Frequently Asked Questions

How can we extend the coverage of the WiFi signal?2018-08-26T16:47:32+01:00

The signal output from WiFi equipment – including the router which we supply – is restricted by regulations.

The signal may not cover all of properties with thick stone or masonry walls. In such cases, the first step is to locate the router as close to the centre of the area you want to cover as possible.

A second measure is to install a WiFi range extender or bridge such as the Apple Airport Express.

A third option is to use Homeplug or Powerline adapters to transmit Ethernet signals over your electrical wiring system. We use Devolo and TP-Link powerline adapters which offer nominal speeds of 500 or 600 Mbps and seem to work well. The real performance of such adapters is rarely more than a quarter of the nominal speed but this is adequate in most circumstances.

Can I watch live TV, use iPlayer and Catch up TV?2018-08-26T16:50:35+01:00

Yes – and lots of our users rely on internet streaming. However, a warning is in order. All broadband networks – even fibre optic ones – can get congested when too many users try to stream programmes at the same time, especially in high or ultra-high definition.

Our usage limits are more than adequate for a household to stream content in standard definition, which typically uses 0.5 GB per hour. However, you will get through your allowance much more quickly if you use high definition (typically 2 GB per hour) or ultra-high definition (5 GB per hour or more).

Who are you?2019-04-20T10:16:22+01:00

Borders Online is a non-profit company, formed in 2019 from the combination of the ‘Stobo-Dawyck Community Network Ltd’ and ‘Heriot Community Broadband’ community networks.

We operate as an Internet Service Provider (ISP), using wireless technologies to provide broadband services to some of the difficult to access parts of the Scottish Borders.

What speeds can I expect from the Borders Online system?2019-04-20T10:19:22+01:00

We aim to provide a service of at least 30 Mbps download and 15 Mbps upload for at least 95% of the time. Actual speeds will often be greater than that but at times of heavy usage speeds may fall below the target due to network congestion.

[Boring but important technical note] Not all speed tests are equal, nor do all of them measure the same thing. In simple terms, they saturate the capacity of a link in one direction for 30 or 60 secs and then in the other direction. This is not how internet traffic works. Speed tests provide, at best, a very crude indicator of download or upload capacity. Further, wireless networks function differently from fixed line networks. We optimise our network for real life performance, not to look good on speed tests. In particular, we focus on providing predictable and rapid interaction for services such as internet browsing, Skype, Voice over IP, etc. You may regard this as special pleading, but it is also true.

How do I pay for the service?2020-02-12T22:39:34+00:00

For residential customers, payment is by Direct Debit through GoCardless.

This is an easy to use, secure system; independent of us. When you sign up for our service, you receive an email asking you to sign a direct debit mandate. We do not have access to your bank details; they will be stored by GoCardless. You will be charged for the set-up once the installation is working and then the regular monthly subscription.

Business customers have the option of paying by direct debit or by bank transfer/standing order. Business customers also have the option of quarterly or yearly invoicing.

How secure is the service?2019-04-20T10:24:55+01:00

The traffic from the mast to your router is encoded using a protocol referred to as PPPoE. The wireless traffic on each link between relays is encrypted using a standard protocol known as AES256, which uses 256-bit encryption. Hence, all transmissions are encrypted and it would be extremely hard for anyone to gain access to your data.

Some businesses and private users operate Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) which provide yet another level of encryption for all traffic passing from the user’s end to the server at the other end.

How reliable is the service?2019-04-20T10:33:45+01:00

Our relays are designed to operate in harsh weather conditions and all have battery backup, so in many cases, we have continued to provide a service when the local power network couldn’t.

Failures will occur and we have designed our network to maximise resilience. There is however, a trade-off between cost and reliability – we operate on the basis that our subscribers want a high level of reliability but without the high cost of complete resilience. For those customers who are looking for maximum resilience, using multiple providers will increase availability, as will generators etc. Not all customers wish to pay for this level of availability, so we’ve aimed for sensible/attainable levels.

There will be occasional interruptions to service, either due to equipment failures, to install new equipment or maintenance. We normally try to carry out routine network maintenance overnight, however physical changes will happen during daylight hours. We try to notify users of the time slots when significant interruptions may occur.

How do I switch to Borders Online?2019-04-19T12:15:56+01:00

Please contact us via the form on the Contacts page.

For your peace of mind, we recommend that you run your existing broadband service in parallel with our service for between a week and month before cancelling the contract with your current ISP. You need to take account of the length of notice that you have to give in order to cancel your existing service.

This means that you have service from two internet service providers at the same time, for a small period of time. The upside is that you know if one service fails, the other will work. The downside is that you are paying for two services at the same time.

What about my email account?2018-08-26T16:44:13+01:00

We do not recommend that you rely upon an email address linked to a specific ISP – for example, a btinternet.co.uk address.

We don’t provide an email service as there are many good – usually free – email services available. Google (Gmail & Googlemail), Microsoft (Hotmail & Outlook), GMX, and other providers operate such services. We use them for our personal email accounts. Or, you can choose to purchase your own domain and an email service linked to that domain. (BordersOnline can assist with business grade email services)

You should consider switching your email address from your previous internet service provider account such as BT to another service as soon as possible. However, you may be able to retain your email service linked for a former ISP provided that you are willing to pay for it. That seems to be the situation for btinternet.co.uk accounts.

