Just another quick speed test – at 7:30pm on a Friday evening.
Very impressive – this is pretty much the maximum throughput available on a line synced at 100Mbps.
Just another quick speed test – at 7:30pm on a Friday evening.
Very impressive – this is pretty much the maximum throughput available on a line synced at 100Mbps.
Finally, my phone line is actually ‘maxed out’. I’m hitting the 6dB target SNR now, which has never happened on my line before. Sadly it means I am 0.08Mbps off the 100Mbps sync speed!
The speed test results are actually very impressive. When I was on the 60Mbps service I would usually only get 45-50Mbps on average, so I was sort of expecting the 100Mbps service to scale similarly i.e. a throughput nearer 80Mbps.
The price of the new service is fairly high – £50.99 per month, or £62.98 per month if you bundle it with a phone line. Compared to Gigaclear in the UK, which offers 100/100 FTTH for ~£47, Sure’s service is effectively 30% more expensive, and Gigaclear’s pricing includes VAT!
I am genuinely pleased though that Sure are at least offering this product on the island. At least users now have the opportunity to choose from 4 different product offerings, priced at different levels.
It will be interesting to see what the medium to long term plans are for Sure. In the UK, BT are beginning their roll-out of G.Fast, whilst in Jersey they will have island-wide FTTH (though, I might add, with fairly draconian usage limits).
But in the short term, I’d really like to see some movement on IPv6!
Using the newer HTML5 speedtest.net (beta.speedtest.net) with Sure’s on-island test server, on a Friday evening, with their Superfast Premium Broadband (synced to 60/10).
We’re 83% of the way there – so not bad really. Still, I miss Gigaclear in the UK 🙁
I’ve been getting some unusual readings on my latency monitoring graphs these past 2 days.
I was getting this on Tuesday:
And then I was getting this today:
It’s a mixture of increased latency and, in some cases, moderate packet loss!
I’ve restarted the router and it doesn’t seem to have helped. Looking at the DSL stats, there have been only a small number of FEC events (which is expected – the error correction is simply doing what it’s meant to), and no other stats to indicate line instability (SNR margin sitting at a comfortable 16dB).
So this leads me to a few potential conclusions: There is some upstream issue with Sure’s network; perhaps some sort of DDoS attack against my ip address(?); or perhaps a fault with my router?
I don’t think it’s traffic at my end, since that would involve saturating the connection for long periods of time (I mean, 4 hours at 50Mbps continuously is a 90GB download!). Also the shape of the graph, particularly the top one, makes me quite suspicious (it’s a curve, rather than a distinct block).
After 4 years of Sure’s original VDSL product launch, they have finally launched a new home broadband platform, the oddly named ‘Superfast Premium Broadband’. It offers headline speeds of 60Mbps download and 10Mbps upload. If you opt for the ‘Superfast Premium Pro Broadband’ (seriously, who names these?) then you get the same speed but with a static IP and 10:1 contention, which is the same across all of the ‘Pro’ options.
Here is a speed test done in the evening, with no other devices connected to the network:
First, the upload speeds are right on target. The download speeds are slightly lower than I expected – I imagined around 50-55 Mbps wouldn’t be unreasonable for a 60 Mbps service. After all, on the 40 Mbps service I was getting around 35 Mbps. The maximum transmissions speed I have observed so far is just shy of 50 Mbps when pulling multiple files from different locations. So not slow by any means, but a bit off the advertised figure.
Obviously the usual caveats apply – not least that this test was done during peak time. Also, just to ‘prove’ it’s not the sync speed itself, here is a router screenshot:
Interestingly, my SNR margins are still not maxed out. I have a 16dB margin on the downstream and a fairly large 27dB margin on the upstream. So basically, my line can still go faster if at some point Sure decided to uncap the service.
Another thing I haven’t really talked about is latency. This may be anecdotal, but I’ve noticed a reduction in latency of around 4-5 ms switching to the new service. This may be the new router vs the old one, or it could be a result of the higher upload speeds reducing the amount of (potential) upload congestion.
Overall a good improvement. It’s just a shame very few people will get the maximum speed due to distance constraints, and even fewer will even bother signing up to the service.
From Sure’s news page:
Sure gives notification that it will introduce two new broadband products from the 17th October 2016.
These new products will offer speeds of up to 60MB and will be made available to customers who have line lengths of up to 500m from the exchange or street MSAN.
Well, it’s about time! Finally a speed increase on the VDSL product. It will cost an additional £3 per month for the non-pro service, and an additional £4.99 for the pro option.
The price increase isn’t too bad, all things considered. I’m definitely considering upgrading our connection. It just depends how easy it is to upgrade (hopefully online?).
