Tag Archives: broadband

Guest post: Things you can do to speed up your broadband connection

I’ve traded reciprocal guest posts with the nice people at Broadband Genie – my post on this topic lives here, so you can compare advice and see who you rate better :-). Yes, it’s a kind of mutual self-promotion, but I’ve written about the topic before and they’ve put together something that fit my specific request, which is how I’m always happy to receive (and indeed contribute) guest posts.

This post was conrtibuted by Rob Clymo from www.broadbandgenie.co.uk.

If you live in the centre or even the outskirts of a town or city then chances are you will probably be able to enjoy high-speed Internet in one form or another. After all, the choices will be more extensive and connectivity is likely to be more durable too, either via ADSL or cable.

Out in the sticks

However, if you live out of town then it may well be an entirely different story because of less connectivity options and more issues with the technical side of things. Even if you live in an area covered by the extensive BT network, there are distinct possibilities that you’ll have to endure a poor level of performance due to your proximity to the local telephone exchange.

Broadband only deals and offers may well be plentiful back in town, but if you’re away from populated areas then you may well have to be just a little bit canny in order to pep up the performance of your current Internet connection.

People in this kind of scenario can often find that any chance of NGA, or next generation access, will be sorely forgotten because the range of next-generation optic fibres does not extend to them.

Faster, faster

Although Ofcom has already stated that the average UK broadband download speeds in the UK back in 2009 were 4.1mbps, many rural user still get far from that sort of performance even now. Of course, there are some things you can do to get a little bit more out of your current connection. Start by using the free tools on broadband comparison websites to find out what sort of speed you’re currently obtaining.

If it’s poor, or fluctuating, then you could try tracing back all of your cabling, repositioning routers, refreshing your supply of filters to the phone points and also shortening the distance between the connection point and your computer. If you’re on a conventional BT landline ADSL setup, or one that comes via their network, but through a different Internet service provider, then you may have the same problem.

Clearing interference

And while wireless broadband via a router at home can be handy, it can also mean slower connectivity. If you have problems, then try relocating your device to sit closer to the machine you’re using. Remember that these devices can suffer interference too, not only from things like walls and other obstructions, but also devices including baby monitors.

There are plenty of things that can slow down a broadband Internet connection, so working methodically back through the obvious potential suspects may reveal a defect or positioning issue that could resolve things a little and offer up a bit more speed.

Make a change

If all that fails to make much of a difference then consider another angle, including cable broadband from a provider such as Virgin Media. Their network doesn’t doesn’t cover all areas, but it could be a great alternative if you’re lucky enough to be in a catchment area.

Another route to take is that of mobile broadband, which is becoming cheaper, better performing and also very competitive. All of that means lots of great deals and offers for consumers, and although there are shortcomings with using large amounts of data, it can be an ideal solution if you consider yourself to be an average user of the high-speed Internet.

The retention gambit–9 months free O2 broadband

O2broadbandSo, yesterday I decided to bite the bullet and started signing up for BT Infinity. Despite the customer service rep’s assurances that all transfers would be handled slickly by them, the last stage in the process was the need to enter a ‘MAC’ code from O2, so, needs must, I gave O2 a call. At which point… they offered me nine free months in the next twelve, an extra three on the advertised six months they’re giving customers of two years or more.

That’s just plain silly.

I’m sadly not in a financial position to sign up to an additional 200 of expenditure a year that I don’t strictly speaking need to, and so renewed with O2 for another year. I did take the opportunity to upgrade to the ‘better’ of O2‘s two unlimited bundles. I’m unlikely to see tremendous performance boost but I’ll take what little I can.

I’m often amazed at what these retention lines are empowered to do. Given the cost of acquisition must be significant – I continue to get a mailshot a week about BT Infinity – loyalty is to be encouraged, and there’s limited ongoing cost in keeping a customer signed on.

Broadband dilemma: To infinity, or beyond?

Buzz Lightyear Regular readers and friends know that I am quite a connected person. I use the Internet in more ways than people think it should be possible to use the Internet and so one of the principal aspects of living in the countryside (other than distance from friends and the commute) that I struggle with is the broadband connectivity. I went from a 20meg line in W2 to a 2.5meg line in Hampshire – a mere 60 miles apart, as the crow flies.

