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Velvet Wi-Fi has been in the news in Australia as well as in the UK and has been referred to as Uber for Telcos. This startup has come out of Brisbane, which is my home town so it got my interest. Even though the legality of reselling your broadband is a bit of a grey area with many Telcos explicitly prohibiting the practice, I was still keen to see how well the service works.

Velvet it currently in its Beta phase so the service is not perfect but it is constantly being improved and the support from the team is fantastic.

I'm going to split this article up into several parts with each one covering one aspect of Velvet. This first part is about the hardware itself, the next will talk about software setup and the last will go into how well the device stacks up in terms of signal strength and connectivity. I will not go into the monetary side of things as that can range widely from location to location.

The device that Velvet ships is called the Hotshot. Ordering is done online and is a simple process, though I did have some issues with receipts not sending to me but these were quickly resolved. After ordering it took a couple of weeks for my Hotshot to arrive. The device came nicely packaged in a brown box with everything required to get started inside.

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Inside the box was the Hotshot itself, a power supply, a quick start booklet and a card containing the device's password. I was surprised that no Ethernet cable was packaged but as it turns out one is not required. The Hotshot connects to your existing Wi-Fi network wirelessly. The Hotshot has two antennae on either side, these swivel up to let you tweak their position to get the best signal strength.

The instruction booklet folded out and really had just a handful of steps. The design was quite modern and fun but as you'll see in the next part of this article the printed instructions oversimplify the reality of setting up the device. So don't go making a paper plane just yet! Still kudos for the cool instruction booklet, you don't see that too often! I'm sure as Velvet matures this process will get refined.

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So in terms of physically setting up the device there is really not much to do. Just plug it in! When the Hotshot turns on the light on the front is a solid amber, but after a minute or so it turns solid red. Don't be fooled, red in this case means everything is OK. (I would have expected green.)

Now if that seemed too easy, I did skip over a week worth of time where my Hotshot had to be sent back because I managed to brick it! Oops! It turned out that my Hotshot had older software that conflicted with my home network and after failing to get it to work I decided to start over push in the Reset button. Bad decision. The Reset button wiped all of the Hotshot software! So don't try to be smart, don't press the reset button. After the Hotshot was returned back to me I noticed that the Reset button was covered with a red sticker. Any newly shipped Hotshots should have the latest software so this shouldn't be a problem in the future.

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What about that USB port and the other Ethernet ports? Well they're more or less useless at the moment though I am told that there are future plans to make the Hotshot able to connect to your router via the Ethernet port. For now you can just ignore them and that's a good thing really. Not using Ethernet also means that you can position your Hotshot in the best possible place to give the best signal to users you want to sell to.

So that's about it for the hardware. Stay tuned for the next part that will talk about the software setup side of Velvet and the Hotshot device.

Update: Part 2 is now online, go over and read it now.


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About — I'm an enthusiastic software engineer and consultant interested in many fields including J2EE, programming, electronics, 3D printing, video games, wood working and gardening.
See my Resume for more information.
The views expressed in this blog are my own and not those of my employer.
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