Telefonica Movistar Fiber Optic – 300Mbps

We’ve been waiting well over 10 years for a decent internet connection in Spain. Some of my previous posts dealt with how bad the ADSL was, with speeds no higher than 3Mbps (on a good day), regular dropouts and sky-high latency.

We investigated a whole host of solutions: Fixed wireless, satellite, and more recently 4G. The 4G connection looked promising, but would’ve proved to be very expensive, given the limited data caps available.

Earlier this year, to our massive surprise, Movistar’s online checker showed that all of a sudden we were able to get Fiber Optic (Fibra Óptica) down our very rural road. Whilst the nearby village had fiber installed, I didn’t think they would bother to go into the more rural areas. Apparently I was wrong!

Fiber terminator

Fiber Optic ‘Termination Box’

The Movistar technicians came to install our new service – it took a couple of months from order to delivery, since apparently they needed to run a further cable from one of the junction boxes down the road in order to actually reach our property, which had to be done by a different group of technicians.

The first obvious thing that makes this different from ADSL is you get a new ‘Fiber Optic termination’ box, with the black cable being the Fiber coming into your property directly from outside, and then this will be internally fused to a smaller cable inside which goes to the connector on the lower right side of the box.

The second component, which surprised me slightly, is a sort of ‘ONT’/Fiber modem, which seemingly converts the Fiber Connection into an Ethernet one. 'Fiber Modem' - of sorts

The output from the Ethernet connection cannot be used directly by plugging it into a computer (unless you set it up to connect as a PPPoE connection), since at this point you have not logged onto the network, and thus will not obtain any IP address. I must admit, I did expect that in 2016 they would’ve developed a single box solution (combined Fiber modem and router), but maybe there are technical or cost reasons for not doing this. It does mean however you need an extra power socket, and ethernet cable, as well as the box taking up additional space.

Wireless Router

Wireless Router

The final component is the wireless router, which has a single gigabit WAN port and 4 gigabit LAN ports, as well as power, and a PSTN phone connection – allowing you to connect a telephone into the socket, and it behaves the same as a traditional one delivered over copper wires. You also get a phone number assigned to that port, the same you would get if you had a copper line.

Now, on to the speed testing, as always!

Speedtest - 3rd party 802.11ac router

Speedtest – 3rd party 802.11ac router

This particular test was actually done on my iPhone, since my laptop doesn’t have fast enough wi-fi, and I couldn’t test with ethernet. The download and upload speeds are both in excess of the quoted amounts – a rarity for most internet connections! The latency is also very good, though not perfect. However, this was tested over 802.11ac wifi on a clear 5Ghz channel, using a 3rd party wireless access point. As you’ll see below, the supplied Movistar router leaves a lot to be desired.

Speedtest - Movistar router

Speedtest – Movistar router

Sadly, the supplied Movistar router is really, really bad at wireless. It is a 2.4Ghz only, 2 stream, 802.11n access point. Something you’d expect to find in a cheaper device 5 years ago, and certainly not expected when provided with a fiber optic connection. For many people, this will be their primary wireless router, and the fact it only achieves 1/3rd of the internet connection speed is frankly embarrassing. They could’ve at least offered a dual-band option, or 3 spatial streams, but it seems this router was designed with VDSL speeds in mind rather than fiber. So I strongly recommend obtaining any decent 802.11ac access point and plug it into the ethernet ports, if you want to achieve the maximum speeds. Most modern wi-fi cards, even if they only accept 802.11n, will make use of the additional bandwidth in the 5Ghz spectrum to achieve higher speeds, even if they are only 2×2 MIMO. And modern devices, such as the new iPhones, can easily make use of 802.11ac to achieve the 300Mbps speeds that this internet connection provides.

Overall, however, I am very impressed at the service speeds. And I can now truly say that we are the owners of an ‘ultrafast’ internet connection. Hopefully soon to also be the owners of a Gigaclear connection in the UK – hopefully! More on that once I eventually get it…

4G: The odd state of affairs

In this blog post, 4G = LTE, and not any variant of HSPA…

I have been on O2’s 4G tariff since they launched it back in August, and at the time I knew that their coverage was limited to just a few large cities, but I took the tariff in the hope that they would commence an “aggressive rollout“. Now almost 7 months into the rollout of O2’s 4G network (as well as Vodafone & Three, for that matter), their 4G city coverage is still extremely limited and doesn’t appear to have grown that much. I understand that 4G rollout is just that, a “rollout” that happens over a period of time, but surely when you are trying to play catch-up to the likes of EE (who have far, far superior 4G coverage, albeit due to their massive time advantage), you would think both O2 and Vodafone would be pushing to get 4G to as many cities and towns across the UK as quickly possible.

