First Ewhurst FTTC Service is Live

We have just heard that BT managed to connect the first Ewhurst FTTC VDSL service yesterday, just meeting the unofficial October target. The house in Cranleigh Road is close to cabinet 19, so is expected to achieve the top speeds available on the service selected; that is 38 Mbps download and 9.5 Mbps upload. We have not yet confirmed which ISP was chosen, and this would not affect the “headline” speeds, but the choice of ISP will make a difference to “contention” at busy periods, to costs, and to support call handling. If, for example, this resident chose the low cost Plusnet standard “fibre” service then they will be paying £16.49 per month plus line rental. Plusnet “extra fibre” will offer a maximum of 76 Mbps download and 19 Mbps upload on short lines, with a much higher usage allowance, costing £19.99 per month plus line rental. Plusnet normally charge up to £50 for installation, but deals are currently available, on 18 month contract. Please read updated information on upgrading to FTTC and choosing an ISP here. Read Walter’s report here. The connection speed may vary over the first 10 days and should settle after that. Walter plans to monitor this connection and publish the results here, so please track the comments to follow the story.

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25 Responses to First Ewhurst FTTC Service is Live

  1. We had lots of broadband issues yesterday with the ADSL service cutting out at times and also dropping to a very low (~0.5Mbs) download speed. This was happening from around midday, through to about 6:00pm. We are on cabinet 20 – could the installation at cabinet 19 cause such issues?

  2. David Nye says:

    I believe that there are links between those two cabinets, so I guess it’s possible. My current intermittent fault started while an engineer was working on cabinet 19, but I am on 18! But then in both cases it’s also possible that another engineer was working unnoticed on lines adjacent to ours. One thing we do know is that VDSL services interfere with adjacent ADSL services, as mentioned in the informative article on VDSL and UDSL at http://www.ictregulationtoolkit.org/en/section.1925.html – this is yet another reason why many consider FTTC to be a terrible “mistake”, since as usage increases, interference must also increase and thus performance overall must decrease. FTTP/FTTH completely eliminates all interference issues. But if Mark’s issue was temporary then this is not likely to be the culprit. A technical article on the crosstalk issues can be found at:
    http://www.analog.com/library/analogDialogue/archives/34-05/vdsl/

  3. David Nye says:

    My office ADSL connection dropped at 12:40 today. After a few minutes I checked the modem/router and discovered it had “crashed” (i.e. unresponsive), so cycled the power to reboot it. The connection then came back at 12:58. No audible noise on the line, so I assume this was caused by engineering work. This 2wire modem/router has been crashing much more frequently since FTTC was activated at cabinets 19 and 20. It seems possible that some people will be forced to upgrade from ADSL to VDSL just to regain the connection stability they had before! Note that one big advantage of FTTC over ADSL is that faults in the metallic cables between the exchange and the cabinet will no longer affect broadband connections. This might include flooding of the pit near the pumping station, for example.

  4. David Nye says:

    At 15:20 Mike informed me that cabinet 18 FTTC is “live”, so it seems very likely that this activation caused my outage earlier (see above). I had already prepared a short-list of ISPs to try: Plusnet, Zen, ADSL24, Eclipse and BT. Zen might have been first (being my current ISP), in spite of the higher cost, if they had not told Walter that they refuse estimates below 5Mbps (mine is 4.6!) and if they did not cap uploads on their standard product at 1.9Mbps. BT came last because of their reputation for appalling customer service and for treating those on long lines as second rate citizens; but made the list due to price, up to 9.5Mbps uploads and the £50 Sainsbury voucher!

    So, I visited Plusnet web site and was immediately offered “live chat”; under the circumstances that seemed like a good idea, so accepted. Unfortunately the sales muppet, who I suspect was overseas, was worse than useless. She insisted on having my address rather than phone number, and politely broke the news that fibre is not available in my area. I checked the Plusnet checker myself, and asked which she was using; she apologised that she had used the BT Infinity checker (which has a 15Mpbs threshold)! I completed the feedback form accordingly and went back to entering my order.

