Getting BT fibre-optic broadband

BT Home Hub 3
Don't use one of these...

Hint for anyone planning on moving to BT‘s fibre optic broadband – forget the packaged HomeHub3 and go for a router capable of 300Mbps throughput on the wifi. We’ve gone for a NetGear though there are plenty of alternatives.

Reason being that most areas have 40Mbps (max) broadband speed with a quoted rise to 80Mbps within a few months, peaking at 300Mbps. Some areas already have 300Mbps.

The HomeHub3 is only capable of transmitting a wifi signal of 130Mbps. Therefore, even though it could theoretically be yanking 300Mbps up the “pipe” from the internet, it can only get it to your computer at less than half that speed. In other words, the kit BT are shipping is already out of date.

The WNR2200 we went for is small, white (therefore colour-coordinated to please my other half) and sits perfectly on top of the supplied BT fibre modem. It’s also only about £50 if you pre-purchase via PCWorld’s (*spit*) website and collect it in store – saving you £60! Though there was another option, even cheaper – £25, from a manufacturer I’ve not heard of before.

If you have an existing ADSL modem router… pass it on to someone else. It’s useless with fibre. You need a cable modem, i.e. one with a “WAN” input socket on the back, not an ADSL one. OK, technically you don’t need the “modem” part of it as BT supply that, but that’s what to look for on the boxes.

Confusingly, lots of retailers started labelling all of their ADSL kit as appropriate for “BT Connections”. Obviously, this is no longer the case as it depends on whether you’re using ADSL or fibre now.

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Experiencing BT Broadband

BT Group plc
Blinking Tripe

I’m staying with relatives for a couple of weeks and they’ve just had broadband installed. They decided on BT‘s Option 2 which has a 4.5Mb connection (I think) and a limit of 15Gb per month which should be fine given that it’s predominantly for my little cousin to access CBeebies and the folks to go on eBay.

BT’s policy if you go over this limit is also pretty fair, in my opinion:

If you exceed your monthly usage allowance your service won’t stop working; advisory emails will be sent to your BT primary email address if you reach 80 per cent of your usage allowance each month and further notification if you then exceed your allowance in a particular month. If you exceed your usage allowance for two months in a row, we’ll charge you £1 for each extra GB you use (rounded up to the nearest GB) starting from the second month you exceed your allowance. We’ll continue charging if you keep exceeding your allowance in the following months. These charges will appear on your BT bill.

So you actually get a “free” couple of GB as long as you don’t take the piss, the additional charges aren’t excessive and they do warn you in advance when you’re approaching the limit. Can’t complain about that.

Only there’s still one major issue. How do you know how much data you’ve downloaded at any one point in time? This can’t be difficult and BT obviously have a per-customer record of this that’s constantly updated. How else could they inform you of when you’ve gone over it?

To put this in context, I have my mobile from 3. I don’t have an internet usage limit on it, but I so have a certain number of calls and texts I can use before I get charged. At any time I can go online, either via my phone or elsewhere, and get an up-to-the-second list of every category of phone call and text (and internet, though it’s not relevant to me) used. That way I know as I approach the end of my billing month how much I have to burn through, or whether I need to throttle back.

BT do not do this. There is no way to find out how much data you’ve shifted. Their advice:

To monitor your usage, you can use a search engine to find and download an online-usage meter; search for ‘internet usage meter’. You may wish to try several until you find one that meets your needs.

In a word: pathetic.

They’re pushing wi-fi routers these days, the idea of which is that multiple devices can be connected at any time. A family may have a desktop and two laptops. One of the parents could have work laptop they’re not allowed to install software onto so that scuppers the idea. Then you have to go around all of the devices and total up the data used all the time.

What happens if a friend comes over, or you want to surf the net on your mobile? The 3G signal here is pants so I connect my phone to the wi-fi instead. There’s no such program for the Nokia E71 that I’m aware of and it would be pointless anyway as I’d only want to use it when I’m here. Likewise, if you pop a monitor onto a laptop, you have to ensure it’s only measuring data flow when you’re connected to the home network and nowhere else.

Essentially it’s completely unreliable and useless unless you have one solitary PC hardwired to the internet connection. If a mobile company can manage it, then why can’t BT? All they need is a “customer information” web page you log into which tells you. Easy as. If such a page does exist then they need to tell people about it.

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