - I actually dedicate an additional 4G tablet to act as my mobile hotspot in an emergency. The mobile device plugs into the main trunk of your distributed network. The problem though is that a mobile device by nature - doesn’t plug in. So how does this work? Ahhh - this is where a wireless bridge device comes in.
A wireless bridge serves two purposes.
To convert direct network traffic to wifi traffic. Bridges can be used to boost or extend wifi coverage. This is not how we will be using a wireless bridge.
To convert wireless traffic to a connected link. Basically grabbing a wifi signal and passing it on through a wired connection. This is exactly what we need.
Pretty clever right?
So here is how it works. On your mobile device turn on data sharing and set the device up as a wireless hotspot. Then pair your dedicated mobile device with the wireless bridge. Finally plug the wireless bridge into the source connection port on your main network switch.
That’s it. All your downstream devices connect to the home network - just as they always do. Same with your PC’s and mobile phones. Everything in the home stays the same. No re-configs, no temporary connections - your home network is intact with the exception of your main broadband connection which is now riding over the 4G or 5G network.
But won’t all these devices kill my little mobile device and my mobile data bill? Well - not as much as a bunch of independent connections will. This config offers several advantages.
The traffic over the wifi switches is compressed and optimized before hitting your mobile device and traversing the mobile network. This means the amount of data will be less than a direct hotspot connection, and will be more efficient.
Inter network traffic (between internal devices) i.e. PC and printer - never hits the mobile device or creates traffic outside your home.
As previously mentioned no need to reconfigure the different devices in your home - just the one simple change at the very top of your network is all that is needed to maintain status quo on your home network.
I hope that all makes sense. If you have questions or thoughts - feel free to drop us a note at jeanneoneil.com.