Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country

Here follows from my previous post, Health Issues when Living Abroad, reason #1 for selling. So reason #2; the inability of having proper telephone/fax services, and toll free numbers.

A professional business requires good, dependable, and affordable telecommunication services. And all better if they can provide toll free numbers from USA & Canada.

Phone/internet service in Belize is provided by Belize Telemedia Ltd. (BTL), and in many areas there are not even any services, including cell phone signal. BTL is the exclusive telecommunication provider of Belize, and when a business has a monopoly it is usually not economically wise for the people of the country. Competition brings controlled regulations, openness, quality of services and competitive prices. So in the case of BTL, they can do, and charge, whatever they want. BTL long distance rates are currently some of the highest in the world. Depending on the time of day and the plan you are on, calling to the USA cost between .43¢ to $1.26 per minute. Calling to Canada between .25¢ to $1.08 and to the UK between .35¢ to $1.59. That is one issue that greatly affect doing business in Belize, or in any similar countries, making it difficult and sometimes not viable.

But when you are off-grid and have a reliable internet access, there are several good options such as Skype or Gizmo, and new technology like Magic Jack. Most of them work quite well, but obviously, not like a good old land line! We have experienced a few and are using Skype full time. Here are some things that you are able to do:

-Skype to Skype chat (type and voice). As long as both parties have downloaded Skype, this service is free, in real time, and very reliable. This would be the best quality.

-Video/webcam chat

-Incoming phone call/number. You can currently choose a phone number from 21 countries. When someone calls you, they are actually calling the country of your number and it rings on your computer wherever you are in the world. In our case, in the middle of the Belize jungle!

-Conference calling. Once with a relative in Abu Dhabi (UAE) and 2 in Calgary we had a conference Skype voice chat with web cams where we could all see each other. Trish in the UAE carried her laptop around and gave us a tour of her house! It was awesome, and free!

-Land Line Calling. This feature allows you to call any landline (or mobile phone) in the world, from your computer, at very affordable rates. The rate is based on where you are calling, not where you are calling from. The plan we are on cost US $3.00 per month and provides unlimited calls to USA and Canada. Calling the UK cost a mere .02¢ per minute! Unfortunately this service can sometimes be spotty and really depends on your internet connection speed and quality. I believe there can be factors on the land line end that also affect the quality.


2 samples of a Skype window

Those are just a few things you can do. There are many more features available. One downside is that toll free numbers are not available.

Unfortunately, those that get their internet connection through BTL are unable to use most of those VoIP services as they have been blocked. So in addition to charging horrendous amounts of money, they also stop you from other amazing, more affordable, options. There are many other countries, such as the UAE and China that block those VoIP services. If that isn’t a form of dictatorship, I don’t know what is!

So Skype through satellite internet is awesome to talk with friends and family! For business, unless those you are communicating with are colleagues that already know you and your business, it can work okay. But unfortunately it is not suitable for conducting business dealings with unfamiliar people and building new contacts as there is a slight delay in the transmission. Similar to a VHF radio, only one person can talk at a time, otherwise it disrupts the connection and neither person will be able to fully hear what the other one is saying. So when you’re talking to that person with whom it is already tough to get a word in, this makes it even more difficult!

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
5 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
6 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
7 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
8 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
9 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
10 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
11 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
12 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

Solar Panels Placement & Sun Chart Creator

When designing your solar system, there’s a very important factor that should not be omitted, as it can very well make or break the amount of electricity you are capable of producing. It is to figure out the best placement of your solar panels/arrays for maximum performance. Finding out which direction and angle your panels must face will allow you to determine where to locate them, and then you will be ready to decide the type of mount you will need; roof, fixed mount, tracking mount etc.

Making your own sun chart is quite easy and fun. The website I use is by Jürgen Giesen and has great user-friendly tools.

All you have to do is enter your location data, mainly your coordinates (you can obtain your coordinates from a GPS, an Atlas or I believe even from Google Earth), and it creates an easy to read sun map with key information such as the number of hours of sunshine, its intensity etc.

Sun Map for June 24, 2008
Click here to enlarge

Sun Map for December 24, 2008
Click here to enlarge

Above are two charts for my situation, located in the Cayo District of Belize (17º N – 88º W, just North of the equator). I created a chart for June and one for December. With these results I was able to conclude that I needed for my panels to be able to do a full tilt and or swivel since the sun is slightly north in the summer and quite south in the winter.

