A new co-working space in London has revealed that it used 4G dongles to provide start-ups with an internet connection while waiting for a broadband connection to be set up.  

Oli Johnson, head of the Rainmaking Loft start-up hub at St Katherine’s Docks next to the Tower of London, told Techworld that he decided to use the dongles just after the Tesco-backed co-working space opened in July with 10 people working across three businesses.  

The Icelandic entrepreneur said he came up with the dongle solution when he realised that it would take 10 weeks for a broadband connection to be established in the start-up hub. 

"We went to through Daisy Plc because everyone had told me that BT was very difficult to deal with," said Johnson. "[We did this] not knowing that the small provider we went through led into a much larger conglomerate that then used BT as a service provider to install the equipment. So we actually just added a few steps to the process."

Johnson initially installed two of EE’s Alcatel Y800 Mobile Wi-Fi dongles, which were free on a £20.99 monthly subscription with 5GB of data. He said he went on to add three more pay-as-you-go dongles as more start-ups moved in, adding that the pay-as-you-go option, which costs £49.99 up front and wasn’t available at first, worked out cheaper at £7.50 per GB.

“You just hook it up to electricity and turn it on,” said Johnson in reference to the dongles. “We chose EE because they were the only ones that had 4G at the time.”  

Johnson said he was forced to use 4G dongles because start-ups can't work without an internet connection.

“BT was really, really slow at getting their act together,” said Johnson. “It took an engineer 30 seconds to see that we had a line installed. Call it like an hour with commute and all the rest of it. That took six weeks to establish.

“Ten weeks after I first contacted BT, it took three different guys over the course of two different days. So one from the service provider, one from BT and then another from BT’s station somewhere who tested the signal.”

The Rainmaking Loft was able to run off the dongles when it first opened because there were only a handful of start-ups in the space.

“It wouldn’t be very efficient to run the space off 4G dongles anymore,” said Johnson. “Right now we’re probably on 120GBs per week here. That’s with more people and faster internet. People are downloading and sharing which they weren’t doing on the dongles.”

However, Johnson still keeps the dongles on standby in case of any broadband issues. “They’re worth having around because in this day and age things cock up,” he said.

Earlier this year another London-based entrepreneur criticised how long it takes BT to connect new businesses to the internet in the capital.