Now, I might be seeing this entirely wrong, but it seems that O2 in particular have really been pushing their 4G rollout in the north of the country more so than in the south. Not that this is a bad thing, but I would’ve expected a balance of north/south cities to receive 4G in order to get as wide geographic coverage as possible. A list of examples that have yet to receive O2 4G in the southern half of the country, include but are not limited to: Bristol, Southampton, Portsmouth, Oxford, Luton, Milton Keynes.. The list goes on.

In comparison (and I do indeed realise this is very unscientific), cities in the north that have O2 4G coverage (not withstanding Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds) are: York, Newcastle, Nottingham & Sheffield.

In terms of population, the Portsmouth/Southampton area is the 6th highest population in the country, yet it gets no O2 4G as of writing. Bristol, with a population of 600,000, has no O2 4G, yet Sheffield with a similar population already has it.

However, none of the geographic issues actually matter that much when we look at the rollout of Three, the UK’s ‘4th’ mobile operator. Even though they had a later start, and you would think far less cash lying around compared with O2 (Telefonica) and Vodafone, their 4G rollout appears to have been much more aggressive and widespread. Bristol? Check. Oxford? Check. Southampton? Check. Portsmouth? Check. Milton Keynes? Check. Luton? Check…

Three’s rollout, ignoring the numbers, seems more balanced around getting 4G to areas of high population compared with Vodafone and O2. Now, unlike O2, Three has no obligation to deploy their 4G network any further than this, compared with O2’s coverage obligation to cover pretty much the entire country’s population. So this could be a factor, O2 are perhaps pacing themselves and deploying to random rural areas in small pockets (if you look at their coverage checker, there are some rural location masts that have 4G already) rather than deploying to the cities exclusively like Three has.

However as an O2 customer who is paying through the roof for 4G and living in a major southern city, and not receiving the service, and yet customers on Three can get unlimited data and 4G for no additional cost, to say it annoys me is an understatement! The UK’s rollout of 4G has been diabolically slow compared with other countries, which is a shame since we led the rollout of 3G back in the 00’s. I realise that the slow rollout was caused by regulatory incompetence, but it’s not as if the networks didn’t know 4G was coming? Could they not deploy their new masts and equipment before the awarding of the licences? This must have happened to some degree otherwise London and the other ‘starter’ cities are unlikely to have had 4G when it launched in August.

I now move onto the second part of this blog post, which is looking at 4G provision in Spain. If you have read my previous blog posts, you would see that I have been struggling in the past to get decent internet in a rural location in Spain. 2 Mbps internet on an extremely flakey ADSL line  just wouldn’t cut it anymore. The speed wasn’t really the issue, but the constant sync failures and sky-high (150ms average) latency just wasn’t acceptable in the year 2014. Vodafone (Spain) has also begun their 4G rollout in Spain using (I believe) the 2.6/1.8 spectrum, since the 800 spectrum isn’t active until later this year. So imagine my surprise when, I get out a friend’s iPhone with a UK Vodafone SIM in, and discover it has a 4G signal in pretty much the middle of nowhere! Data download was about 30 Mbps down and 15 Mbps up, with around 70 ms latency – this probably because the gateway was in the UK. Ignoring the fact that 4G data roaming on Vodafone actually works , (nil points to O2 for not having this yet – it’s not as if Telefonica, their parent company, owns pretty much all the telecom infrastructure in Spain) I was surprised that I even had 4G signal in my location. According to the coverage checker, there is meant to be zero 4G coverage at all, the nearest transmitter is behind 2 hills and a town. So I imagine the signal is reflecting off something and reaching us. (It’s definitely not coming from our local mast, since that is visible from our house and we only had 2 bars of 4G).