For the end result, our solar panels are on fixed (bolted in concrete) ‘Belize custom made’ steel tri-pod style base mount with a rack that holds 6 panels and has a manual crank mechanism that allows us to tilt to a 90 degree angle and rotate 365 degrees. In North America, your solar array will be facing toward the southern half of the hemisphere at all times of the year.


Another important factor that will affect the efficacy of your charging power is obstructions. When orienting solar panels, it is a bit like orienting your dish for TV or Internet Satellite; you don’t want anything in their way like branches, buildings, trees, mountains… So that is why our solar system is set up in our 3 acre orchard. It is also important that your solar panels are accessible for cleaning. If your panels are tilted at about 45 degrees or more and it rains once in a while, it’s not too much of an issue. But if your panels are flat mounted, dirt will accumulate and build up far easier.

These are just some of the basic things that need to be considered when setting up a solar system. With some research and talking to your local alternative energy supplier or someone with an existing system, you will be able to obtain more insight on the do’s and dont’s of solar.

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
5 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
6 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
7 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
8 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
9 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
10 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
11 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
12 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle

Belize has a variety of Mennonite settlements spread throughout the country. Each of the communities vary in the degrees of strictness and live a slightly, to very different lifestyle, from the way of the 1900s to modern as in today’s technology and lifestyle. All have retained their unique dialect of an amalgamation of Dutch and/or German. Most Mennonite communities support their own rigorous school system and elect their own leaders.

One of the largest communities is the well known Spanish Lookout located on the north side of the Belize river in the Cayo District, approximately 10 miles from San Ignacio. Excellent business people, they are very prosperous providing much of the country (sometimes all) with an array of products and services. When building in Belize you will get acquainted with them very quickly. You can purchase almost everything you need from appliances, furniture, farm equipment, tools, hardware and accessories, electrical and plumbing supplies to groceries. One store, the Farmers Trading Centre (known as FTC), is of the same principle as superstore where you can get it all.

AERIAL VIEW OF SPANISH LOOKOUT


Photo copyright John Banman

This community also has many producing industries from dairy (cheeses, ice cream, milk…), to livestock, poultry, agricultural, beautiful wood furniture, all types of windows and doors which can be custom ordered.

The Spanish Lookout community is sweetly nicknamed the ‘Mechanites” as their lifestyle is very similar to ours in the fact that they use electricity, drive vehicles and use all mechanical equipments.

There are several Mennonite communities in Belize, two being at Barton Creek. Even those two differ enough in their way of life to be described separately. There is Lower Barton Creek, located nearer the Western Highway and Upper Barton Creek, located in the remote area of Barton Creek. This settlement can also be referred to as “Amish” as their lifestyle and beliefs are very similar; strict and conservative.

The population of the Upper Barton Creek Mennonite settlement is approximately 350, which includes Greenfield who together form one community. By the age of 40, most married couples generally have an average of 10 children per family.

They are quiet and peaceful people who live off the land. The Barton Creek community produces a large amount of the vegetables you find at the outdoor market in San Ignacio. Each family works very hard for the community and for themselves. They make their own clothes (the men in dark bib-trousers, long sleeved shirts, suspenders, and straw hats and the women in conservative pioneer style long dresses and bonnets), collect their food from the land, harvest honey, raise cattle, goats, pigs, and chickens for meat and eggs. Also produce butter and cream, make their own laundry soap and so much more. Canning is also very important as they do not have refrigeration. Monday is my day to visit, along with my dog Cluso, we do our weekly shopping for eggs and veggies. I also get the purest (totally organic) and most delicious butter, honey and peanut butter!

Their mode of transportation is still the horse & wagon.

There is nothing more soothing then laying in bed waking up slowly and hearing the horses & wagons go by… now this is the only kind of traffic that I find very pleasant! Sunday is their day of worship and the entire community gathers at the village church. On their way to church early in the morning, many of the families sing as they ride by and that is also a beautiful sound to wake up to!

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
5 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
6 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
7 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
8 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
9 ~ Living in Paradise! But… Where Is It?
10 ~ Solar Panels Placement & Sun Chart Creator
11 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
12 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access

This blog can be written in only 6 words; Go see Harry in Spanish Lookout!

Ok, maybe I can elaborate a bit more on this internet access!

There are not too many installers in Belize, or in any other undeveloped 3rd world countries! So your first step is to locate them and find out what brand, system, equipment and provider they carry. They might only carry one, so your choice will probably have been made for you! Our choices were between different sizes of Hughes satellite dish and modems. As technology improves so rapidly we went for the latest model which was the HN7000S modem with a .94m dish.

