Waiting for (BT) Infinity – an update

I mentioned in my last post about my partner’s Mother moving home this week, and how it looks like BT have missed an opportunity to give a seamless transition of her VDSL service.

The new house was only around the corner from the old one, so should be on the same exchange, and maybe even on the same DSLAM and cabinet. It had previously had VDSL service, judging from the master socket faceplate.


Was the jumpering in the cab over to the DSLAM still set up? Well, we dug out the old BT VDSL modem and HomeHub 3, and set those up.

Guess what…

20140626_144809The VDSL modem successfully trained up. The line is still connected to the VDSL DSLAM.

However, it’s failing authentication – a steady red “b“. Therefore it looks like the old gear won’t work on the new line.

But then the new HomeHub 5 they’ve needlessly shipped out won’t work either: we set that up too, and get an orange “b” symbol.

Evidently, something isn’t provisioned somewhere on the backend. Maybe the account credentials have been changed, or the port on the DSLAM isn’t provisioned correctly yet.

Does this look like a missed opportunity to provide a seamless transition, without the need for an engineer visit, or what?


When parents-in-law move homes – a tale of being “default” tech support

Sheesh BT.

The MiL has moved. Around the corner from her old house. She had BT Infinity (BT’s Retail FTTC product) at the old house. She ordered the service to be moved. The voice service was activated on the day she moved, but not the Internet access.

The new house has previously had FTTC with the last occupant, it has the FTTC faceplate. One can only assume that the “double jumpering” to the FTTC MSAN is still in place too.

I wouldn’t mind betting that it’s even coming off the same bloody street cab/MSAN.

Can we just take the old Homehub 3 and VDSL modem over and plug those in? Oh no.

BT have sent a new Homehub 5 and scheduled an engineer visit for Friday, 5 days after she’s moved in.

It just feels a bit wrong, and maybe even on the crazy side. In theory this could have been done as a simultaneous provide – i.e. both the voice and the internet service brought up at the same time, and in this case potentially without an engineer visit!

Who knows why it’s not happened. Certainly the MiL wouldn’t have known to ask for a “sim-provide”, but should she have to?

…and you’re not gonna reach my telephone.

Or, when an FTTC install goes bad.

Finally got around to getting FTTC installed to replace my ADSL service which seldom did more than about 3Mb/sec has had it’s fair share of ups and downs in the past. Didn’t want to commit to the 12 month contract term until I knew the owner was willing to extend our lease, but now that’s happened, I ordered the upgrade, sticking with my existing provider, Zen Internet, who I’m actually really happy with (privately held, decent support when you need it, don’t assume you’re a newbie, well run network, etc…).

For the uninitiated, going FTTC requires an engineer to visit your home, and to the cabinet in the street that your line runs through and get busy in a big rats nest of wires. The day of the appointment rolled around, and mid-morning, a van rolls up outside – “Working on behalf of BT Openreach”. “At least they kept the appointment…”, I think to myself

BT doesn’t always send an Openreach employee on these turnups, but they send a third-party contractor, and this was the case for this FTTC turn-up…

Continue reading “…and you’re not gonna reach my telephone.”

DSL Diary – 23/10/2012

Latest instalment…

Currently away at the NANOG meeting in Dallas. Got an alert from the RIPE Atlas system that my Atlas probe had become unreachable.

Bit of testing from the outside world showed serious packet loss, and nothing on the home network was actually reachable with anything other than very small pings. I’d guessed the line had got into one of it’s seriously errored modes again, but thought I’d try leaving it overnight to see if it cleared itself up. Which it didn’t.

So, how did I get around this, and reset the line, given that by now my tolerant girlfriend would be at work, and couldn’t go into the “internet cupboard” and unplug some wires?

Well, turns out that you get BT to do an invasive test on a line using this tool on bt.com. This has the effect of dropping any calls on the line and resetting.

The line re-negotiated, and came back up with the same speed as before, 3Mb/sec down, 0.45Mb/sec up, no interleave.

Looking at the router log, the VirtualAccess interface state was bouncing up and down during the errored period, so the errors are bad enough to make the PPP session fail and restart (again and again), but the physical layer wasn’t picking this up and renegotiating.

Of course, BT’s test says “No fault found”. In terms of the weather in London, it has been damp and foggy, further fuelling the dry joint theory.

I’ve also had a chat with Mirjam Kuehne from RIPE Labs about seeing if it’s possible to make the Atlas probe’s hardware uptime visible, as well as the “reachability-based” uptime metric. They are looking in to it.

BT and Virgin Media challenge Birmingham’s Broadband deployment

BBC News are reporting that incumbent high speed broadband providers BT and Virgin Media have launched a legal challenge to Birmingham City Council’s proposed independant Superfast Broadband Network.

The city has successfully applied for EU state aid to build network into underserved areas of the city, aligned with the Council’s regeneration plans for those areas. Virgin contest that it is “overbuilding” on their existing network footprint, and as such is unnecessary, effectively using EU subsidy to attack their revenue stream.

Broadband campaigner Chris Conder, one of the people behind the B4RN project, says that this is a case of VM and BT trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted.

It’s going to be an interesting and important test case.

DSL Diary – 18/10/12

You may have read my post regarding a spell of degradation on my home internet access – Interleaves on the Line?

The other recent addition to my home network is a RIPE Atlas probe – this is part of a large scale internet measurement project being run by the RIPE NCC. One of the advantages of hosting a probe is that you get access to the measurements running from your probe, and you can also get the collection platform to email you if your probe becomes unreachable for a long period.

As it turned out, my probe appeared to be down for half an hour last night, but I know I was using the internet connection just fine at that time, so maybe I’ll put that down to interruption between the probe and the collection apparatus?