    Plusnet’s online system was happy to accept my phone number, so I got no further down my short-list. I was expecting to pay an activation fee, but happily this was waived apart from £5 for delivery of the included router. The low Plusnet monthly fee seems to be partly thanks to insisting on taking over line rental as well. So, on the down side I discovered that I now have to pay extra for “caller ID” and “call minder” services; I did not consider that when short-listing, but decided I can manage without call minder and use the basic answering service included instead. A dedicated IP address is also an optional extra, but that’s standard for low cost packages. I was pleased to find out that prioritised traffic is also available as an add-on (“Plusnet Pro”), which should provide relief if contention ever becomes a headache.

    I was asked for three preferred installation dates, the earliest being 16th November, but this will clearly be put back once they actually try to book an engineer. I was then asked for credit card details for the up front element (including first month charges) and bank details to set up a direct debit for the monthly payment; opting to pay this by card would have added £1.50 per month.

    I saved the ordering screen (by printing to a PDF document) at every step in case of later disputes. Plusnet rounded down my speed estimate to 4 Mbps and told me that if I actually get less than this after the 10 day “training” period then I can cancel at no charge.

    I did not have to provide my MAC code at this stage, but apparently you do with some ISPs. I’ll need to phone that in asap. Overall, apart from my mistake in thinking the “live sales chat” might be helpful, it was an efficient online ordering experience. Confirmation emails have started to roll in, so now I just need to wait and see how it works out.

    P.S. one more thing; unfortunately I did not have an existing Plusnet user name to hand when placing my order. Please will others either take advantage of the cashback offer or quote the Plusnet username of the person who recommended Plusnet when placing their order. Many thanks!

  5. Walter says:

    Congratulations David,

    At least for placing an order !

    I assume you saw the line rental reduction bit:-

    … £9.49 (only available online) if you pay a year in advance.

    Kind regards,
    Walter

  6. David Nye says:

    Yes, I took advantage of that. Andrew has also pointed out that you may be able to get £28 cashback instead of using the referral scheme, see http://www.quidco.com/plusnet/

  7. My BT engineer has just left following no more than 30 minutes at my premises – he had called earlier to say my line would go off for a few minutes and he would be there soon after that. I am allegedly the second person to be connected to cabinet 20.

    According to his equipment I should get a full 80Mbps download and 20Mbps upload. A little more than what BT suggested when I placed the order (60/19). Time will tell. He wanted to demonstrate how fast the service was so we went to BBC iPlayer and started to view “Space Dive” in full HD. It started instantly but what was really impressive was jumping to 3/4 through the programme and having instant playback with no buffering whatsoever! Although some speed testing sites show a fairly erratic graph I just measured ~65/18 using speedtest.net.

    In terms of cost, all I can say is I am paying less than any of the advertised deals from most ISPs I have looked at. I did not place an online order but called the (UK) sales line and negotiated!

    As you can tell, I am very excited by all this…

    Walter, if you are interested in monitoring my service then you are more than welcome.

  8. Walter says:

    We are delighted to report that there are already a number of VDSL connections now active in the central area and are performing to their specified maximum speeds with line lengths in the low hundreds of metres. You may recall that the cheaper VDSL options are limited to just under 40 Mbps downstream and 10 mbps upstream, whereas the premium rate services are still limited, but to just under 78 mbps down and 20 Mbps up.

    Those that are happy with these warm feelings may walk away contented !

    Those of you with a more inquisitive technical nature might like to observe matters in more detail. We must stress that all the services we are yet aware of are performing quite satisfactorily at their maximum synchronisation speeds, as there are safety margins applied to VDSL technology. However we are mildly concerned that even a line of only around 170 metres can and does have some noise problems which we are now investigating. Note that there is plenty of spare capacity at these short distances, but longer lines are very likely to have more difficulties.

    The following data has been deliberately hidden in standard BT Openreach modems but we have substituted an unlocked one just for test purposes. The delivered modem is disconnected beforehand so is in no way affected and will be restored after the analysis.

    The following link contains this entire article and graphs in PDF format.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/112488931

    ________________________________________________________
    ( @ Mark K, We will be delighted to do so in due course when time and resources permit.)