After waiting and waiting for Fastershire (Gloucestershire’s BDUK arm) to finally roll out super-fast broadband to my area, it was finally confirmed that we would not be receiving mere FTTC from BT, but in fact full FTTH from Gigaclear!
The Gigaclear order was placed all the way back in December 2015, before any of the work had even started. Then in June of this year, Gigaclear’s contractors began to dig up the side of the road to lay the fibre cabling. Finally, at the end of August, we received this package through the post:
The self install kit can be ordered with different cable lengths, ranging from 10 to 50 metres. You can also request even longer lengths up to 100m, but they will charge you for this. Since Gigaclear only bring the fibre cable up to the boundary of your property, they supply the remaining cable for you to bring it into your house.
The pricing options for Gigaclear are not cheap. You have to consider that you are receiving a premium internet connection, and I feel the price reflects this. On top of the monthly price plan, they charge a flat £100 ‘connection fee’ that is mandatory, and then if you don’t choose self install, the installation fee ‘starts from’ £95. So potentially before you’ve even got your internet connection, you’ve spent £200. Most practical people should be able to easily install the service without paying for the installation fee, however, as we did.
The monthly price plans are as follows (all speeds are symmetric):
50 Mbps – £39.90
100 Mbps – £45.25
200 Mbps – £52.45
1 Gbps – £74.00
I opted for the 100 Mbps plan, since it’s fast enough for pretty much everything. A 50 Mbps connection could become limited in the future with 4K video streaming, for example.
Anyway, back to the installation. Within the installation box you receive quite a lot:
There are fairly comprehensive instructions that come with the box, and at no point during the installation was anything unclear.
To begin with, we started at the Gigaclear junction ‘pot’ that had been placed on our boundary verge by the road:
Inside, you will find a smaller black box that contains the actual connection point:
Inside the small black box, you will find this:
Unfortunately when I opened up the black box, it hadn’t been closed properly, and a slug family had decided to move in. I washed both the box and the lid as best as I could, but you can still see some of the remains in the picture! The lid of the box has a rubber seal that fits tightly against the junction box, and the cable entry points have rubber grommets to prevent water (and slug) ingress. Finally a screw is provided to tighten it together.
Inside the junction box, it looks like there may actually be 2 ‘fibres’ in the orange cable. If you look closely there appears to be both a red and green cable coming out of it. It just shows how thin these fibre cables really are once you strip away all of the insulation (and even these cables have a very thin layer of insulation on). Underneath the screw in the picture, there is a long tube – this is where the fibre cable from the ground is spliced to the cable that goes to the blue connector. You then get the thicker red fibre going into the connector, ready for a customer to plug into.
The connector appears to be the ‘SC’ standard. It clipped pretty easily into the one in the junction box.
We started by digging a trench from the box to our boundary wall. The Gigaclear ground ‘pot’ has a hole around 2 inches deep behind the hinge, that allows you to feed the cable through. To protect the cable, we placed it inside some hosepipe tubing for the short distance that it was underground. Once at our wall, we drilled a hole through it, and then the rest of the journey we actually just clipped the cable to the back of the wall with the provided cable clips. Digging through hard earth and gravel is extremely difficult without power tools. Plus, the cable is probably safer above ground level in the event of any digging work being done in the future.
Interestingly, I ordered 50M expecting to only use around 30M of it. However, I ended up using almost the entire length of the cable! So I would definitely advise going longer than necessary – fibre isn’t like copper wire so the difference in length of say 25 vs 50 metres of cable doesn’t matter.
Getting the cable inside was easy, so was installing the ‘base plate’ that the router clips onto. The end of the fibre cable fits snugly inside the base unit, and the router literally slides up and makes contact with it. It was all pretty easy for anyone with basic DIY ability.
The finished router mounted on the wall:
With the installation finished, all that remained was logging on to the internet – you have to enter your address details and Gigaclear customer number first, and then it just worked.
Obligatory speed test result:
Pretty impressive! The low latency is probably the most impressive thing, since I’ve had experience of GPON installations elsewhere that had much higher latency. Gigaclear uses point-to-point fibre, not GPON, so you’re not sharing the fibre cable with anyone else (at least up until the cabinet, anyway).
It’s also worth noting that like many smaller FTTH providers, Gigaclear offers symmetric connection speeds on all of their plans. Even though BT offer FTTH plans in some places of the country, the upload speeds are not symmetric (I believe they offer a 330/30 service).