The installation of the dish is most important. It is attach to the roof so it has to be done professionally. Once installed, it must be precisely aligned and secured to the proper satellite. We had Harry and his brother do it all. Both of them on the roof, one at the dish and the other one sitting down with his laptop. In no time they had homed in to the satellite and secured the dish. That was in November 2006 and we’ve never had any major problems since. When the rain is really intense you may lose connections, but it is for a short amount of time and very rare.

The speed is totally acceptable. There are 2 type of speeds; Download (to receive data) and Upload (to send data). Here are some speed comparisons:

Dial Up: Download – 40 Kbps to 48 Kbps / Upload – 36 Kbps
Cable: Download – 4 Mbps to 15 Mbps / Upload – 384 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps
DSL: Download – 768 Kbps to 6 Mbps / Upload – 128 Kbps to 768 Kbps
Satellite: Download – 512 Kbps to 1 Mbps / Upload – 128 Kbps to 256 Kbps

Through our provider, Hughes.net in the USA, we subscribe to the middle package which gives us a speed of : Download – 800 Kbps to 1 Mbps / Upload – 200 Kbps to 256 Kbps.

This speed is sufficient for our usage requirements. At most and at the same time, we had 4 computers working on the internet with one connected to Skype making phone calls to the USA and getting a clear connection. The connection through Skype is not always clear, but Skype to Skype calls are usually far better. Skype to land line or cell phone sometimes has delays and tends to break up or off. But overall, it is acceptable enough when chatting with friends and family. To conduct business it is not the best. But for the fact of being in the middle of the jungle and being able to phone home is quite amazing and fun!

And prices for both connection and call rates through a VOIP provider is much cheaper than the local phone company, and more often than not, more reliable.

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
5 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
6 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
7 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
8 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
9 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
10 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
11 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
12 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

 

Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!

The first time you sat at a computer, it was somewhat confusing and a bit intimidating. Then you started and were amazed at how easy it really was. It shows you have a logical mind, which is all you need!

Solar energy stored in large deep cycling marine batteries is the way we chose to do it. Your system starts with solar panels, which will collect the energy from the sun. Through electrical wires, this energy is carried to the batteries and stored. By connecting an inverter to the batteries, the stored energy is converted from DC to AC power and then sent to the house standard breaker box.

Here are the 7 things you need to be able to answer (and my answers);

1- 12v, 24v or 48v System (my system is 24v)

2- Load calculation, decide what electrical items you want or need. You will need to consider not only usage but surge and phantom loads as well. (we bought a “Kill-O-Watt” meter and tested everything)

3- Then, how much total Watt/Amp do I need to generate (in perfect conditions, we produce 2,400 watts per hour with twenty-four 100 Watts panels)

4- How many batteries, and which type, to store the energy I need (have twenty-four 12v/200ah deep cycle marine batteries)

5- Inverter type & size (Two Outback VFX3524)

6- Charge controller or not? (Started without, then had one for a short period, and now don’t)

7- Breaker boxes (for house, power shed, and garage if have one) (standard readily available boxes)

Depending on your location, many Alternative energy stores can do your installation for you.

Now, there’s a 7th thing you’ll need… an expert consultant! Make sure that wherever you purchase your components, they also offer tech support (unless you have someone personally). This support can be via email, but better yet through an online forum or group.

The Outback inverter works awesome. If you get this type of inverter, ‘make sure’ you also get the ‘Mate’. Without it you cannot change the settings of the inverter. The Mate also gives you cool and ‘must have’ info like battery reading, load currently in use, and other very useful info.

Once you have an answer to those 7 questions, then its homework time. Some resources to do your research are;

-Good old fashion magazine to read when lounging in bed!

-The internet, which goes without saying!

-Store catalogs, but those who also include informative sections. There are two excellent catalogs that have been a tremendous help; Backwoods Solar Electric Systems in Idaho and EA Energy Alternatives Ltd in Victoria, Canada.

-Online forums and groups. Read and follow several of them for a while before joining one. This way you get the feel of which one is more for you and your needs.

-Best of all, find someone who already has a system in place. Seeing a system set up and in operation will give you the clearest picture.

While gathering information online, don’t miss visiting an Alternative Energy Store. Nothing will ever replace in person consultation, and some stores might be able to match internet prices.

I am no expert, but from 1 ½ year ago, when I knew nothing, what I have learned is huge and incredibly rewarding. If you do your homework and ask the right questions, you can do it too!

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle Of Belize
3 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
4 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
5 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
6 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
7 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
8 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
9 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
10 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
11 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
12 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2