  9. David Nye says:

    Zen finally got around to supplying my MAC migration code this afternoon, about 24 hours before the regulatory deadline, so I phoned the Plusnet freephone number to pass it on. I was greeted by a recording apologising for the technical problems currently affecting “most” of their broadband customers!!! Then another apologising for delays in order processing due to demand, then a third recording repeating the first one but horribly distorted. I was actually quite relieved to finally get to the music while queuing, which was mercifully short. Anyway, they are now able to process my order, but have not exactly inspired confidence.

  10. Walter says:

    Now to add to our woes I have a report today of an order placed by Plusnet on BT Openreach today 8 November for 22nd November, only to be told that December 10th IS THE EARLIEST AVAILABLE DATE they can manage !!!!!!!!

    As this is now beyond the 30 day expiration period for MACs, we shall have to watch the ordering process very carefully.

    Happy (or unhappy) Christmas David ?

  11. Walter says:

    Some progress is to be reported today for cabinet 19, as a BT VDSL service at the far end of Mapledrakes Road has been commissioned 10 days EARLY. It is a lower speed service which seems to provide the full capped speeds Cabinet 19 now has 9 services connected although sadly we are only aware of three of those with a further three to come. This is the tie cable termination “French Onion string” today

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/112705542

    An unknown service was also being commissioned this afternoon from cabinet 20 too.

    It would be most helpful if all who are obtaining the new VDSL services could provide their details (in confidence) so we can assess the various cable performances to help rectify any poor ones.

  12. Walter says:

    There is an interesting article here on FTTC fibre broadband which includes a link to an out of date BT document. It’s interesting to note that there’s little mention of line quality and none upon the dreaded aluminium.

    http://br0kent3l3ph0n3.wordpress.com/

    Kind regards,
    Walter

  13. Walter says:

    We have been monitoring the performance of a new VDSL service at the far end of Mapledrakes Road towards The Glebe. The distance measured on the SCC interactive mapping application show an estimated line length of 800 m, but perhaps 10% should be added for cable loops and joints etc giving 880 m. The BT Wholesale estimator gave a download figure of 40.6 Mbps and Upload of 6.5 Mbps. The resident luckily had only ordered the standard 40 mbps / 10 Mbps service which has produced the BT Speed tester download throughput figure of 33.56 Mbps and Upload 9.25 Mbps.

    These figures are substantially better than those obtained when connected to the exchange of 3.6 Mbps and 0.75 Mbps. However they are a far cry from the “Up to 80 Mbps” figures mentioned in some advertisements and even worse if you hope to match Peter Cochrane’s (Former BT CTO) recommended symmetric 100 Mbps speeds. Assuming that these are average figures for lines of up to say 900m, it follows that such services will be adequate for domestic use in the short to medium term, but it does indicate that full Fibre-To-the-Premises should be started quite soon.

    We will soon be reporting the performance of much longer lines where there is likely to be far more cause for concern.

  14. David Nye says:

    On Saturday Plusnet sent me my installation date of 19th December! This will be after expiry of my MAC key, so I have asked them if this might cause a problem. The notification of installation date included the following puzzling paragraph: “When the engineer completes the work you may not experience fibre speeds straight away. This is because we need to manually adjust your speed profile when the order completes, so the change should be effective within 48 hours. Please be patient with us whilst we do this for you.”

  15. David Nye says:

    I received the following reply from Plusnet:
    “I can confirm that your MAC key has now been used. This means that it will not expire prior to the engineer visit. Regarding the delay. All fibre providers (apart from Virgin) use BT Openreach engineers. Now there are more providers we are all attempting to book the same engineers. When it was only ourselves and BT supplying fibre the engineer visit times were much shorter. Also during the Olympics BT have upgraded a massive amount of lines making the demand for fibre much higher. The BT fibre website states “We’re using £2.5 billion committed by BT Group to make superfast fibre broadband available to two-thirds of the homes in Britain by 2014.” We would like all customers to be moved to fibre as soon as possible as it is much faster and much more stable.”

  16. So after a week with my new VDSL I am still very happy although its interesting how slow some websites and cloud based services are…

    By far and away the biggest benefit is that my o2 Boostbox now works perfectly and I can have crystal clear mobile calls regardless of other internet activity. Previously, it would drop calls without warning even when an email was arriving!

    Just took these readings using the BTW site: 73.21 download and 15.49 upload.