The supplied router is reasonable, certainly much better than Telefonica Movistar’s one provided in Spain for my FTTH there (it had extremely slow wifi). The Gigaclear router comes with 2×2 MIMO 802.11ac, obviously dual band 2.4/5Ghz. This is certainly reasonable, though really a 3×3 MIMO product would’ve been better, considering they do offer up to 1Gbps connections. It comes with 4 gigabit ethernet ports, as well as 2 telephone jacks (not used – unless the Vonage service uses them – I’m not actually sure).
The router interface is somewhat locked down: it lacks a few key features such as Dynamic DNS, bridging, and the ability for it to respond to ICMP packets externally. It’s adequate, but the power user in me would prefer something a bit more advanced. Sadly you have to use the provided router, and unlike Virgin Media, who allow you to bridge the connection to your own router, Gigaclear don’t offer this without having to pay for it (which is ridiculous – £4.17 per month).
If we consider the price of the connection, I would expect a few more options to be available without charging extra:
Aside from these minor gripes, the connection is otherwise excellent. It does annoy me that I am downgrading my internet connection in some areas, whilst improving it in others. The lack of a dynamic DNS client built into the router is probably the most annoying of the problems. It just means I have to run a client on a computer all the time.
So would I recommend Gigaclear? The answer is absolutely yes. Despite some flaws that won’t effect 99% of people, it delivers a vastly superior connection compared to pretty much anything else out there at the moment.
In the UK, NowTV is the only way to (legally) watch the current season of Game of Thrones, season 6.
NowTV is essentially Sky on Demand, but without the need for a sky TV subscription.
The monthly price isn’t too bad – £6.99 – but there are some serious problems with it
On Mac, you have to use Silverlight. A horrendously outdated, nearly unsupported, Microsoft plug-in, that even Microsoft has discontinued active development for. Even on Windows, you have to use Internet Explorer, since both Chrome and Edge no longer support the Silverlight plug-in.
Even worse, is that they only offer standard definition content! It’s 2016! Netflix are already doing 4k and offer 1080p by default to most browsers. NowTV is still serving up 576p. In Silverlight. It’s farcial quite frankly. When I watched seasons 1-5 of GoT, I did it through iTunes in glorious 1080p. Now that I’m paying monthly for NowTV, I’m getting a grainy SD image. And media execs wonder why people pirate content?!?
However, if you run Windows 10, you can download a Windows App, which does offer HD (720p – so only half as good as Netflix). However I get random error messages trying to play stuff, and it eats up one of your device limits.
Did I mention there is a device limit? YOU ARE LIMITED TO USING ONLY 4 DEVICES. TOTAL. This means, once you hit that hard limit, you have to wait a whole month before you can actually play anything. Every month, they give you a chance to delete and re-add a device. However, if you use the W10 app, and the IE11 silverlight, that actually counts as 2 devices already. Even worse, their system seems to be very buggy. I only have 3 devices on my account, but it isn’t letting me add a 4th, even though I’m meant to be able to. Since I was trying to get the Windows 10 app to work, I actually REINSTALLED WINDOWS to solve the app problem – and hit the device cap. This now means I cannot watch GoT at all. Ah, I thought. I’ll just wait until today (1st June) when it says I will be able to add a new device. Log onto the site – now it says ‘device limit reached – come back 1st July’. – WHAT?! I’m only on 3/4 of my allowed devices, it’s a new month, and it’s still not letting me add anything. It now means I’m going to have to wait until tomorrow to sort this out. No GoT for me tonight.
I really cannot believe that other streaming companies have managed to do away with ‘device limits’ and the like, but NowTV haven’t. They seem to be stuck in 2008. Netflix at least allow you to view on as many devices per month as you like, offer up to 4k, and you can watch in native HTML5. Did Sky fire their entire NowTV development team and just forget to hire anyone?
It’s ridiculous. What’s to stop me going onto a torrent site and grabbing it in 1080p? It would take about 10 minutes. The amusing thing here is I’ve paid for legal content, and I’m not actually receiving it. Where is the logic in that?
Edit: As soon as 1am BST hit, I was able to add another device. So their servers are still on GMT. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry….
My local exchange in the UK has only ever had BT’s ADSLMax product. Basically that means ‘up-to’ 8Mbps download and a paltry 400Kbps upload speed (on the standard product). There were, until recently, no other options available from this exchange, and so we were stuck on BT’s ancient IPStream platform, with the upload speed ‘cap’ and banded IP profiles that only further reduce your download speeds (see my article here about the travesty of ADSLMax).
Even in 2016, there was still no rollout plan for BT to upgrade it to ADSL2+ and WBC. This is a small to medium sized exchange with 1200+ customers. It’s not exactly in the middle of nowhere – it serves a small village! The cynic in me would say BT are doing this deliberately, to ‘encourage’ people to upgrade to the new FTTC service (paid for by BDUK, nonetheless). But for people not yet served by FTTC or just not wanting to pay more, we were stuck with ADSLMax, a technology introduced 10 years ago in 2006.
