I placed the order online. I chose the 1 Gb service (with the hefty £135 p/m price tag!). The entire online process was very straightforward. Within about a week I was booked in for a pre-visit by one of the installation engineers. They turned up, confirmed where I wanted the ONT box to be installed and also worked out where the fibre would be coming into the house.
2 weeks later, and the fibre installation engineers turned up to install the service. The fibre itself comes out of the ducting in the road, and then goes to an external distribution (splice) box:
The white cable then ran a fair way along the outside of the house to the location where the ONT is installed internally. This is all handled by the installation team and the quality of the external workmanship is very neat & tidy.
This is the ONT installed inside:
The ONT requires a power socket, so there needs to be one nearby. The white fibre cable comes into the house and then attaches using the green connector on the left. The ethernet cable then needs to connect to your actual router, which does the connection using PPPoE. The ONT also serves as the termination point for your phone line – the copper line is disconnected as part of the installation so your home phone wiring is connected into it.
Here is a shot of the underside of the ONT:
POTS1/POTS2 are your phone lines – the ONT seemingly supports up to 2 separate external phone lines should you have them. What interested me the most about this picture, though, is the “10GE” port – is that 10 Gigabit Ethernet? (spoiler: yes, it is!). More on that later.
There is a black cover that goes over the bottom of the ONT, so it looks tidy once the cover is on.
Pretty impressive! 930Mbps is about the limit of what is possible when connected using Gigabit ethernet. This is due to the overhead involved in the ethernet frame and the TCP/IP stack. Also, take a look at that very good 2ms latency figure.
Some more tests below:
This time, I used a speedtest server in London rather than on-island. This resulted in a slightly slower result which is to be expected. It’s still very fast though.
Now a test of an actual download:
Using Steam to download a game update, I got a peak of 878Mbps.
Connecting using 2.5Gb ethernet
The vast majority of Guernsey Fibre users are likely to be using 1 gigabit ethernet between the ONT and their router, and then 1 gigabit ethernet on the LAN side of their house. However, the ’10GE’ port piqued my interest. So I purchased a couple of 2.5Gbe PCI-E cards to slot into my server, and connected it to see if it would sync up:
Answer: yes it does! The 10GE port is capable of 2.5Gbps, therefore I can only assume that it is also capable of 5Gbps and also 10Gbps BASE-T ethernet.
This is a massive assumption, but is the underlying fibre service actually XG-PON (i.e. 10Gig fibre)? and hence the ONT has a 10GE port for future proofing, in case Sure offer a service faster than 1Gig? Such a service is unlikely to be necessary for residential users, but some business may be able to take advantage of it, if such a service did exist.
Speedtesting with 2.5Gb ethernet
I also connected the LAN side of my router up using 2.5Gb ethernet, so the entire path from ONT to Router to PC was running at 2.5Gb.
This result gets very close to the headline speed of 1 gigabit.
I should also point out a disclaimer: I am using virtualised OPNSense as a router, and it is notoriously poor at handling PPPoE at very high throughput, even with fast hardware. Therefore, it is entirely possible that my router is the limiting factor at this point.
Even to Jersey, the speed remains very high at ~980Mbps.
Overall, I am very impressed with the service. The installation was handled extremely efficiently. The headline throughput speeds are as claimed, and real-world download performance (e.g. Steam, etc) is very acceptable around 800-900Mbps.
My only minor gripe, at this point, is the upload speeds. 50Mbps upload on a service costing £135 p/m is too low, in my opinion. Sure’s “Pro Fibre” service has a speed of 1Gig down/200Mbps up, but this costs an eye-watering £213 p/m. The residential 1Gig service should have a 100Mbps upload speed. I suspect it’s limited in this way so that if you want or need the higher upload speeds (i.e. businesses) you are forced to pay nearly double the amount.
When I first got broadband in Guernsey, it was a 1Mbps ADSL connection (in 2004). In 19 years that speed has increased by 1000x. What speeds will we be getting in 2043, I wonder?
Last year, it was announced that Sure was finally going to be rolling out an island-wide FTTH service to connect to all properites by 2026.
However, it did take £12.5m of taxpayers money for them to finally do so. Potentially without the States’ intervention, we would be stuck on VDSL forever! Nevertheless, this is a good thing for the island and on balance a bit of public funding for something as important as broadband is probably worth it.
My only minor concern regarding this funding, is exactly what kind of deal the States and Sure have. Unfortunately, it seems the actual agreement between them has not been made public (which isn’t great from a transparency perspective). Was the £12.5m just a lump sum of cash handed to Sure to use however they like? Or, is there some sort of clawback mechanism so that if Sure ends up making a greater profit off the service compared to before, they hand some of the money back? (The UK government subsidy scheme for fibre rollout had a clawback mechanism).
Regardless of the deals that happened behind closed doors, we do instead get to see the end-user pricing for the new fibre services:
*Excludes introductory offer for first 6 months, which is slightly cheaper. Includes landline rental price.