So now my challenge was to get hold of a 4G data sim card in Spain, on a business contract, to make use of their unlimited 4G offer for €49. This is actually impossible – Vodafone in Spain clearly don’t want your custom even if you wave money in front of them. With the endless spaghetti mess of bureaucracy and paperwork and legal shit, it’s no wonder Spain is bankrupt. So the easier solution was to get a PAYG sim card and make use of their 4G PAYG option (Called Vodafone Yu) which offers 1.6GB of data for €20. Although it’s pricey, it has some advantages:

1) It will probably work out cheaper paying 5x€20 in one month when we are in Spain, then to pay €49 per month for a service we aren’t going to use all year round.

2) No paperwork. No bureaucracy. Phew!

So with the PAYG sim on order, I’ll have to update you when I get it and do some speed testing. The plan at the moment is to buy a 4G router with external antenna connectors (Probably Solwise) so I can affix an omni antenna to the roof with a bit of extra gain. Also since 4G is meant to be MIMO, with the right hardware/dual feed antenna, I should be able to get 30-40 Mbps.

So, I’m now in the amusing situation that I can get 4G in a rural location in Spain, on a PAYG sim card, and yet I can’t get 4G on my expensive O2 tariff in a major UK city.

Don’t even get me started about O2’s data roaming policies…

Telefonica ADSL Upgrade (4)

Finally! Telefonica have completed the long overdue Adsl upgrade on our telephone line. I asked to get put onto the 3 Mbps service, and after the upgrade I am now syncing at around 2.1 Mbps. Not too bad considering; my line attenuation is about 52dB now on ADSL2+, which seems to have got better. However, my noise margin is the limiting factor here: only 5.5 dB, so effectively my line won’t go any faster unless the margin improves away from the 6 dB target.

If you are looking to upgrade your telefonica ADSL in Spain, without speaking to anyone in spanish, then see my previous posts on the subject…. I explain how I managed to do it by email.

Telefonica ADSL Upgrade (3)

I hear about people having Telefonica woes all the time. And I fear that I may be becoming one of those people!

It has been 11 days since my ADSL upgrade appeared on their website. And still absolutely nothing has happened. The customer services person said the whole thing should take 10 days. But on my order status page, it simply shows that my order is ‘in progress’. Well, it’s been like that ever since I ordered it by e-mail.

What is more infuriating, is that they won’t do the upgrade until they have sent me out a new ADSL router. However, I already own an ADSL2+ capable router, so it’s pointless that I have to rely on their postal system. I even emailed them to just do the upgrade (how hard can pressing a few buttons on a keyboard in Madrid be?), but they won’t do it for some reason.

It’s becoming more annoying by the day. I keep checking their website, but still nothing happens and no router arrives in the post…

Telefonica ADSL Upgrade (2)

In my last post I talked about how I was trying to increase the speed of my ADSL here in Mallorca.
Unfortunately I got an email from Telefonica saying the 10 Mbps speed upgrade wasn’t available in my area (unsurprising really, though it was either that or no upgrade at all, according to their website,

Instead of calling their customer service (which is pretty much all in Spanish), I decided to email them. I used an online text translator (Actually Google Translate), then copied and pasted the translated text asking to upgrade into their Online “Contact Us” form.
It turns out, after only a brief email exchange with some Spanish customer services person, that I could get 3 Mbps in my area for LESS money than my current 1 Mbps service,
So just this morning, it appeared on my control panel that an upgrade was in progress.
Also, according to their website, it says I am being moved to their ADSL2+ service as well…. Not sure if this will benefit me or not as my line attenuation is around 60dB.

It hasn’t happened yet, but hopefully should happen fairly soon.

Telefonica ADSL Upgrade

We have a house in Mallorca (Spain), and for the past 3 years have had Telefonica’s ‘Basic ADSL’ with speeds of up to 1 mbps.

However, it is very slow to do anything with downloading or using it with other people at the same time. So for the past week I have been trying to upgrade the line on their website,

After creating an account and registering it to my line, I tried to upgrade online. Their website is impossible to use, and it wasn’t because it was in spanish. The only option was to upgrade to their 10mbps line, which I’m not even sure is available where we are (would need ADSL2+)

I have waited nearly 4 days for anything to happen. I got my email confirmation the instant I hit ‘Upgrade’, but since then nothing has happened, and on their website it appears as though nothing has happened on my Account page.

We’ll have to wait and see…

[UPDATE: As in my more recent post, it turned out this upgrade wasn’t possible]