If you don’t need fibre speeds or large amounts of data Skinny Broadband is a good low cost alternative. It’s possible to get speeds of 40 Mbps, not everyone does.
Readers ask how they can know in advance if they’ll get decent speeds. Skinny says it offers a money back guarantee so you can test the service for 30 days to check it works for you.
Before going to the trouble, there’s a simple tool on the Skinny site that tells you if you can get a connection. You can also check the Spark 4G coverage map — Skinny Broadband uses the Spark 4G network.
In theory, the darker the pink, the better reception you’ll get at your home. In practice, you need to be careful. At one level the map shows my house is in a pink zone, but I only get so-so coverage. If I zoom in to the highest resolution, the coverage map shows my house only gets ‘fair’ 4G reception.
There are antennae sockets on the back of the Skinny Broadband modem, but no antennae in the box. The sockets are hidden by a plastic lid.
According to the documentation in the modem box, you can buy the antennae separately. I asked Skinny about this. Skinny doesn’t sell the antennae. It doesn’t seem keen on the ideas. According to Skinny: “The testing we did showed they provided little material improvement to the speed.”
That could be right. I found a spare antennae I had from another product, it made no improvement. Although tempted, I decided not to attempt running a cable to the roof and mounting a higher antennae. There’s only so much I’m prepared to do in the name of science.
If I was going to stick with Skinny Broadband, I’d experiment with a home-made Yagi antennae. If anyone has done this I’d be keen to hear about it.
One problem I have here is that where I live is not yet covered by 700 MHz 4G, the local signal seems to be 1800 MHz, which has different characteristics.
One other good piece of advice I had from Skinny was to locate the modem as far as possible from other electronic equipment. I found I got better speed, 25 Mbps instead of the 20 or so I could see, when I moved the modem to a room without any computers, servers or routers.
Even though the speed isn’t great at home, Skinny Broadband looks tempting at the price. The deal breaker is the 60GB data cap.
While this is more than my household would use most months, there are times when we go way, way over. A big cloud backup might use close to a terabyte. That might happen twice a year. Then there are times when we have visitors and the data load jumps.
There’s no way to accomodate that kind of data consumption with wireless broadband.
My use is far from typical. While Skinny Broadband may not suit your needs or my needs, the data cap is plenty for average users. Your parents might appreciate it even if you don’t. I’m already recommending it to people I know who are light data users.