2018-07-05

FTTP and G.fast

A few people have commented that I have not blogged on FTTP and G.fast at A&A. Obviously this is not the official channel for A&A, as you know, but I appreciate people do follow what I say on here and so perhaps I have been a tad lax here, sorry. No attempt to hide anything.

Basically, we have FTTP available, as we have had for some time, but now offering 160M/30M option for £10 extra. However, sadly, the price of FTTP has been increased due to an increase in BT prices. We are paying £9+VAT more now as BT have dropped the "transition line" discount (where phone line also present) - we have only increased prices by £5 though, so absorbing some of that increase ourselves. We are also not applying this increase  to existing customers, at least not yet.

We are trialing G.fast too, and again offering 160M/30M. We are also looking to offer a 160M/50M option for higher uplink.

I appreciate people like the higher download speeds, and to that end we are trying the 160M services now. We do plan to embrace some of the much higher speeds like 300M and even gigabit in time, but ensuring we are not the bottleneck means we have quite a bit of work to do our side before we are comfortable offering these higher speeds. We are, however, working on that.

A couple of important notes here...

1. If you use the availability checker, either use a phone number of a line at the address, or use a postcode and follow the link to do a full address check. Just checking on postcode is not good enough.

2. We are not doing FTTP-on-demand. All the quotes we have done have been crazy (more than a normal fibre Ethernet install in some cases) and as we understand it from other ISPs the lead times and hassle are still untenable.

49 comments:

  1. It's a shame to see FoD in the state that it is (and that's not at all a dig at AAISP, the fault for this is purely down Openreach!). There are a small but significant number of people who would be more than willing to pay a reasonable amount for a FTTP build out, but with most quotes going way over £10,000 and with seemingly no logic, it has far surpassed beyond what could be considered a reasonable price!

    For most people, it seems there's diminishing hope for fast connections over Openreach infrastructure. You're either lucky enough to be one of the few who have access to native FTTP that Openreach built out themselves, or you have to hope that you're close enough to the G.Fast Pod to get any form of actual boost over an existing FTTP connection.

    Still, on a more positive note it is pleasing to see AAISP offer these options when they are available!

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    1. I moved from a native city FTTP area (I had the 80 product) to a semi rural area. I now have FTTC at 37mbs. Honestly I dont see any real world impact on download speed. I've had to change my upload usage a bit but not dramatically. The issue isn't the headline speed it's the contention issues on btw.

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  2. I've signed up for the G.fast trial as the pod is just over the road from me! I was surprised to learn that this isn't to be a SOGfast trial. Will you be trialing SOGEA/SOGfast as some point in the future?

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  3. Is there an accurate availability checker that just shows FTTP rather than FTTP and FTTC?

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  4. The stupid thing on my estate is I am 110m from the FTTC and G.Fast cabinets, and I know the entire estate is ducted for phone lines because I watched it being built in 1987. Recent BT engineers have commented we got a Rolls Royce job on the install for this estate. So it should be simple to blow a fibre down the ducting 110m to my house. There are even draw strings left in some places!

    Anyway, I'm probably going for the G.Fast trial.

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  5. How do I go about getting an upgrade if I'm already an FTTP customer?

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  6. 1TB at 160mbit = ~16 hours a month of usage.

    I know the issue is more down to bandwidth costs from your upstream providers, but that does seem problematic, especially when almost every other provider offers unlimited.

    Perhaps rather than "never being the bottleneck" some sort of service whereby you aren't the bottleneck for the first 1TB/month but after that you are moved into some sort of "best effort" high user pool of bandwidth?

    My Sky Q Silver box alone has downloaded ~500GB this month from the internet... I would love to use you guys for more than just VoIP but it's not viable for me :(

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    1. Just because the line can go faster does not mean people need to download any more - one you are beyond the speed of streaming video. Your SkyQ box is likely to be the biggest downloader, and that is half the usage of the 1TB tariff, so seem like it would be ideal for you. You seem to be expecting a dedicated 160Mb/s 24/7 for you, which would cost more in transit or peering costs than the price of the service, by quite a lot, that is why we don't sell as "unlimited".

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    2. By that logic, my 250GB at 80mbit (and I get that) should only last 8hrs but as a normal household, who do plenty of streaming and online gaming, I often have data (sometimes as much as 100gb) left at the end of the month.

      And yes, other providers offer "unlimited" but 1000TB is essentially unlimited for your average consumer.
      I challenge you to download 4-5TB a month every month on an unlimited package and see if you get a message asking you to cool it 😂

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    3. Geekypenguin: I do. The sky q box is not the biggest downloader in the house, my unraid box, which is my Plex server, is.

      My main desktop is a close 2nd this month, mostly because I wiped it and redownloaded about 3tb from steam. On AA I would have had to do that over about half a year.