  17. Walter says:

    Weekly news updates to 17 November 2012

    Rather than spread the news over several different topics I thought I would try a combined piece.

    Cabinet 18

    Today, Friday 16, at long last, I saw the Cabinet 18 telemetry cable being installed. There were some choice comments upon the idea of breaking the hardened cable seals on the duct ends just to introduce the 5 pr cable using yet another site visit by contractors, when it would have been so easy to run all the cables together. I also observed that there isn’t a single VDSL service connected yet despite the cabinet being ready for service on 2nd November. It is quite apparent that there are insufficient teams available to commission VDSL services as we now have bookings right up to December 19 and I’m aware of a number more in the process of ordering services.

    Cabinet 19

    As I don’t know of all installations it is probable that more have happened over the last few days. We were monitoring a very short fast (80 / 20 Mbps) cabinet 19 connection at under 200 m in Cranleigh Road which is providing good throughput speeds close to the maximum but even that had some noise on lower frequencies. However on such a short line it did not upset speeds to any real extent. We then monitored a 40 / 10 Mbps connection of 940 m length at the northern end of Mapledrakes Road. The line still synchronises at the maximum of 39.99 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up, but there was so much line noise that the higher frequency band was dropped leaving just two bands. As it was so poor the Dynamic Line Management system applied interleaving to a depth of just under 600. This technique improves the data transport reliability but at the expense of throughput speed. (See http://www.kitz.co.uk/adsl/interleaving.htm ). A BT speed test resulted only in a download throughput of 31.77 Mbps but the upload remains good at 9.47 Mbps. As is to be expected after the lamentable speeds so far from the exchange, the end user seems quite content for the time being. However there are serious concerns over future sustainability as there is every chance of some deterioration even though internet traffic demand is rising very rapidly indeed. It follows that fibre to the home will become ever more vital.

    Cabinet 20

    There seem to be about 10 services active by Thursday 15 th this week. A TalkTalk service was commissioned in central Coneyhurst Lane producing a throughput speed of around 14 Mbps down and 0.6 Mbps up despite the estimate of 18 Mbps. Sadly the comments above apply here too. Another BT service at the far end of Wykehurst Lane was estimated at 17.8 Mbps down and 3.8 Mbps up. The modem managed 25 mbps down and nearly 10 Mbps up; these figures are very disappointing for a line of around 1.5 Km from the cabinet. Yet again sustainability is a worrying concern. Another VDSL service on Ride Way achieves quite good speeds for a long line at 23.88 Mbps down and is currently capped at 2.06 Mbps up, although we are hoping to increase the upload to about 5 Mbps by removing the cap. The most worrying VDSL service so far is one on the infamous Peaslake Road where the downstream is a derisory 8.9 Mbps down and 0.6 Mbps up.

    Other comments

    We had an earlier query from a Sky user who was told VDSL services were not available even though they obviously are. As Sky and TalkTalk have their own (Unbundled) equipment in the exchange they will probably continue to use their own back-haul from the exchange. In Sky’s case it might be that the Ethernet access cable is yet to be installed. As VDSL services share the same backhaul with earlier services, speeds may drop at peak times due to contention, even thought the link to Cranleigh still has sufficient capacity.

    Finally may I make a strong plea for all to inform us of new VDSL Fibre connections and the performances achieved. It is only with comprehensive data can we tell if a particular service is under-performing and whether BT Openreach should be asked to investigate a faulty line.

  18. David Nye says:

    I did try to push Plusnet for an earlier date. Initially I was told that there was an available slot tomorrow! But when they tried to confirm it with BT/O they were told that 19th December is still the earliest now available. They did not offer any explanation as to why BT Infinity installations appear to get much earlier dates, but I wonder if that slot tomorrow was taken by one. If I had time I would collect some firm evidence and take it to Ofcom.

  19. David Nye says:

    I just looked at a couple of the broadband comparison sites approved by Ofcom at http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/price-comparison/ – neither of them seem to think that fibre broadband is available for GU6 7SW. Maybe they apply a 15Mbps threshold, or maybe not yet updated?

  20. A client of mine had his BT Infinity service installed yesterday and although it went quite smoothly when the engineer looked at my client’s laptop, the only PC in the house, he was told that it could not be used with Infinity!!!

