22 August, 2018

OMG! We're Just So Hi-Tech!

Talk about leap-frogging technology. Here we are moving speedily into the future.

We started our adventure here in Belize, when we stayed at Tony and Nellie's house in Ranchito, with little more than a 300 baud modem and a phone line with BTL (Belize Telemedia, Ltd), which we quickly upgraded to DSL while we lived there. At the time, BTL blocked Skype, and all the other calling programs, since they wanted you to do any calling through their system.

After we moved into the Mennonite house, for several years we had HughesNet satellite internet. It was better than a phone line but really susceptible to clouds, rain, and too many subscribers at any one time.

Then, I forget what service we had for a while. It was cheaper, and so-so on speed. Eventually, we went with Mojan. We've been with Mojan for a few years now. His service was good, pretty fast at about 4-Mbps (Mega-bytes per second). We were happy with Mojan.

Then comes BTL again with DigiNet. Fiber optic internet came to town. They've blanketed the town with what seems to be hundreds of these little trucks for the past couple of weeks, putting up fiber cable up all over.

They offered a deal that was hard to pass up. Free Installation, and depending on the package you went with, various other perks like a free mobile plan, free prepaid SIM cards, etc.

So, Dianna and I opted to go with BTL's middle plan - DigiDouble, as they call it. A whopping 10 Mbps. So, we lept boldly into fiberland

BTL DigiNet Service Truck
Roughly two days after I stopped into BTL's office downtown, I got a call that the DigiNet guys were here to do a site survey prior to installation, to make sure it all went smoothly.

They told me I would have to trim some tree branches, no big deal, that happens all the time. So, I thought we were ready for the big day.

Here they came, Monday morning. How un-Belizean of them. We weren't expecting them till Wednesday, at the earliest. All set to start the install. Oh, but wait a minute. There's a great big wasp nest up under the eave of the Mennonite house. That will have to be removed before anything can happen.

Esquivel and Son's
Oh, no! What do I do now? Luckily, Irma, who does property management, had posted on Facebook the day before, that she had called Mr. Esquivel, who, along with his sons, are beekeepers and produce some delicious honey. They also will remove wild hives for people.

I was dealing with a wasp colony. I thought it was worthwhile to give them a call to see if that was something they would do. About a half-hour later, Mr. Esquivel and his sons show up. I pointed out the nest as they began to put on their beekeeping hoods and gloves.

Five minutes later, the wasp nest was history, contained in a plastic trash bag. Mr. Esquivel told me they were pollinators just like the bees they usually dealt with. The wasps were going to be released across town. As long as their queen was ok, the hive would reestablish itself. Very good work on their part. If you need to contact the Esquivels, click on their logo, all their contact information is there.

As the Esquivel's left, I was on the phone calling the DigiNet crew that had been here earlier. Amazingly, about a half-hour later, here they were back and ready to install.

Fiber-Optic Cable Spools
The biggest problem they had was the rain, which came and went every few minutes. Some parts of the installation were impervious to rain, others, it simply wouldn't do to get wet and things halted till the rain blew on through.

Two sets of cables, as we're essentially doing two installations, one in the Mennonite house (at 5Mbps) and one for our house (at 10Mbps).

Mounting Cables to the Pole
So, as soon as they could, they started unreeling cable to run it down the road to connect to a special box (no simple splicing into fiber optics).

Right away, a problem. Not mine, however. Another wasp nest in the telephone pole. Turned out not to interfere with their work so the cable pull went unimpeded.

Keeping Unspooling Kink Free
For the DigiNet crew, pulling the cable was the hard part of the job. Everything after that was fairly technical.

Keeping the cable from kinking is very important. The glass fiber, narrower than a human hair, can break. Still, it's amazingly flexible.

Modem and Cable Storage Box
Here's the two bits that go into the house. The top box is for extra cable, which is simply coiled up and kept in there until needed. The other box is the modem itself. There are actually two big parts to that - the wall mounting plate and the modem itself, which fits onto the plate.

Mounting Cable to Mennonite House
Next comes the actual mounting of the cable to the corner of the house. With the wasps gone that was no problem and went fast. The cable went directly through the porch wall and over to the kitchen wall. The cable for our house was a direct shot from this outside point down to our place. Easy peasy.

Inside the Back Porch
Once through the wall, then it's quickly over to the kitchen wall and on into the kitchen.

Installing Cable Storage Box
Drilling through the kitchen wall, and mounting the extra cable box in the same location.

Installing Wall-Mounted Modem
Inside, quickly installing the modem mounting frame around the hole already drilled for the cable to pass through.

Almost Had to Move the Modem
A good bit of luck as far as positioning the modem. There almost wasn't enough room for the modem antennas. It worked out just right in the end.

Now Comes the Technical Bit
This is where it gets quite technical. The fiber has to basically wind up at this stage in pristine condition. It has to fit into the modem in a precise way. Thankfully, they have a couple of alignment jigs to help. It's still really delicate work in any case.

Tons of Documentation and Photos
Of course, every bit of the installation is documented, by paper, forms on the laptop, photos of every connection, and testing with meters, etc.

Install Beginning at Our House
Once everything is done at the Mennonite house, then it was dodge rain squalls and on to the main house.

Installing Cable Hook Under Eave
The installation there begins with hanging another hook to anchor the cable run from the Mennonite house.

Modem Mount Next to Window
Then, it's simply a matter of drilling through the concrete and duplicating the work already done up at the Mennonite house.

We Have A Connection!
A final check with a meter. One, is there a white light, check; and Two, is there a good reading on the meter, check.

Put it all together, and button it up. Mission accomplished.

You'll notice a circle of light behind his hands. That's actually me holding my high-intensity flashlight so he can see what's going on - my office is normally pretty dim.

The End Result - WOW!
After they departed, I got all our stuff hooked up and finally had a chance to do our own speed test. Like the caption says, 'WOW!'


Wilma said...

Wow. Again, I am envious. We are using Mifi, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Winjama said...

Hi Wilma,
Thanks for your comment. You inspired me to resurrect my blog as well, along with my old digital SLR, complete with rotted rubber bits that have disappeared. But it still works.
Thanks again.