What equipment do we supply?2019-04-20T10:37:53+01:00

We supply a WiFi router which connects your home to our network. In addition to the connection to the antenna on your house, it provides four wired RJ45 connections as well as a reasonable WiFi signal. You may want to locate the router near to existing TV equipment so you can just plug in your TV, Sky box, Playstation, Xbox, etc.

In addition, we install a small antenna on the outside of your property, aligned to our local mast. This needs to be installed in a position that has line of sight to our mast; if there is no direct line of sight, a repeater may be required. The antenna is powered by the router, unless the cable run to the antenna is particularly long; in which case, a separate power injector will also be used. In most cases, we just need a single power outlet to be available.

What is the maximum distance between the wireless antenna and my property?2019-04-20T10:46:20+01:00

Sometimes it is difficult to find a suitable position to locate the antenna such that it gets a clear line of sight to our mast; either because of trees or other obstructions. In such cases it may be necessary to locate the antenna on a pole, building or even tree at some distance from your property.

The maximum length for an Ethernet cable is 100m, which may not be enough to route the cable to an appropriate point (don’t forget vertical up/downs if you are trying to work out distance!).

We have a number of options available for these kinds of situations, but as they are ‘non-standard’, they may incur additional costs; each case is individual, so it’s not really possible to give a generic cost. If you think you have a ‘challenging’ installation, let us know and we’ll come and do a site visit and get you a quote for a custom installation.

If your property is surrounded by trees or does not have a line of sight to a mast or repeater, please contact us for advice, as it is almost always possible to find a solution that will enable you to use our service. In many cases, we will cover the cost of installing additional repeaters if these are required to provide service to a group of properties who all want a service. So if you can get a group of interested people together, it may work out much cheaper.

Do I need a phone line?2018-08-26T16:48:15+01:00

No, our system is entirely independent of your telephone line.

Can I replace my phone line with an internet phone service?2019-04-20T10:53:04+01:00

For many people, a Voice over IP (VoIP) service is a good substitute for a fixed telephone line, especially if you have reasonable mobile phone coverage. However, it will not operate during a power cut – unless all of your equipment is connected to battery backup or generator. In contrast, the telephone exchange is designed to operate for an extended period on backup power, and to provide power to your handset over the telephone line, so it can continue to work in a power outage.

The majority of our network has some kind of battery backup and will continue to operate through power cuts; however batteries may fail if the interruption is lengthy.

You should weigh up your personal circumstances and decide what option is best for you; if you have a secondary way of contacting emergency services (such as good mobile reception), then it can be a much cheaper alternative to fixed line rentals.

VoIP service providers must allow you to register your address against your number for emergency calls and security systems, so if you do decide to change, then ‘999’ should still work. As VoIP numbers may be used on any internet connection, if you ever move, remember to update the address on the account for the emergency services!

Can I use your service for video-conferencing or online games?2018-08-26T16:51:43+01:00

Yes. The typical latency of our network – i.e. the time taken for a ping to travel to and return from an internet site – is 20-30 milliseconds (ms).

This is as good as or better than most DSL services and it is much better than the latency of a satellite system. A low latency combined with good upload speeds means that applications which generate a lot of two way traffic will seem much more responsive. This includes video-conferencing, online games and VoIP services.

Making best use of your quota2020-02-12T22:52:08+00:00

Borders Online uses a usage quota system to manage our resources. For more information on how best to manage your connection, please see Making Best Use of your Borders Online quota

Sky Q, Sonos and other ‘mesh’ services2020-03-30T10:07:03+01:00

Sky-Q, Sonos and some other devices have their own built in WiFi network that allows them to ‘mesh’ together, so one device can pass media to another, without having to use your local home network or cables.

Sounds good on paper.

The reality, is that they do this by using a private WiFi network, usually in the 5Ghz range. Until recently, many WiFi devices used 2.4Ghz frequencies, so this private network was pretty much out of the way. Since around 2016, most new devices (tablets, phones, laptops etc) now come with ‘dual band’ WiFi adapters – meaning they can use 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz frequencies, so the possibility of interference is much more likely.

Sky-Q is the main problem here – by default, Sky set up their Sky-Q boxes to use the full 80Mhz of available spectrum for indoor use in the 5Ghz range. So if your home WiFi router is dual band, and your iPad opts to use 5Ghz for it’s connection, then either your internet connection will be affected, or the Sky-Q boxes won’t work properly / disconnect. Either way, this usually results in a support call to us to say the internet isn’t working, or Sky-Q isn’t working properly and it was before.

With all these technologies, frequencies are limited; consider an analogy of walkie-talkies, if a pair of people are having a long conversation on a channel, nobody else can use it. Scale that up to streaming video to multiple rooms, and suddenly Sky-Q has stopped access to the internet via 5GHz WiFi in your house.

The advice:

  • Where possible, use network cables to connect fixed devices. TVs and Sky boxes rarely move much, so run a cable from the router to them and disable their WiFi. If you can’t easily run cables, look at things like Power Line ethernet to use the ring mains instead of WiFi.
  • If you really need to let these devices use WiFi to communicate between themselves, then check the settings for them; see if you can limit or control how much frequency (or channel width) they use. For the Sky-Q case, you need to talk to Sky and ask them to change your Sky-Q boxes so they only use a 40Mhz channel – which then leaves the other 40Mhz free for your normal WiFi to work properly.