I had therefore been hotly anticipating coming out of contract with O2 Broadband so I could stump up the extra cash for BT Infinity, BT’s new vDSL service that – via fibre to the street and a VDSL link, I believe – delivers up to 40 meg download speeds. For me, it’d be a mere 22meg (with 6 meg uploads!), but still – a massive improvement on what I have now.

My contract is due to expire in September so I had planed to hit go this month to get things moving. On looking into it, however, my friends at O2 – which does have really quite excellent customer service and I’ve had no problems with otherwise – have offered me six months free broadband if I renew with them for another year. Which puts the total cost of my broadband service for the year at £75 – given that I already have an O2 mobile as well.

BT’s equivalent Infinity service, whilst obviously seven or eight times faster, therefore costs four times as much! At £28 per month, even with the three months free offer they’re doing – I’ll be facing a charge of £250 for the year. I’d expected a 100% premium, but O2’s promotion has made it significantly more.

I suspect I’ll relent – occasionally working from home helps the self-rationalization, as faster broadband is needed for effective VPN-ning in, not to mention the fact I’ll be able to get iPlayer HD again (I miss it, I do) and get a more reliable Skype Video and FaceTime calling service out of the house.

Does anyone out there have BT Infinity? My previous experiences of BT’s broadband service – admittedly quite out of date – was that it was expensive, has unreachable customer service, and that it hardly ever delivers what it promises. I’d be wedded to their hardware too, as I suspect that vDSL modems are not the sort of thing you can buy from Dabs.com (disclaimer: agency client. And actually, you can, but they cost a fortune).

I’m not in a Virgin cable area so BT have me right where they want me. I wonder how long before someone rules that choice in Next Generation Access is a right of the British citizen and forces BT to open up the market or take its prices down… C’mon Ofcom, rear your regulatory head.

International broadbandness

Because I’m curious about these things, I tend to make a cursory study of broadband connectivity wherever I travel (after all, in my professional life, I helped promote a global Broadband Quality Study three times…). All speed ratings are as determined by the Speedtest.net app on my iPhone.

– In the UK, we get an average of 3 mbp/s down and 0.8 mbp/s up. Mediocre, but serviceable. I’m considering BT Infinity when my contract is up in September – anyone have any insight into whether that might be a terrible idea? This is a suburban reading.

– In Malaysia, which for years has had a fairly consistently terrible broadband service, my parents have recently acquired a fibre optic cable service – resulting in synchronous 10mbp/s internet access for them. It’s amazing, although not massively cheap – at over 40 quid a month, in local currency. This is also a suburban reading.

– In Denmark, the speed as tested was more like 2 mbp/s down and 1 mbp/s up. Which is low, until you consider that somehow they manage to stream HD IPTV over the same line, at the same time, with nary a glitch or artefact. They have some clever traffic management stuff going on to make that happen, although aspects of the connection confounded sense: the router periodically stopped routing to random websites (including Google.com) and the original router supplied didn’t have wifi or switch features, so was tediously difficult to share. Thank goodness for the wifi upgrade Onkel and Moster got! This is a remote rural reading.

I didn’t check Finland – but that was a suburban reading which has been the cause for a little complaint.

No grand conclusions to draw from this except to point out that the fibre experience was almost magical next to the increasing creakiness of DSL broadband, which gets proportionately worse the further you are from a city. My hesitation around BT Infinity stems as much from concerns about how effectively the copper and in-house wiring will carry an increased broadband quality, how crappy the BT provided VDSL modem/router is likely to be… as well as the cost, which is double what I’m currently paying with O2.

I’ll continue to fight a broadband crusade – we need Next Generation Access in the UK sooner rather than later – and look forward to seeing what the likes of BT and Virgin Media do about it. I can’t believe that the Malaysians have managed to provide such a good quality of service, but it’s early days for the product there so imagine TMNet will soon eat its own tail in contention ratios.

Any other International broadband experiences to share?

Readying for a broadband future

The study I trailed yesterday has been published and reported on today. The full Broadband Quality Study from Cisco (my client) and the Oxford University Said Business School is available here.