Thankfully Sky broadband has just installed LLU infrastructure in the exchange – that’s full ADSL2+, and importantly it is at a substantially lower price than BT’s offering (thanks to Ofcom’s artificial price floor on Market 1 exchanges).
I was paying over £40 per month for ADSLMax with the ‘Pro’ add-on (uncaps upload speeds), now I’m paying just £17 per month for ADSL2+. Look at these Speedtest.net results, they are basically double the speed for half the price:
I’d also like to point out that the Sky test was done at 4:30pm (nearing a peak time), whereas the BT test was done at 12:50am, not a peak time. This probably explains the ping discrepancy.
Another really nice feature is that Sky are now rolling out native IPv6 to all of their consumer customers. This isn’t a trial, it’s a full rollout. ipv6-test.com result:
Top marks to Sky, who are the first ‘major’ ISP to begin a full rollout of IPv6 to their customers. I know a number of small ISPs have been doing it for years, but none of the larger ones have done yet. BT is also (apparently) rolling it out ‘by the end of 2016’, so could 2016 be the year of IPv6 in the UK?
Last week the States of Guernsey released the ‘Guernsey Connectivity Review’ report, undertaken by Analysys Mason. You can see the full PDF document by going to the States website here.
My thoughts on this report are mixed. Firstly, I do wonder how much money the States spent on ‘consultancy fees’ to produce this document. I guess though the important thing is that internet access is on the governments agenda, even if no actual action has been taken yet.
An interesting thing about the document though, is that it provides some data from Sure that wouldn’t otherwise be publicly available. For example, they claim that only 10% of subscribers have taken up the ‘Superfast Broadband’ (VDSL) product, which did actually surprise me a bit (I thought it would’ve been higher than that).
As I read through it, I highlighted a few things that stood out that I will list here, in no real order:
1.) “Broadband services to JT’s subscribers are supplied on a wholesale basis via the Sure network.” [p.19] – This has obviously been the case all along – JT offers exactly the same broadband as Sure does, with only a very minor price difference. I fail to see how true broadband competition can exist when there is a single monopoly wholesale provider, that doesn’t seem to be regulated very harshly. In the UK ADSL market, LLU allows for providers to have their own physical equipment in the exchange, with the ability to offer different speeds and service levels that they choose.
2.) The VDSL rollout has stalled at only 60% penetration [p.20]. According to the February 2016 statistics (provided by Sure themselves, mind you), VDSL is only available to 60% of households on the island. We need to remember that VDSL has been available on the island since September 2012, that’s approaching 4 years ago. If we look at the UK figures, BT had already reached a 66% population coverage of VDSL at the same time as Sure launching the product. Today, the coverage of superfast broadband in the UK is now over 90% of the population (admittedly, with state aid above the 65% mark, approximately). However, it’s really important to remember that Guernsey is an island of just 30 square miles, and the world’s 14th most densely populated jurisdiction. One of the reasons for state aid being necessary in the UK is that the remaining 30% of the population lived in relatively rural areas. The same cannot be said anywhere in Guernsey really. It’s also a fact that, in terms of raw population coverage, we are 4 years behind the UK.
3.) VDSL take-up on the island seems to be very low – only 15% of total subscribers have taken up the VDSL service (weirdly, this 15% figure contradicts the 10% figure used earlier in the report – perhaps older data?). Again, if we compare this take-up figure with the UK data of around 33% (Ofcom 2014, extrapolated by a year), it does appear to be fairly poor. The data is slightly confusing, since it’s not entirely clear if that is a % of households who are already covered by the VDSL footprint, or % of total households. If we had 100% VDSL coverage, the actual take-up number would obviously be higher, but it’s unclear if the % would go up. I think a focus should be made on asking WHY people in Guernsey aren’t opting for superfast broadband. The first obvious answer to me would be price. Comparing with a UK operator, e.g. Sky, they charge £37.40 per month for line rental and 40/10 VDSL. In Guernsey Sure charge £44.98 for line rental and 40/5 VDSL. However that doesn’t tell the whole picture – at any given point in time there is often a deal available with at least one of the UK operators, offering much cheaper VDSL. This means if you regularly switch you can end up saving a ton of money. For example, right now BT are offering 55/10 VDSL for just £28.98 per month. That’s over £5 cheaper than Sure’s standard ADSL! I realise fully that comparing Guernsey to the UK is not necessarily accurate or ‘correct’, but I feel it’s an important area to look at.