      I know I'm not an 'average' user, but I suspect most of AAISPs customers are not. Virgin quite possibly even make a loss on me, I definitely go over 3tb most months.

      I wasn't suggesting the data would only last 16 hours, more 'why pay for more speed when you can barely use it'.

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    4. Revk, I guess that's the gulf between what we are looking for. You are, admittedly, supplying leased line like performance, that is, it will feel like an uncontested connection for as much data as you use. A Rolls Royce of the broadband world.

      I'm not asking for more data at that level of service - I doubt I could afford it - but I'd happily pay the same price for more data with which I may feel some contention at peak times.

      I guess in many ways the response to that is that there are plenty of your competitors offering such a service, and your niche is high end offerings.

      Perhaps this is also part of the logic of not selling the 330 service yet, as the higher you go the more the data limit becomes the limiting factor... On a hypothetical 1Gbit GEA-FTTP service with a 1TB limit that's 133 minutes a month.

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    5. Not sure how you're downloading so much on Plex each month, I too run unraid and Plex and that probably downloads 5-10GB a month. AA don't count uploads on your quote by the way, but yes, you sound like a pretty heavy user.
      I think the benefit of the additional download speed is being able to have multiple people using fast internet at the same time. So not downloading any more than you would normally, just faster. I don't download any more on my 80GB connection to my 40GB one, it's just a better experience.

      The big benefit is going to be the faster upload speed. Better web hosting abilities for me, or making cloud storage a workable solution.

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    6. I wasn't aware AA did not count uploads, that's actually appealing, even if as a 2nd line for hosting things on, especially if they offer the 50mbit upload package at some point.

      Does that alsoit apply to the 1tb package?

      The average UK user was 190GB a month a few years back, but that was when the maximum speed was 40mbit and factors in many households that use hardly any (e.g. my parents who probably use 2gb a month at most). While AAISP won't have that many very heavy users (people like me can't afford it!) They probably don't have many old grannies that only check email twice a month either.

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    7. I upload about 10 times as much per month as I download, because I host stuff. My downloads are about 75GB per month but upload 750GB. I suspect this makes my usage very non standard, if that pattern was at all common I'm sure AA would count upload traffic.

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    8. You can read more about it here:
      https://aa.net.uk/broadband-quota.html

      Uploads are still not counted on 1TB packages and the quota bonus also applies to 1TB.

      The end explains it pretty well why A+A have a quota. Light users pay less, heavy users pay more but not huge amounts (1TB packages) but people with rediculous usage are discouraged from signing up and are directed towards leased line services instead etc

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    9. rtho no way the average usage is 190gb month, what is the source of that data?

      3tb a month is really heavy usage, even tho a steam game can easily be 50+ gig these days, its not usual practice to download 10+ large games every month.

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    10. https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0024/108843/summary-report-connected-nations-2017.pdf

      Average residential connection is 190gb a month. But of course, that factors in usage like mine, and usage like my grans, so perhaps median would be more useful than mean?

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    11. ok thanks, its a credible source, although that does include upload traffic and possibly also ofcom/samknows speedtest traffic (which is 10s of gigs).

      Personally I still consider a 1TB limit a very reasonable limit tho. The problem of your idea of a "bad boys" pipe is it can drag aaisp's reputation down the gutter, what happens if people get say a few mbit/sec from it at peak times and start posting about it on forums.

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  7. I'd be curious to see your views for how BT and Ofcom should do the rollout of pure fibre, fix the FoD problem.

    Personally given that 'business' copper, e.g. ISDN30 was essentially 30 pairs bundled together while 'residential' copper was just one pair, why should FTTP be differentiated as PON versus a proper point-to-point fibre. I always wonder why BT always choose and get away with choosing really rather esoteric standards than just using a massive nationwide Ethernet network.

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  8. An interesting move. I see from the A&A checker that my grandfather's rural house could get FTTP (instead of his current 9 Mbps ADSL!) - though the metallic pair price is shown as "£???" and "transition" is mis-spelled at one point.

    Maybe after FTTDP rolls out, pulling fibre "on demand" for just the final short hop will be a more reasonable price, perhaps even a standardised one as for pulling new copper at present?

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  9. I am not convinced that T1/E1 (i.e. ISDN-30) is 'business copper'. Analog POTS can be obtained in business-grade and residential-grade. AAISP offer both. From memory, the difference is GBP 2 + VAT per calendar month. The USP of business-grade is the response time from BT for faults.

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    1. Interestingly, no: on the wholesale level there is no "business grade" - there's an analogue line (currently £91.48 per year ex VAT), or an ISDN one, or a data service, and you pay for a repair time at one of 4 levels: 2 working day, 1 working day, same-day, or "within six hours, 24x7". Some retailers choose to bundle the faster repair service as a "business grade" line, but that's just marketing: you can have the two-day fix for an office line, or presumably six-hour on a home one if you really care about it a lot (some work-from-home voiceover artists might well do that on their ISDN lines).

