Well, that’s a surprise…

Weston Village

So those who follow my trials and tribulations with getting better broadband, will know that following a move in 2012 I lost my FTTC connection and had to revert back to an ADSL connection, a slow ADSL connection at that generally getting between 1-1.5 Mbs. This was because my house was connected to cabinet 25, and this was the only cabinet connected to the Worle Exchange which was never upgraded to FTTC. My expectation was that within a year it would probably be upgraded, it never was…

I have written previously about my woes with fibre before, when we first moved house and lost fibre and then my initial investigations into why I couldn’t get FTTC and back in 2012 writing about the confirmation of no plans to upgrading cabinet 25.

When I first approached BT Openreach about this issue, they said it was not commercially viable and that they wouldn’t be upgrading the cabinet. The only alternative I was told, it would probably be upgraded by Connecting Devon and Somerset as part of a public private partnership.

Their first response was that it wasn’t part of their initial roll out. I wasn’t too surprised by this, as I was sure they would focus on the rural areas away from the places that already had FTTC to show real impact.

When they updated one of their maps I discovered that we were no longer part of their plans, it followed that we were now part of a commercial roll out and wasn’t

BT Openreach still wasn’t providing any sensible or details.

It was apparent that there was no solid information on when, or even if, we would be getting fibre…

In a side story, on the other side of the railway tracks, on the other side of the village, Virgin Media were laying cable. Now there was very little information on this installation, the Virgin Media site was giving even less away than BT Openreach!

Then some news…

Weston Mercury News Report

According to the report in the local Weston Mercury, BT Openreach had changed their mind and would be upgrading cabinet 25 to fibre so that we can get FTTC.

So what changed?

Personally I did wonder if the Virgin Media installations were getting them worried?

Who knows?

Well in 2017 I may finally be getting a faster internet connection, until then I will have to contend with slow ADSL and 4G for my connectivity.

4G’ing it

iphone 6s plus Photo credit: Yanki01 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

I have now been on Three for nearly six months and I am still pleased with the speed of the connection and reliability of the service.

In some areas I am getting nearly 50Mb download speeds.

Download speeds

There are some days when the connection appears to stall, but this is short lived.

I am on an unlimited data contract with Three. This appears to be a full unlimited contract with no “artificial” limits or throttling.

On my previous original T-Mobile (now EE) contract I would usually use less than 2GB. This was partly down to the speed of the 3G connection. On the Three connection I am now using on average 35GB of data. In at least one month I used in excess of 50GB.

As my home broadband is rather slow, I am now using my iPhone connected to the TV via an HDMI adapter for services such as iPlayer, Netflix and other on demand services (well the ones that work through the adapter). As the connection is quite fast, I am able to stream HD video, which probably explains the high data usage!

Nov – 30GB
Dec – 22GB
Jan – 50GB
Feb – 41GB
Mar – 35GB

Checking the bills I used over 7GB on the 7th January, no idea what was happening that day.

There are some aspects that I find frustrating, however these are more down to limitations imposed by others. For example Apple don’t allow you to download software updates, large app updates, movies and TV shows over mobile data, you have to use WiFi. However as my internet contract is much slower compared to the potential speeds I can get on 4G this means that it can be frustrating when I need to download large files.

In terms of signal, one of the reasons I chose Three was the coverage they have for my home address and over Bristol. In other places it has been somewhat sketchy, but was pleased to get a decent signal in Dublin for a conference (and no roaming charges) other places I wasn’t surprised as it was rather rural.

I will say I wasn’t disappointed with the signal of T-Mobile, especially when they merged with Orange. However the lack of an unlimited data contract on 4G meant that I didn’t see it as an option. Though 3G was okay, I do appreciate the faster speeds you get with 4G.

Photo credit: Yanki01 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Haven no 4G, well not quite no 4G

Though I have been pleased with the 4G coverage I get from Three at home in Weston-super-Mare and at work in Bristol, as well as travelling. I was pleased with the coverage I got recently in Dublin, but I didn’t expect anything less.

Going on holiday down to Cornwall I did wonder if I would be getting any coverage at the Perran Sands Haven resort we would be staying at. Checking Ofcom’s coverage map it was apparent that there wasn’t much hope.

