It’s not often that LockerGnome gets the opportunity to see things from the perspective of the United Kingdom. I know and completely understand that LockerGnome is based in the United States and can only report on what happens “at home,” but I am extremely pleased to be one of the few who provides these perspectives from outside of the United States and that I can help LockerGnome be even more well rounded as both a community and a company. Today’s article is on UK ISPs (Internet service providers) and broadband speeds, which is a particularly thorny issue.
Across the pond we have a wide choice of ISPs that have a wide range of prices — I will try to give UK and US currency conversion as we go. The two big companies are BT (British Telecom) and Virgin Media, although BSkyB (British Sky Broadcasting) is trying to compete with Virgin Media. Both Virgin Media and BSkyB are broadcasting companies; Virgin is via a fibre-optic cable, and Sky is via a satellite dish. There are many other ISPs like Plus Net, o2, Orange, and probably more than a few that I’ve missed. Prices range from £6.50 ($10.40) to £45 ($72.52), and I have to admit that I’m paying the £45 a month for BT Infinity.
BT is upgrading its network over the whole of the UK to fibre-optic cable. Thus BT Infinity was born in direct competition with Virgin Media, which already has a cable network for television, phone, and broadband. BT Infinity and Virgin Media give customers broadband speeds of up to 38 Mbps (Megabits per second), although Virgin Media is already advertising up to 50 Mbps for certain customers. BT Infinity is not available to everyone in the United Kingdom just yet, but BT is saying that everyone will be eligible for Infinity by December of 2013.
In the UK we have a lot of broadband advertisements stating an “up to” speed for your broadband connection. This is not your ISP taking a mean average of customers’ actual broadband speeds. This is your ISP taking the highest speed that maybe two or three customers receive and pasting “up to” to the beginning so that it doesn’t have to be exact or actually tell potential customers that they will get 2 Mbps and not the “up to” 30 Mbps that it is quoting. The mean average for an ISP may be 10 Mbps, but if an average user is looking at 10 Mbps versus up to 30 Mbps, the ISP is going to go for the up to speed in its advertisement campaigns.
The part that is absolutely laughable is the fact that, in the UK, we are fighting for 10-15 Mbps for everyone, and yet places that are considered “developing nations” are getting 25-30 Mbps as standard for their users. This information is coming from netindex.com, which places the UK at number 33 on its charts. I am only getting “up to 38 Mbps” because I am paying through the nose for the privilege. There are still users in the UK who are getting less than 3 Mbps for broadband and are paying anything between £20-£30 ($32-$48) for this.
The main reason is because we don’t generally like to complain. We are a great nation of moaners, but very rarely does anyone complain. I don’t know if it’s because it might inconvenience someone at the company or because there is a potential that someone would lose their job because — gasp — they didn’t do their job properly. Any time I’ve told stories of complaining and getting a payout or a result where someone lost their job, the question that I always get asked is “What if he/she had a family and you got them sacked?” The whole point is that they wouldn’t have been sacked/fired if it was their first mistake. The message is “Complain, Don’t Moan.”
I’ve been with Wanadoo broadband (later known as Orange Broadband), Sky Broadband, and BT Infinity. Wanadoo was actually pretty decent as an ISP, but I moved away from it to Sky because Sky was offering everything for £10 and money was tight. Its broadband all-in-one router/modem box was a weird-looking thing that didn’t (and still doesn’t) look like your typical all-in-one router/modem box, but it was well-designed. I never had a problem with it overheating or doing anything out of the ordinary.
Sky Broadband, on the other hand, was an absolute nightmare to work with. It gave me a Netgear all-in-one router/modem that was updated to Sky Broadband’s own software that crippled the router’s function. This router/modem was crippled to the point of overheating and was prone to loss of connection. I called Sky on several occasions and was once told that we could get a replacement only to be called up the next day to be told that, no, we couldn’t get a replacement because there were a lot more diagnostics to be done.
The next time I called Sky was in regards to this all-in-one router/modem overheating. I was told by a Sky Broadband representative that the all-in-one router/modem was not to be kept on 24/7. I decided to call Netgear — this all-in-one router/modem manufacturer — and ask someone there. The representative at Netgear told me that this all-in-one router/modem was designed to say on 24/7 and designed to have a 99% uptime. The representative went through some of the router’s parameters and what they should be. It turns out that Sky was trying to push the all-in-one router/modem in the wrong ways and that was why it was being unreliable. After the call to Netgear, the all-in-one router/modem behaved and I had no further problems with it.
BT Infinity has been absolutely great. There is one small problem, though, and that is the BT HomeHub was supposed to be replaced with its new third generation version, but when I called up it turned out that we weren’t eligible. The wireless signal does tend to drop every now and again and I’ve not found a way to stop that from happening. I’ve changed the channel, I’ve moved the HomeHub, and I’ve changed every setting around four or five times. We now work around it and it seems to work well most of the time. I get 30-35 Mbps and it is very nice, thank you very much.
So that’s my perspective from the UK. As the LockerGnome readership spans the globe, I’d be interested in knowing about what kind of experiences you have on your side of the planet. Leave some comments and let us know!