My immediate impression when I saw these prices, was that they were expensive. We have already gotten used to paying more for our telecoms in Guernsey compared to the UK (which is somewhat understandable given our location and smaller market size). However, the new fibre pricing is problematic for I think a few reasons:
The top tier, gigabit service costing £126 per month seems extremely expensive. It seems to be set at a level to discourage basically anyone from taking it.
The upload speeds across the board are pretty miserable. My existing VDSL service has a 20Mbps upload speed. I have it on relatively good authority that Sure are deploying GPON, which has a technological reason for asymmetric upload speeds. GPON is however cheaper to deploy than P2P fibre. To offer just 3Mbps and 5Mpbs upload speeds on a fibre product is pretty terrible, regardless of the technology used.
The ‘Basic Fibre’ and ‘Essential Fibre’ products are very expensive for the speeds delivered. I don’t even think these products should exist at all.
I thought it would be a good idea to do a comparison of the fibre plans against other jurisdictions, namely within the UK (BT and Gigaclear) and within Jersey (JT). Whilst I fully accept that as a smaller island we are always going to pay a bit more for the same level of service, I think the graphs below demonstrate just how big a difference there is in pricing.
I have split my comparison up into 3 ‘tiers’: ‘Budget’, ‘Mid range’ and ‘High range’, to try and compare like products with each other. In order to capture introductory pricing (i.e. a discount for the first x months of service) and also to capture that Sure doesn’t provide a free router (you effectively pay £72 for one) , I averaged the pricing out over 5 years. This gives a fairer idea of pricing.
The bar charts are displayed over two axes. The blue bar represents the 5 year cost, on the left hand axis, whilst the yellow represents the headline speed, on the right axis.
First, the ‘Budget’ services. Sure is undoubtedly the most expensive service in this category. It is also the slowest, by some margin! In fact, the next fastest service to compare with is BT fibre and this is 3x faster. BT is also nearly £600 cheaper over the 5 year period. Note here that I chose to use Sure’s 50Mbps product instead of the 30Mbps product. Whilst the 30Mbps service is slightly cheaper, it is even slower and it didn’t seem right to compare this with services in the 100’s of Mbps range.
Now is probably a good time to mention that in Jersey, JT have usage caps on their services. I have chosen to use their middle tier product offering which comes with a 100GB data cap during daytime use (I assume this is monthly). Sure is unlimited.
Next, the ‘Mid range’ offerings. Sure is again the most expensive here, by some significant margin. JT is over £1000 cheaper in Jersey over the same time period, and is also offering a faster service (caveat: but with data caps!). The UK providers come in significantly cheaper, and in BT’s case faster than what Sure offer. I would actually argue that the ‘mid range’ service is the most competitive area for Sure. Despite the highest cost, the speeds are competitive with the others in this segment.
Finally, the ‘High end’ category. All of the providers here offer 1Gbps services. Again, JT’s service has a 300GB data cap during day usage, the others are all unlimited. In the UK, BT actually comes in cheaper than Gigaclear, but it is worth mentioning that all of Gigaclear’s speeds are symmetric (1Gbps upload and download speeds). Here we really see the high cost of Sure’s 1Gbps service. It is approaching 2x the cost of the UK providers, and 1.5x more expensive than our neighbouring island.
A few quick points that need highlighting:
Sure’s 50Mbps service in the ‘budget’ tier is actually more expensive than the competition in the ‘mid-range’ tier! Except we are looking at competitors offering 300 or 500Mbps services in this tier. Sure’s 30Mbps service would be cheaper, but the speed is woefully slow.
Sure doesn’t offer a router as standard. You have to pay an additional £3 per month over 2 years to ‘buy’ the basic router. This is pretty bad and for the high cost of this service, it should be free. Note I have included the cost of this in the graphs.
Gigaclear and BT don’t offer voice services by default (i.e. no landline rental is included). I would argue that for 90% of people, this is fine. Very few people would use landlines for calling and only have it to support their broadband.
Overall, I do feel that the pricing for fibre broadband in Guernsey is too high when compared to the UK and Jersey. In particular, the ‘budget’ services are very poor value for money and the gigabit service is insanely expensive.
I think a fairer service offering (for the consumer at least) should look something more like this:
My proposed service offering
Scrap the Basic and Essential tiers, they are slow and should barely qualify as a ‘fibre’ broadband service
Make the 100Mbps tier the entry-level one with matching pricing
Bump the upload speeds a bit to differentiate it from the existing VDSL services
Lower the pricing on the 300Mbps service so it is more similar to the mid-tier VDSL price.
Cut the price of gigabit fibre so it is less than a 3-figure number. £99 is still very high.
What do you think? Is this analysis fair, is Guernsey Fibre too expensive or is this just the cost of doing business on a small island?
It’s here! Sure announced their 100Mbps VDSL2 product back in December. And today it went live on my line:
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!
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.