Perran Sands

Arriving at the resort I wasn’t too surprised that in the caravan there was no signal of any kind. I was a little surprised to find that climbing the sand dune next to us, I could get a 4G connection! Not too practical to climb a dune to stream Netflix.

There was supposed to be free wifi in the central hub, but as mentioned in a previous post about the Haven wifi, my expectations about this weren’t too high, and I never did manage to see the free wifi network let along connect to it.

I wasn’t too worried about having a connection to the internet whilst on holiday, I was quite happy to leave the Twitter for a while, I certainly wasn’t going to worry about e-mail, but it would have been nice to be able to stream some video, or read the news. So in the end I watched the occasionally bit of live television and I also read books and newspapers.

Will we get Virgin Media cable?

Weston Village by James Clay

On the other side of the village…

I like how Weston call their new housing developments villages, this conjures up images of a village green, a local post office, a pub and a red phone box.

Reality is that this is a modern housing estate, though has to be said with an ancient communication infrastructure relying on old copper cables!

It is no surprise that when builders come in and build a new housing estate they provide electricity, gas, water and sewage, but when it comes to connectivity, they fall back to the trusted copper cables.

Why when a new housing estate is built they can’t install fibre straight in, I will never know. Though recent press reports indicate that this may now happen… only taken ten years.

But back to the other side of the village, across the main railway line which splits the village (we do get steam trains on that line, but this isn’t Titfield Thunderbolt railway lines, no this is high speed GWR and CrossCountry) we have seen Virgin Media come in, dig up the roads and pavements and install Virgin cabling to the houses there.

There isn’t much to discover on the web about Virgin Media and what will be available, according to the website, they say it’s not in their plans… seems strange to spend lots of money on the infrastructure to connect homes, but never actually connect them up! I expect it will be available shortly, and I wonder what sort of stuff will be on their fibre cables? In some parts of Bristol for example, we have 200Mbs connections, though I think that Virgin would also like you to take their TV packages as well, something that puts me off them, as I don’t watch that much live TV and prefer BBC iPlayer, Netflix or Amazon Prime.

What has got me wondering, now they have installed cable on the other side of the village, will they cross the railway line and do our side of the village, will they get us some decent internet connectivity, as BT Openreach have consistently failed to do so. There are some CATV covers quite close (and on our side of the railway line) but not sure if they are anything to do with Virgin Media, or even if they are related to any possible roll out of Virgin Media Cable.

Of course no news on the Virgin Media website, so we shall have to wait and see.

Reducing Roaming Costs

Royal Hospital Kilmainham

Last week I was in Dublin for the LILAC 16 conference. The last time I was in Ireland was in 2012. Back then I was on an EE contract and when I arrived at Dublin Airport I tuned flight mode on, on my iPhone as I didn’t want to incur huge roaming charges. There was quite a few press stories (and still are now and again) on people taking their smartphones abroad and racking up huge charges in their phones because of the way modern phones use data. I spent the week using wifi and making the odd call home when needed.

Since then there has been new EU legislation on roaming charges. I also have moved away from EE and have a new contract with Three using an iPhone 6S Plus. The contract gives me unlimited data on the phone as well as unlimited texts and a generous number of minutes, well who uses their phones for making calls these days?

So before this visit to Dublin I checked the Three website and was pleasantly surprised to find out that I could use my phone abroad with no extra costs!

So before this visit to Dublin I checked the Three website and was pleasantly surprised to find out that I could use my phone abroad with no extra costs!

Though I have an unlimited plan, there are some restrictions when using my plan abroad.

If you have all-you-can-eat data you can use up to 12GB. If you have all-you-can-eat texts you can send up to 5,000 texts.

So during my visit I was able to easily join the Three Ireland network, make calls, send texts and use data with no problems or worries. Though it has to be said the UCD enduros wifi network was excellent and faster than the Three 3G network, whilst the 3G was faster and more reliable than the hotel network. As I was there only three days, the 12GB allowance was more than enough.

After I got back j got a text from Three. According to them I saved £56.36 which was nice.

According to them I saved £56.36 which was nice.