I suspect that another reason VDSL take up is low is due to consumers not realising it is even available, or just not really considering it. For many, ‘broadband is broadband’, and the speed they receive is the speed that they get. If their connection struggles when multiple people use iPlayer, I get a feeling many would just blame Sure regardless, and not realise they can get a much faster service. Sure have been pushing Superfast on the radio and in the press over the past year, as well as offering a discount if you sign-up, but this leads me onto my 3rd point. The name ‘superfast broadband’ may confuse some people, especially when in the UK the same product is labelled as ‘fibre’ (even though it obviously isn’t). Maybe a rebrand to make the VDSL service a lot more distinctive in name would help here? See the screenshot from Sure’s website:
There are 4 products all called ‘broadband’. Personally I see little point in the ‘Pro’ products since they are practically the same as their non-pro counterparts, except for a static IP and lower contention ratio (and what difference that actually makes is questionable). My point here: is having 4 ‘broadband’ products confusing people, when the UK advertising that we see on the TV is constantly pushing ‘fibre’? I suspect this may be playing a small part.
My final ‘possible minor reason for the low take up’ is the engineer install. For people that have busy lives, having to book an engineer in to fit the filtered faceplate could be a negative reason not to get VDSL. Again, in the UK, more providers are offering self-install options for FTTC that simply involve using a microfilter rather than a faceplate. I do agree that a faceplate is superior, but as long as your internal wiring isn’t dodgy, a micro filter can still work.
4.) The report blatantly confuses DSL sync speed with throughput speed. It compares the average sync speed of Guernsey connections against international metrics of average download speed. The effect of this is obvious: it makes Guernsey’s internet appear faster than it actually is, when compared to other countries. The other concerning aspect is that the Guernsey data is provided by Sure – and not an independent authority.
5.) The term ‘FTTC’ is often used to describe Sure’s VDSL product when, in fact, this is not really the case. As far as I know, they use a mixture of roadside and exchange-based MSAN’s. This means that all telephone and data services terminate at the same place – unlike FTTC where POTS continues back to the exchange.
6.) “We understand through our discussions with Sure, that a number of improvements to its existing copper access network are planned, including (a) expansion plans to install additional MSAN cabinets around the island, with the aim of making VDSL accessible to all properties; and (b) the introduction of vectoring, FTTdp and G.fast in 2017. We also understand the company intends to increase FTTH penetration in Guernsey in the period 2018–2020.” [p.44].
This statement is probably the most revealing, since we get a small glimpse into Sure’s future plans. The first point is essentially that they plan to increase VDSL coverage to the entire island. Clearly this is good news, though they don’t give a timeframe for this, nor does Sure reveal whether they will be funding this privately or asking for States money. The second point reveals they probably intend to trial some future technologies, such as G.fast, which could offer 500Mbps+ speeds, assuming short enough line lengths. FTTdp is probably a planned intermediary for lines that are a bit too long and exist in the more ‘rural’ areas of Guernsey to receive a fast VDSL service. Vectoring is something which wouldn’t actually increase speeds, but just prevent speeds from going down due to crosstalk, when more people sign-up to the VDSL service. They list 2017 as the introduction date, which is fine, but by then Jersey will probably be near or at completion of their FTTH rollout. The final point is probably the most interesting – Sure intends to offer some sort of FTTH by 2018-2020. Could these be due to potential pressure from JT’s own FTTH network on Guernsey? (even though no real residential customers are actually able to get it yet, apart from the trial locations).
The rest of the report is mostly generic ‘how to offer NGA broadband’ that could’ve been cut and paste from any other report from any other country. There are also some odd numbers relating to FTTH rollout costs on Guernsey, implying it would be more expensive here than on Jersey? Regardless, the report doesn’t really conclude anything that anyone with common sense hadn’t already concluded. I do get the feeling that Guernsey will go down the ‘superfast copper’ route, whereby gradually the fibre is brought closer to our homes but never actually into them. G.fast will bring fibre within 100’s of metres, and is also the preferred approach of BT. But ultimately it is still a copper wire that does the final stretch, and will still be susceptible to interference and dodgy joints.
My wish-list for this year is only 2 things, however: Native IPv6 and a faster VDSL tier option. 12% of the world’s internet connections are now on IPv6, and it’s time that Guernsey actually led in this area rather than follow. In terms of VDSL, the least I would like to see is another upload speed bump. The report actually highlighted the upload speed requirements for small business and content creators, and that it was lacking on the island. Perhaps make it so that the ‘Superfast Pro’ product was 80/20 – at least the absurd price for this product could then begin to be justifiable.