The reason I care so much about this topic is that I truly believe that for societal and economic development, quality broadband connectivity is essential. The things you can do – from the simple act of being more connected to friends and family on Twitter and Facebook, to high-resolution video calling, photo & video uploads, & (in the future) interactive engagement in virtual environments (I still don’t quite believe in Second Life, but I do believe in what it and services like it will become) – dramatically change relationships, the way you learn, the way you interact, the way public services are delivered and much more.

I’m pleased that there’s so much development globally in terms of policy and infrastructure investment, particularly in the UK obviously. Keen to see wireless infrastructure development move on apace so we can bridge the urban/rural divide and get fibre-like broadband quality out to more people, more cost effectively (and get to a point with pervasive broadband connectivity across devices). I’d love to see more fibre too, but can’t help but feel that the days of multi-billion pound massively government subsidized infrastructure investment might be behind us for the time being… but we’ll see!

Cisco’s study looks at how broadband quality varies internationally – quality rather than pure speed as latency, the other factor weighted in when considering quality, effects the usefulness of a broadband connection in delivering certain services – e.g. realtime video communications, as opposed to video downloads, the former of which requires low latency (delay), the latter of which is a little more tolerant. The UK ranks in at number 25, which isn’t too bad when you consider that most of our telecommunications infrastructure was built out in the middle of the 20th century and we have aggressive targets for improvement in the future thanks to the recent Digital Britain commitments. We also do well for broadband penetration thanks to our universal service mandate, which bodes well for my eventual move to the countryside…

Have a read, let me know what you think.

Crossposted at Chivalry House.

Tech blog post to follow

I know I’ve been blogging about food non-stop (its the diet, the wedding planning, the general mania), but tomorrow I’m going to take a little break and get back to technology with a post about a new global broadband study we’ve been working on with my clients over at Cisco. It’s a topic I feel pretty passionately about myself and there’s some interesting perspectives being published tomorrow – watch this space.

Broadband whinge

Having mustered the enthusiasm to blog a little more, and 8 weeks away from our wedding, our broadband has died. It’s hard to tell if its the modem or the DSL line, but I’d like to say at this point that both the modem and my service provider SUCK.

The SP – Pipex Homecall (as was Bulldog, as is some distant part of Tiscali), doesn’t have support numbers obviously listed on its website. Instead, you have to submit an online form through its tedious self service tool, RightKnow. And this is the 5th time in two years something has gone wrong with the line (well, potentially gone wrong with the line), and comes weeks after I discovered they’d been double charging me for 10 months – something they were barely apologetic for and I had to scan and send them 10 months of bank statements to prove. They promise to get back to queries within two days – which is a long time when you’ve got as much going on as I do! If broadband is the next essential utility after electricity, water and gas, these guys are going to have to get better at responding to faults. Tools.

The modem – is less than a year old and came with an 11 YEAR warranty. But I can’t afford to be offline, so I’m not going to get to call it in before I have to buy a replacement. Eat it, D-Link.

Anyway, rant over. This can be a social media monitoring test for those guys, see if anyone offers me anything by way of apology or compensation, but I think its unlikely. [sigh].

Update: It was the network. The router is still alive. Apologies, D-Link. You’re OK. Pipex, you suck.

From Shorthand to Broadband

For those of you with an interest in technology, public relations, marketing and the media, my agency, Brands2Life, has done a really interesting piece of research looking at how journalists’ jobs have changed in the 15 or so years the Internet has been around. The headlines on point to journalists across all media types (not just technology or online) working harder and having to manage multimedia content and reader communities — a very different brief to what “traditional” journalism usually entails on a day-to-day basis. You can read the story in depth by downloading the research report from here. There are some graphs up on Flickr if anyone wants them.

The name – “From Shorthand to Broadband” – inspired this video which summarises the development of the media story. Have we got the whole story in? Is there something else you would have included / subbed out?

