Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Only Way is… Tooway

OK, after years of constantly below-par broadband speeds here, I finally ‘bit the bullet’ and did something about it.

For as long as I can remember, it seemed like everyone else (apart from the rest of the neighbours in our immediate area) were getting faster connection speeds than us.

When the houses were built 20+ years ago, they made no provision for the ‘information super-highway’ and recently, the mighty Virgin confirmed they had no plans to change things – even though we occasionally get mailshots from them promising us Bolt-like speeds.

BT have been strangely quiet, and even Sky wouldn’t sell me their broadband package because of the (low) speed. 

The simple truth is that, for broadband-by-phone, we live too far away from the Exchange. On a good day, I might just get a 1.25 Mb/s download here, but as the work-day progresses, it just gets slower and slower - and many of our neighbours are languishing with speeds even slower than mine. Technology can put a robot on Mars, but it can’t get Tynan Close a 2 Mb/s broadband connection! It’s soooo sloooow that services like iPlayer and YouTube sometimes won’t run at all on our TV.

Currently it takes almost a day to download a 60 minute episode of Mad Men!!

Mad!!!!!

Prior to looking at alternative ways to receive broadband, I carried out a speed test. The result below, is the BEST I got over a six hour period from Demon Internet.

Download speed: 0.81 Mb/s

Upload speed 0.38 Mb/s

Crying Crying Crying Crying Crying

Preparing for Changeover
So, what did I do? Well, a quick Google search revealed a broadband service delivered by satellite. The company I chose is based in the UK (that’s  a bonus!), and is called Tooway. They offer a number of speed packages – I chose the 8Mb/s, as I’m pretty certain that will meet my business and personal needs. There are faster options available – right up to 18 Mb/s at the time of writing, and a slower one (2 Mb/s) if you’re on a budget. 

The process with Tooway was very straightforward. Call them, pay the upfront costs for: installation, hardware and your first month’s fee - and the ball is rolling. OK, unlike some other internet providers, you’re not going to get lots of add-on goodies like a free calls bundle and free access to wireless when out-and-about, but what you DO get, is a promise of a reliable and fast connection that doesn’t rely on where you live. Nice one!

A Few Day Later…
Having ordered the product over the phone (you can also order online), a few days later, two packages arrived containing all the hardware. A few days after that, an installation company called to arrange installation. You can do-it-yourself, but I’d recommend leaving it to the professionals. It’s not a difficult job in itself, but aligning satellite dishes is something most of us won’t have much experience in! Just remember that it means another dish on your property, and sometimes you might need permission. If your residence is restricted, Tooway do provide an option to receive your TV through their dish.

Not the prettiest of sites, but functional!

Installation Day
On the day of the installation, it all went pretty well. The Installers arrived slightly earlier than expected - and that turned out to be an advantage because it took them slightly longer to ‘point’ the dish. Depending on where your house is, you may be limited on suitable locations for this essential piece of metal – it has to be able to ‘see’ the satellite and there shouldn’t be any visible obstructions like trees or tall buildings in the line of sight.

A few hours later, everything was up and running. It’s worth remembering that the installers will only configure the modem to work and confirm your connection is working. It’s down to you to connect the modem to the router (which Tooway sell) and make any adjustments to the settings on your PC. In short, don’t expect the installers to touch your PC at all.

Any Good?
Oh yes! Everything is working as it should. I didn’t notice much difference with normal ‘surfing’, but downloading and/or streaming is a smooth and speedy process. Downloading Sky Movies is now a breeze, so is watching iPlayer - and I can even look at Facebook and Twitter on my TV – how sad is that!

As a quick test, I downloaded a 120 minute movie from Sky and it took just 23 minutes – and because of the faster download speed, Sky let’s you start watching it before the download is finished – in fact the film was viewable within about three minutes. Perfect for a film addict like me.

Here are the results of the BEST speed tests carried out over a two-hour period for the Tooway setup – remember I’m on an ‘8Mb/s down’ and ‘2 Mb/s up’ package.

Download speed: 8.4 Mb/s

Upload speed 1.9 Mb/s

Just compare these to the broadband-by-telephone results above

Open-mouthed Open-mouthed Open-mouthed Open-mouthed Open-mouthed

I’d say that was a fantastically good result – 10 times faster downloads than the previous setup.

Hats off to Tooway. The service has been excellent, there’s an efficient customer service team and the technical help and advice (not that you’ll need much) is spot on. It’s also nice to be able to talk to real people, rather than spend ages trying to get through to a faceless call-centre. Call Tom on 0844 874 0600 if you have the need for speed!

This has definitely been one of my better decisions of 2012!

PS. Only the satellite is connected to Tooway, I’m not a relation of any of the staff, nor part of their organisation – just a VERY satisfied customer!