The Mighty ‘BT Home Hub 5’
Ever since we moved here, one of things that made the area unique (apart from the Spinney, the quietness of the area and the great neighbours) was the appalling broadband speed. In the days of dial-up we had a really sloooow connection, and over the years that followed, as broadband took-off - the residents of Tynan Close didn’t, as we languished at the very bottom of connection speed league tables for the local area. In the years that followed, nothing really improved and I do recall getting very excited one year when I managed to download at 2Mb/s. Man alive, I nearly required medication!! Of course this heady speed didn’t last, and even when broadband arrived, I think we averaged something like 1.5 Mbps on a good day… early in the morning… with the wind in the right direction! But more often than not, it was 1 Mbps or below.
Trying to run a business from home was a nightmare. As my corporate clients started to upgrade their systems and speeds, materials were being sent to me that were taking hours to download, and that made it all the more frustrating. It got so bad, that I spent some time doing research on alternatives to copper wire connectivity - and after a lot of dead-ends, I eventually settled on ‘broadband-by-satellite’.
When Tooway installed their satellite system here back in August 2012, I could hardly believe it. After years of us all in this area regularly suffering speeds of something less than 1 Mbps, (even iPlayer would NOT play!), we suddenly had a way out (or I did), with a promised speed of 8 down and 2 up. It seemed too good to be true - and in the early days, it certainly lived up to its promise. Being the ‘never-satisfied’ sort though, I upgraded soon after the initial installation to the 12 Mbps option, and then finally in January 2013 to 16 Mbps. The only downside for me with a satellite setup, was that the connection was metered - so I had to watch how much stuff we downloaded in a month - and it soon mounted up! I’m not a great online games player, so the other disadvantage of satellite-broadband, is the lag or latency, meaning that there is a delay between sending and receiving a packet of data. It might only be milliseconds, but if you’re a serious gamer, you won’t want satellite - for everyone else though, it’s a worthwhile service.
The Final Tooway Speed Test (note I’m on the 16 Mbps package but getting 20!)
In the past 12 months or so, as the satellite service became even more popular, I started to notice that speeds were slowing down, especially in the afternoon, but in the grand scheme-of-things it didn’t matter much, as I was still enjoying double-digit download rates. However, my need-for-speed fetish always wanted something even faster! However, the chances of getting speeds even faster than what I currently have all seemed a bit hopeless. Why? Well, in spite of plenty of marketing material being sent to us in the post promising superfast broadband, the outcome was always the same. I’d call BT and then Virgin, in response to their blurb, and ask them to confirm what speeds they could offer our postcode. It always went very quiet at that point - then, they’d sheepishly reply: ‘we can’t offer you superfast broadband, but we can supply between speeds of 1-3 Mbps’. Only Sky commented that they wouldn’t supply broadband AT ALL here because of the poor line-speed.
So, in between the regular avalanche of materials sent to us by BT and Virgin (and even though there is a high number of work-from-home businesses round here), I was told on EVERY occasion that ‘there are no plans to upgrade your area to fibre’. Given that most, if not all, of the other providers rent their lines from BT, there was no point in shopping-around.
Then, quite by accident, a few week’s back, one of our neighbours was told by a visiting Openreach Engineer, that the area had now been upgraded to fibre optic. Not only that, two speeds are on offer: a mind-bending 38 Mbps, and a trouser-scorching, 76 Mbps. Either would be unbelievably fast, but with my fire-proof underpants at the ready, guess which one I went for? And, if that’s not enough excitement for a small boy, both packages are also unmetered, so no more waiting to download movies via the Sky-Box during the off-peak hours of 11pm until 7am!
The irony of all of this is that two weeks after placing the order, we’ve now stopped receiving anything in the post about superfast broadband! - bonkers!!!! You would think, wouldn’t you, they’d be falling over themselves to tell the whole of Tynan Close that after almost 20 years, we, the residents, could now join the 21st century and enjoy some of the fastest speeds available!! But no, even the mighty marketing muscle of BT and Virgin missed a trick here. Subsequently, most of the other providers are now on board with fibre - EE, Sky etc etc, but interestingly (for me anyway), not all of them offer the 76 Mbps option.
So, today is THE day. By nature, I’m an ‘early adopter’, so I’m looking forward to being first in the street. The router arrived a few days ago and I’ve renamed the SSID to something more friendly, configured the TP-LINK extender to work with the new router, and got the Homelink plugs ready for repositioning and piping BT-goodness all over the house. So, it was a bit disappointing to find that no Engineer turned up! I eventually managed to speak to a real person at BT, who, after chatting with the Engineers, informed me that there is a ‘routing problem’ to the house, and until that is resolved, they can’t install fibre!
What a shame that no-one at BT thought it was a good idea to call me and let me know first! Just as well I had nothing to do today apart from wait in!!! Grrrrrr!
Update: Ahh, the power of Twitter! Had a bit of rant, and three nano-seconds later, someone from BT was in touch. Complaint registered, and now I wait for a response (apparently ‘within 48 hours’), but I’m not holding my breath!!!