The First Year of Superfast FTTC Broadband - Page 3 - UK ISP Experiences
The First Year of Superfast FTTC Broadband
By: Mark Jackson - June 6th, 2011 : Page 3 -of- 5
"slower Wi-Fi networks can sometimes cause consumers to become confused about their ISPs actual performance"

bt openreach uk broadband telecom van Likewise PlusNet recently reported that customers who had joined up with its own FTTC trials were suddenly using up to 40% more than they did before. Entanet also recorded an "increase in bandwidth usage", before adding that "the highest increases tend to only be seen by those customers that were already among our heavier users. We haven't seen much change with those that had smaller monthly usage habits." However, IDNet warns that the initial excitement doesn't always last.

The Director of IDNet , Simon Davies , told

"After the initial excitement and frenzy of downloading stuff just to see how fast it is, people seem to settle back to pretty much as they were before. In normal, interactive use (browsing, email etc) it's difficult enough to tell the difference between 2 and 10Mbps let alone 5 and 35Mpbs. And iPlayer only needs 1.1Mbps to stream (HD quality = three times that). Apart from faster downloads the big benefit is a more stable connection due to less interference which is particularly useful for people who had long ADSL lines."

The reality may be that faster connections don't always mark the instant start of a usage increase; consumers often need time to absorb a new technology before they inevitably discover new ways of getting the most out of it. Meanwhile all the statistics show that internet usage is on the rise and it wouldn't be able to do that without the availability of ever faster connectivity.

Teething Problems

No new technology launches without experiencing at least a few hick-ups along the way and the same is just as true of FTTC. However, not all problems are the fault of the connection itself, such as in the case of how slower Wi-Fi networks can sometimes cause consumers to become confused about their ISPs actual performance.

This is exactly what happened with early FTTC adopters, many of whom made the mistake of linking their fancy new FTTC lines up to a significantly slower wireless (Wi-Fi) network. You see, Wi-Fi often runs slower than the best fixed line connections, sometimes even on the latest N spec kit. Naturally some customers failed to recognise this and blamed their ISP.

An Entanet Spokeswoman explained:

"The main concern for customers in the beginning was speed but this was often due to a mix of customers not fully understanding the new technologies involved and BT/Entanet's configurations. We've had speed issues reported which can be attributed to wireless kit. Typically this is because the customer is using wireless G which has a typical transfer rate of up to 23Mbps which can obviously affect the potential FTTC speed. To achieve the maximum potential speeds customers need to upgrade their wireless kit to support wireless N which has a transfer rate of up to 74Mbps."

IDNet agreed that the "speed of non-n wifi is naturally going to be a bottleneck" and also pointed out that some "older routers simply don't have the CPU power necessary to route packets fast enough". In fact all of the ISPs we questioned reported similar problems with Wi-Fi and general router performance. IDNet suggested that if the router has Gigabit speed Ethernet (LAN ports) then it probably comes with a fast enough processor to handle FTTC throughput.

Both AAISP and Zen Internet also pointed towards problems with customer perception. FTTC is still a contended (shared) broadband service and "at busy times of day speeds can significantly drop", warned Zen. However, some customers still expect their FTTC Sync Speed or BRAS profiles to apply at all times of the day, which of course they won't unless you buy an expensive and uncontended business solution.

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