Friday, 11 March 2016

Virgin Media streetworks porn

For those so inclined, this is what big network builds look like. No-one said they were pretty, easy or cheap.

Pavements markings for a cabinet along with the chamber and ducting needed - in this instance 3-way.

I see a For Sale sign on one of the houses - bad timing!

Virgin Media's contractors working around the cabinets I'm typing this through. Thankfully no damage caused!

Pavement markings indicating placement of power pillar, MSAN for telephony, and chambers.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

A monopoly of mediocrity

The announcement of FTTP trials in Bradford alongside 12,500 premises of in Gillingham had me thinking a little.

One thought was who in Gillingham was influential enough to persuade Openreach to invest some serious money there; it's fair to say that it wasn't in any way related to the benefits it might bring given the entire constituency is 92.2% ultrafast, 98.6% superfast, however I suspect the extensive Virgin Media coverage wouldn't have hurt.

Another, partly inspired by Virgin Media digging up pavements nearby, was to what extent Openreach invested in ultrafast technology and indeed the extent of their investment in urban areas generally during their initial rollout.

I've seen the numbers, however they are put into focus when trawling the Think Broadband data.

Leeds is the 3rd largest city in the UK. It has a population of over 3/4 of a million. It has the largest legal and financial centres in England outside of London. It's home to the Bank of England's office outside of London.

According to Think Broadband it has no native Openreach GEA FTTP. BT's contribution to ultrafast broadband in this entire metropolitan area is, as of right now, zero. Every single FTTP/H premises is Hyperoptic enabled apartments, every ultrafast premises is either them or Virgin Media.

This is something I've felt keenly as I've been looking into home office options to get around a wobbly superfast broadband service. The only business broadband option from BT Group potentially delivering both performance and reliability would cost over £15,000 over the mandatory 3 year contract term, and this wouldn't carry guaranteed performance or availability targets.

A leased line supplier informs that the install quote I received for FTTPoD, the shared fibre service from BT, is 'rather high' and they can install dedicated fibre to my property for 1/3rd that.

AQL can probably offer me a leased line, guaranteed performance and availability, for considerably less than what is basically a business broadband service from BT, which is absurd.

Alternatively I can rent office space. Also cheaper than the BT option.

We should, by now, have an urban core of FTTP/H in the major settlements with FTTC/VDSL on the outskirts, in some market towns and where appropriate rural areas. Instead there is far more FTTP/H per head in rural areas and the amount of it in urban areas, apartment blocks and a few areas built out to for political and other reasons excepted, is vanishingly small.

The UK has one hell of a long way to go and a hell of a lot of work to do moving broadband to the next level in the 'just in time' approach espoused by BT Group. The approach that has allowed Virgin Media to tread water and others to sit back and do nothing to one being upgraded to one that's fit for purpose going forward. Openreach deploying ultrafast in an urban area should not be newsworthy. It's depressing that what should be the status quo, 300Mb being available in a couple of urban areas and gigabit to very limited areas of another, hits the news.

Superfast is the new normal. Ultrafast is the new 'superfast'. Both should be available in our large cities to those who wish to pay.

The market as a whole has, with Ofcom's encouragement and indeed thanks largely to their obsessive over-regulation, become a monopoly of mediocrity.

Friday, 4 March 2016

How much bandwidth does a busy household need?

At the moment our line is running way slower than normal.

So how are things going? Are we managing?

Mmm kinda. Here's the Broadband Quality Monitor from yesterday.

Usage on the line is pretty high during peak periods, the end result being higher latency and jitter. Here's some of the usage over the 'peak' period: this is 6pm - 11pm.

Video isn't quite buffering on YouTube, it just about keeps up but we couldn't sustain 1080p SuperHD Netflix if the line were busy. The latency requires use of some technical methods to manage the line.

Could be worse; could be our line pre-FTTC, though that was also before teenagers were using it!

In summary we can manage but I'm very much looking forward to getting this fixed sooner rather than later as it has the potential to be problematic. We are high-end users, which is why we pay for a business service.

I'm looking into alternative options however, as previously mentioned, there are none besides spending about the price of a car tying ourselves into a 3 year contract... which we may have to do if things can't get sorted.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Virgin Media are trolling me - home office broadband and moving

Walk out of my street and onto the road that serves ours to find this:

Virgin Media are going right past the entrance to our street on their way to properties across the road.

It'll be interesting to see what impact VM passing an area served by cabinet 82, albeit maybe 20-25% of the properties served by cabinet 82, has on the extremely high FTTC uptake here.

Predictably this work has caused complaints. This is, perhaps, something that Virgin Media are getting quite used to by now. Digging pavements is slow, expensive and, albeit briefly, disruptive.

I have been having some issues with my home office service's reliability and performance that make my desire for a backup that uses a different network all the stronger.

Less than half usual performance

A quote for FTTP on Demand not only gave a huge price but I was also told they weren't willing to progress the order due to my road's status.

For many reasons we've been considering a possible house move. Unavailability of alternative broadband options for my home office goes onto the list. It's nowhere near the top but has to go on there.

Over half of the UK has the choice of BT and another fixed line operator.

The vast majority have a choice of BT FTTC and either a >8Mb Openreach ADSL line, cable, wireless or 3G/4G. Sadly we aren't, and have no prospect of being, in that cohort.

FTTC is good enough for most purposes, is far cheaper and faster to deploy so made economic and business sense - I have no complaints about that solution being here. It'd be fine as a primary line for us if we had a backup solution however no cable, no worthwhile ADSL, no wireless and no 3G or 4G puts us almost back to the position we were in during the Fibre for Middleton campaign that saw BT deliver superfast broadband to us.

Maybe we should move to an FTTP-enabled rural village or hamletmore FTTP serving houses in those than Leeds Central. In common with many other urban areas the fibre to premises in Leeds Central is all delivered to apartment buildings by Hyperoptic. FTTP is by far the most reliable broadband out there so if you can get it, do.

We're between rock and hard place, and while it seems as far as broadband goes the in thing is to complain relentlessly on forums and the comments section of ISP Review, the usual and more constructive solution is to get out from between that rock and hard place.

Update: I just had a local resident ask me when he could expect Virgin Media to cover his street. Had to tell him that if he was lucky it would be 2019. If unlucky never, and that it was extremely unlikely he would have better broadband options than the ones he has now, which are 1Mb if he's lucky or 40-60Mb depending on where in his street he is. 

This estate has a household income over 3 times that of the rest of the ward, and far more home businesses and home workers. Much of the estate will have broadband of at best 1/8th the performance of the rest of the ward and more likely 1/14th to 1/25th by 2019.

There's a digital divide.