    The engineer basically told him that he would need a new laptop as his wireless connectivity was incompatible with Infinity and the Home Hub 3. When my client called me this morning I told him not too worry as I knew his laptop had quite an old wireless adapter that did not support WPA security (standard setting on the HH3). It was a very simple matter to log into the Hub and re-configure the security to WEP. Client was delighted and relieved.

    I am pretty sure that a call or visit to a high-street PC dealer would have resulted in a new laptop…

    It is worth bearing in mind that using wireless connectivity may not give you the best performance from your new VDSL service. One aspect to bear in mind is the strength of your wireless signal, the other is the speed that the adapter can support. In this case the client’s adapter will only support 11Mbps. Many will support 54Mbps and all the latest adapters should support over 100Mbps. If your adapter is one of the older slower ones then all is not lost as this can be replaced on either a laptop or PC at a very reasonable cost. Wireless signals can also be extended very reliably throughout the home and even to outbuildings. I am obviously very happy to advise and supply all the necessary components if required.

  21. David Nye says:

    My installation has just been completed on schedule, with no problems. The time slot I was given was 8am-1pm. By 12:40, when the engineer finally telephoned, I was getting rather anxious. But in the event it all went smoothly, and despite Plusnet advice to the contrary, I was enjoying the improved speed on my PC before the engineer left. He was pleasantly surprised, given the long distance to the cabinet (1 mile) and low speed estimate (4.6Mbps). Speed test results are measuring about 3.9Mbps down and 0.4Mbps up. I had been hoping that the estimates would prove conservative, but in fact they were remarkably accurate. However, the upload speed is very disappointing, given the 0.9Mbps estimate, and is hardly better than ADSL on this line. This surprises me, because our other line on ADSL is achieving 0.7Mbps upload. When connecting to customer networks, upstream speeds are just as important as downstream, so I am really hoping something can be done to improve this. But first I need to see how the connection performs over the next few days; things may well change.

    Note that the engineer was also supplied with a minimum acceptable download speed of 2Mbps. I assume this refers to the synch speed rather than the throughput measured by my tests, since his equipment reported my VDSL speed as 4.3Mbps (very close to the 4.6 estimate). I did not ask what he would have done if this minimum was not achieved, but others have reported service being “refused” when a minimum was not achieved.

    In any event, I am still a long way short of the “superfast” speeds of 24Mbps+ promised by Surrey County Council…

  22. David Nye says:

    The speed test results are unchanged this morning, but I am now shown my IP Profile: 4.15 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up. Also, the minimum acceptable downstream speed for the line is 2.9 Mbps.

    The Openreach engineer had been sent down from Manchester to help “clear the backlog”.

    When I said that there were no installation problems; that was from my own point if view. He had been “given the wrong numbers” for the wires in the cabinet, so had to connect a tone generator this end, then go back to find them. It now occurs to me that this might mean that some other line was cut off for a while.

  23. David Nye says:

    Over the next 10 days or so my connection speed was further reduced slightly, presumably as a result of noise/interference/crosstalk, to IP Profile 4.03 and download speed 3.77 Mbps (http://www.speedtester.bt.com). I then tried powering off the modem overnight and this restored results to 4.23/3.95.

    Like many others, I was supplied a Huawei HG612 modem by the engineer, even though Openreach policy is apparently to supply the ECI alternative on Cranleigh lines, since ECI equipment is installed in the cabinets. I have thus “borrowed” an ECI modem for testing, but so far this has made very little difference (4.08/3.82).

  24. Walter says:

    It is known that BT allow cross-connecting of the modems but every other service I have seen in Ewhurst has the ECI one. There are some reports that a Huawei modem on an ECI cabinet performs marginally slower and at slightly different down and up load speeds.

  25. David Nye says:

    At least 3 phone lines in Horsham Road are totally “dead” this morning (Andrew’s and both ours), taking out ADSL broadband services with them… BUT my FTTC “fibre” broadband service is performing as usual (Andrew’s is due tobe installed on 30th, also Plusnet). Andrew reports that BT vans are in the village and the manhole at cabinet 19 is open (and unprotected).

    We guess this means that there is a problem in the copper cables between Cranleigh and Ewhurst.

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