My personal view? From a business perspective, we’re at a really interesting point; one business model (traditional, ad-sponsored, print and broadcast media) is struggling in the wake of having to share its revenue with the online world, and the online world hasn’t yet developed a business model more substantive than relying on Google adwords. From a consumer perspective, broadband and web technologies are available and accessible to the point where the way everyone interacts with media has changed, whether they realise it or not. Not everyone’s there yet, of course, but where a few years ago you wouldn’t have been that surprised if someone from a different generation didn’t know how to Google something, today I’m having conversations with my mother about Facebook, and helping her organise to deliver a plenary speech at a conference via Skype video conferencing.

From a PR perspective — with journalists having to work differently, is it surprising that PRs will have to as well? Conversations in the industry — even with technology companies traditionally on the edge of new things — indicate how early on we are with this part of the story. A lot has changed since the ‘Martini lunches’ of legend, and even more is set to.

Be interested to hear from people who’ve been in one side and out the other — whilst there’s a lot of “web 2.0” that’s hype, I have a feeling that where we are with “social” media today is a pale, pale precursor to the way we’ll interact online in the future.

An interesting work week

Had a really interesting week at work last week – amongst other things, was working with a couple of fascinating senior Cisco-ites (Richard Allan and Robert Pepper) to campaign for wireless broadband to get some of the spectrum that is being freed up following the Digital Switchover. If you don’t know what the digital switchover is, check thisand this. For those who need disclaimers, obviously Cisco is a client…

In any event, here’s what’s happening. The analogue TV transmission signal is being switched off, in stages, starting last week in Whitehaven, Cumbria. In 2012, or just before, Ofcom will ‘auction’ off the license that is being freed up, as digital TV transmissions are more efficient, and can be compressed to use less spectrum for more channels. Various people, including the HD for All group and the EU commissioners (as I understand it) are campaigning for different things — the HD group for the spectrum to be allocated to HD over Freeview, and the EU has some thoughts on allocating some spectrum for DVB-H (mobile TV).

Cisco’s thrown its hat in the ring for wireless broadband, and I’m totally with them on this one. The impact broadband has on social and business development is remarkable and intuitively understood by someone who works where I do… a conversation with Damian highlighted the fact that, actually, it may not be so intuitive for others, but this is the role of education, and local business industry groups to work on. It is ludicrous that in this digital age, things like this happen — according to the Times, a woman had to wait 11 months for broadband to be wired to her home… 90 miles from London, the biggest Facebook city in the world.

There are a few reasons broadband needs this spectrum…

First: As Richard put it, it is the “Park Lane and Mayfair” of the EM spectrum (Pepper called it the “beachfront real estate” for you American readers) – it passes through everything easily, which a lot of wireless technologies, operating in their native frequencies, don’t. If you live in a big house, does your home Wifi signal penetrate through as many walls as you’d like it to?. Cisco’s actually technology neutral in this debate — they just “love broadband.” How else will you reach that 0.7% of the population (or whatever it is) that live outside the range of the fixed line infrastructure?

Second: Fixed line broadband needs viable competition! Wireless broadband will force the fixed line providers to up the ante and be good for consumers.

Third: In developing countries, we can skip fixed line altogether! But we need this spectrum – higher frequency transmissions apparently don’t pass through leaf foliage. Not quite so useful…

Fourth: You can still have video content delivered (over wireless broadband), which will be more interactive and generally better than the TV you’re used to (eventually, once Joost and IPlayer and applications like them grow up and get better). And, thanks to compression, you can still have HD over Freeview and mobile TV – just maybe not as many channels as people might like. But then, how much HD content is there? And, over time, we can re-allocate the current TV spectrum between SD and HD channels…

Fifth: The opportunity to ‘rezone’ the spectrum doesn’t happen often! We shouldn’t miss this opportunity by locking ourselves into a restrictive medium that doesn’t reflect the way people increasingly live their lives… (think of all the surveys that have shown that we surf the web more and watch TV less…)

There’s lots more to this debate, and some of it has been picked up by some of the journalists we spoke to – including Jane Wakefield’s piece on BBC News Online and David Meyer’s ZDNet article. There’s lots more interesting things coming – Google is rumoured to be putting a bid in for the US’ spectrum (which goes on auction in January) so there could be a whole spate of new, disruptive technologies coming into play.

Completely fascinating stuff, and great to be involved with them on this. Be interesting to see how the conversation develops over the next few years.