Well, the current status is that the line has been up for seven days now, at just over 3Mb/sec, Interleaving off.

Still not the fastest connection, but at least it now seems to be more stable.

One thing I’ll keep my eye open for is if the line goes back to Interleaved, as the Atlas probe should show up the difference in latency that you get with Interleaving enabled.

Seasonal ADSL retraining: Interleaves on the line?

While I was away at the RIPE 65 meeting in Amsterdam last week, my home DSL went down. I suspected that the router and the exchange equipment had got into some crazy state where packets are massively errored, but sync isn’t lost, so there’s no retraining. The only way of recovering is to bounce the adsl interface on the router, either in software, or unplugging from the phone line. Occasionally, since moving, this happens, and seems to be related to the weather, which had been very wet and windy at the start of the week.

Since moving, I live toward the edge of the coverage of my exchange, the line length is estimated to be about 4km, and it has to get across a EM noise ridden town centre and an electrified railway line or two to get here. Both of which are potential factors that influence one’s line speed. It’s delivered overhead from the nearby pole on a dropwire, while the rest is UG, though that shouldn’t have any significant issue.

Initially, syncing at around 5Mb with Interleaving, but retraining several times a day the line eventually settled down to run stable without Interleave at around the 3Mbit mark, which is okay for most things other than TV streaming, but we’re not a Netflix kind of household, so don’t really mind.

My unfailingly patient girlfriend (who also needed to use the internet connection) reset the line, things retrained, and we were off again.

However, when I got home, I found the performance seemed a bit slow, so I checked the router. The line speed had dropped to sub 2.5Mb/sec, with Interleave on.

After a couple of retrains over the last few days, the speed has crept back up and following an “invasive line test” via BT.com, which forces a drop and regotiate it’s now syncing again at 3M, but still with Interleave – which is no great loss to me as I’m not a huge online gamer these days.

(Now realising that’s a way of forcing a remote reset when it’s got into a heavily errored state but hasn’t lost sync. Handy when I’m away and there’s no-one in to pull the plug.)

So, this is not the first time I’ve had fun with the line since moving. During the recent spell of hot weather, things would run fine until there was a sudden cooling, such as rapid cloud cover or a heavy shower, at which point the connection would drop and need to be nudged to renegotiate.

It’s got me wondering if the line is affected by a dry joint or degraded cable somewhere along the way.

Doing a ‘17070’ and quiet line test, it’s got a faint “shushing” noise, rather than total silence, and I did just notice what seemed to be “crosstalk” of ringing current (a faint “click-click, click-click”) for a few seconds.

Not sure whether to argue the toss with BT to get them out to give the line the once over (but risk having an indifferent BTO engineer make it worse rather than better), or just give in and go FTTC, despite the fact I’m 3 months into a 1 yr tenancy and FTTC has 1 yr minimum term and can’t cope with you moving house (yet!).

Update, 5/10/12:

Had a chat with my old man about this. He’s a retired BT engineer, so generally knows his stuff about copper plant. Agreed with the likelihood of it being a dry joint and/or the possibility of their being other dry joints in the same cab/DP with a shared earth, given that the “click-click” of ringing current is sometimes audible over a quiet line test.

His suggestion: Phone BT until they are sick to death of you and keep asking for either the joints on your existing routing to be re-made, or a new routing to be provided.

Superfast Broadband Roundup – 19th September

Surrey County Council have advised that they have awarded their “final third” superfast broadband deployment to BT. The contract is worth around £33m.

It’s worth noting that the SCC deployment is being done seperately from the BDUK umbrella, and it’s been revealed BT were bidding against two other independant contractors, as opposed to their usual BDUK bidding rivals Fujitsu.

If you fancy being the person who manages the BT deployment in Surrey, they are currently seeking a Programme Director to run the show. I’m not sure what happened to the last occupant of the role, if there was one?

Of course, one advantage of going with BT for this deployment is that assuming BT in the main use their existing FTTC/FTTP service models, it shouldn’t be a problem for any ISP to deliver “superfast” service to homes and businesses on the Surrey deployment. It will be done using the same interconnects and some provisioning.

Compare that to more “bespoke” superfast networks such as Digital Region, which had been viewed as unattractive to work with because of the additional overheads for a consumer ISP of dealing with their processess and provisioning systems, in addition to the “defacto” wholesale broadband providers such as Be/O2 and the ubiquitous BT.

So, while I was at the IX Leeds meeting last week, I was interested to hear of a new service from Fluidata, which aims to solve the problems commonly associated with delivering service over multiple local access wholesalers, which they are calling “Stop@Nothing”.

Their plan is to offer a wholesale “middleman” service, interconnecting to various local access networks, both national (such as BT and O2) and regional (such as Digital Region), among others, and being able to deliver these over an inter-regional backhaul network to the ISP on a common pipe (or pipes), and provide a common API to the ISP for provisioning, regardless of which last mile network is delivering service to the customer premises.

I can see this helping the ISPs in two ways – potentially doing away with the time and cost implications of integrating a new wholesale broadband provider platform into your own provisioning processes and systems, and in giving ISPs who don’t have any local presence cheaper access to regional projects (such as Digital Region), without the risk of building into the area – maybe this becomes something can be done later if volume warrants it. It potentally also gets around issues such as minimum order commitments from individual ISPs, as these are aggregated behind the Fluidata service.

I haven’t got a clue how cost effective Fluidata’s product will be, as I’ve not seen any pricing for it. I can only assume that it’s competitive or they wouldn’t be doing it.

Meanwhile, the group of determined farmers and country-dwelling folk behind B4RN in the North West continue doing their own thing, their own way, and have recently been digging into a local church hall in Abbeystead:

There’s a whole series of videos on their YouTube channel about how they are progressing and details on the physical elements of their infrastructure such as digs and fibre installs.