Friday 22 June 2012

BT Infinity

I went to BT's web site to find out if I could get fibre or SDSL. I can't. But I spoke to a very helpful lady called Zoe at BT, and she told me some excellent information.

1. "Unlimited" now means unlimited. Not all their services give you unlimited usage, but the ones that say that they are unlimited, are indeed unlimited, there's no small-print "gotchas" like an Acceptable Use Policy.

2. For BT to roll out fibre, they have to enable the exchange, and then run fibre to the green BT boxes that you see at the side of roads all over the place. They don't need to run fibre to your house, the last few yards are done on the existing copper. And that means *much* less installation work that needs to be done.

3. You can balance the upload/download speeds. So instead of 40 mbit down and 20 mbit up, you could have 35 and 25. But since my existing leased-line is 2mb, I'll be perfectly happy with that!

4. It's in BT's interest to make this happen as fast as they can - they don't have a monopoly on this, but it looks to me like they have a clear advantage, especially over the smaller broadband companies.

I currently have three 3-or-4 mbit ADSL lines at £15/month, a 2 mbit megastream at £400 and my 100 mbit colocation at £800 (rough figures pluck from my memory). It looks like I could replace the first two with a £26/month line for 76 mbit. And maybe, at some point in the future, I could even replace the colocation!

But not yet.

We can't get fibre here, and probably won't for a year or two (the BT chatbot said by the end of 2013), but my Daisy contract expires in two years, so that fits nicely; Daisy will have to come up with an attractive offer if they want to keep my business then. There's also the question of IP addresses; I currently have a Class C here (256 addresses) and a couple of dozen more at my colocation. I'd probably lose all of those, which would be a bit of a hassle, and getting them replaced would be another job I'd have to do. On the other hand, IP6 is getting more pervasive, and by two years from now, it might be widespread. And IP6 addresses will be a lot easier to get, because there's a *lot* more of them available. Also, I might be able to do something a bit clever that would mean I'd only need one IP address, or at least only a few. I might need more than one fibre link, maybe two or three, but by then, they'll probably be even cheaper than they are now. I've survived changing colocations (when Energis managed to persuade me that I'd be better off ditching their service and going with someone who charged 1/3 as much) and moving house (and a hundred or two computers). So I can probaly survive changing the way I do data transfer.

Right now, I have a lot more computers running than I have IP addresses for. How do I manage that? Because there's 16 million IP addresses that anyone can use, any address that starts with 10, such as
Those addresses are called "non-routable", which means that anyone outside my network can't talk to any of those computers. That's a big security plus. But, of course, I do want people to be able to have some kinds of limited access to some of my computers. That's accomplished by a process called "Network Address Translation" (NAT), and I do that at my firewall. So when you try to access one of my computers at, for example,, that is translated by the firewall to, for example,, but only if you're trying to access the web site there.  Looking at the BT web site, I can get 5 IP addresses for £5/month. So if I had two lines, I'd have 10 IPs, and I think that would be enough, by making much greater use of NAT than I currently do.

So a couple of years from now, I could be making some very big and cost-saving changes.

Here's the details I got today, taken from the respective web sites. Talktalk is my current ADSL provider, that's why I considered them. Virgin has the fastest, or so they claim. Daisy is my current leased line provider, and BT do my telephony. There's probably several other possibilities.

                  Cost/month        Bandwidth        Limit/month
BT                  £26              76 mbit         No limit ***
Daisy               £30              40              100 gb
TalkTalk            £15              76              Unlimited download allowance *
Virgin              £25.50          100              No limit **

Some of them have a cheaper start-up rate, some have an install cost, some give a discount for web signups. I'm looking at the long term rates. I think all these rates include VAT, but I didn't check carefully.

* Unlimited doesn't seem to mean unlimited. It means "900 music albums or 55 videos", and these numbers are so specific, I think that for TalkTalk "unlimited" doesn't actually mean unlimited. I have no idea what that is in gigabytes, but I'd guess maybe 50 or 60gb?

** The Virgin web site says that "traffic management operates from 4pm to 9pm and 10am to 3pm to ensure a consistent user experience". That sounds to me like a limit. And there's a "fair use amount". See their Traffic management table. Warning - it looks really complicated! But it does look like the have a cap on data transfer.

*** I checked out the BT web site, and it does seem that for BT, unlimited really does mean "unlimited". I read the "Acceptable Use Policy" (which is a *lot* easier to read than Virgin's) and it's all about not doing illegal things, which is fine by me. There's nothing there I could see about traffic limits. There's one minor exception, and that's on P2P traffic (which I think mostly means file sharing such as Torrents). That can get slowed down (deliberately) during peak hours. I use torrents maybe once every couple of months to download the latest copy of Fedora Linux, about 3gb, and I'm not bothered how long it takes.

From this info, and for my purposes, it looks like BT is clearly the best, with Virgin, Daisy and TalkTalk ruled out by their download limits, although the Virgin limit might not be a problem (but it's so complicated, I'm reluctant to work out what it means, especially as it'll probably change over time and be different by the time I'm in the market). Other people's needs are probably different from mine. But since fibre won't be available here for a year or two, I'll need to revisit the costs and Ts and Cs when the time comes.

Why have I blogged all this? Well, it might be useful to someone, but mostly, it will definitely be useful to me about 18 months from now, when I start to think about data transfer after my Daisy contract runs out (which happens in May 2014).

I've also had an email from X at Daisy, who has read my previous blog. I would recommend reading my blog to anyone who is interested in customer feedback. The email includes some facts and figures for various of their broadband offerings, but their emailing software presented it as one long stream of numbers, although it thought it was formatting it as a table. I'm guessing that their emailing software is assuming that I have the same email reading software as is sending the email, probably Microsoft Office, probably Microsoft Word 14. So I've asked her to send it in a format that I can read. But it's Friday, so that probably won't happen until next week.

Oh, and the person at Daisy who was supposed to call me back about changing the names on my blog to letters hasn't called me back, her letter was R, I think? No surprise there. It's their "Customer Experience" people.
Maybe someone will get back to me next week.

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