      (Yes, there is a "premium" line from Openreach, which bundles some extra features like call divert, but presumably that's not involved in either of A&A's "copper pair" offerings?)

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    2. I'm really interested in this. Could AAISP offer the four grades of repair/support ? That would even further cement their offering as a flexible, serious provider. What is the cost of each of the four? Hmm, but how would AAISP handle the overnight callouts? And option (3) (same-day) could actually be quicker than option (4). Think about a call at 10pm. With option (3) that would be fixed by midnight. But with option (4) it would not be fixed until 4am.

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    3. Interesting - if you pay to get ISDN30 installed, is there any way of getting it "downgraded" such that VDSL could be run over it?

      I suffer from a rural, partially aluminium phone line, giving terrible performance. If only there were some way to pay to hzve fresh copper pulled.

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    4. With me mentioning 'business' copper vs residential, I was more trying to draw a parallel to the fact that EAD is point-to-point while FTTP is GPON, and wonder why we should even be considering PONs at all, given they're asymmetric, slower and more difficult to maintain than P2P links.

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    5. PON = Passive Optical Network: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_optical_network

      Basically the fibre is physically spliced like branches on a tree trunk to one main fibre, or doing DOCSIS, but over fibre. GPON has 2.88gbps down and 1.44gbps up, and typically BT will share a PON across 32 properties. XGPON is the 10GbE version. Point being is if you're dreaming of 1GbE symmetric intertube access over FTTP, think again.

      EAD is 1:1 single point-to-point, which is a fibre line that starts in an Exchange and ends in a premises.

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    6. Well, at present. But fibre provides so much more headroom,far more than pots and docsis.

      Bt have trialled 40gb, ITU are working on 25gb with multiple wavelengths.

      I suspect any full scale rollout would be based on something more modern.

      Even with 2.88gb,you're assuming high takeup of the service at gigabit speeds before contention becomes an issue. And if course higher bandwidth doesn't mean higher use

      most well go with lower caps, some will go with virgin, 4g,no Internet, etc. Most will be throttled by their WiFi too.

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    7. And what does EAD stand for? I searched for it and got a lot of acronyms that clearly don't apply. (Why can't we just use words any more to describe these things?)

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    8. @Unknown: back to the point though, I was trying to say that copper was always point-to-point, and why should we differentiate the actual PHY technology between business (ie EAD) and residential (ie PON). The 'business' side of things should just be differentiated by different SLA's (just like copper) and bundling lots of cables (just like copper, e.g. ISDN30). While I agree that fibre in any form has so much more headroom, I dislike the assumption that a residence would never have the ability to have an EAD without paying for the street to be dug up. I just don't see why we need to use an hilariously fiddly and expensive cut-and-splice technique that could just be done via a normal switched Ethernet network, and why BT always choose the most esoteric technologies requiring custom silicon (hence Huawei's involvement) rather than a ubiquitous and insanely cheap Ethernet.

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    9. I had previously assumed that FTTP ran a fibre from each property back to some sort of basic switch in the cabinet, because anything else would be mad. But what do I discover on this thread? The lunatics are in charge of the FTTP asylum.

      FTTC of various types including VDSL and G.Fast starts to look sensible in comparison, since they do give you a private cable to a port on switch in the cabinet.

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  10. EAD = Ethernet Access Direct. It's a leased line.

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  11. My A&A G.Fast is now live. I am 110m from the cabinet, and the Huawei modem syncs at 316/49.9 though the downstream is capped at 160 at A&A. I am on the 160/50 that Adrian mentioned in this blog post, though it is costing me £20 a month more than FTTC 80/20 did (though that had a £10 price reduction some time back, so I'm mentally counting that as only really a £10 a month increase).

    The only problem with the install is the engineer did not bring the Huawei PPPOE modem despite it being listed on the order (Shaun sent me a screen shot). The engineer had to go somewhere to get one. He claims they are supposed to be sent through the post in advance, which makes no sense as the modem packaging is far too thick to fit through letter boxes.

    I don't see how they can make this a self install at any point, because he changed both the front and back half of the master socket to the new NTE 5c. I'd rather he hadn't because it is as ugly as sin and it sticks out from the wall a lot more than the old one. But apparently it is necessary for G.Fast, they don't make G.Fast master socket filters that will fit on the older NTEs. Why they made an incompatible change to the NTE design for the first time ever I have no idea, previously parts from all generations were interchangeable.

    Basically it all just works, a speed test app on my iPad shows I really am getting the extra uplink speed and 11ms ping time. Downlink is limited at my end by the 100 megabit ethernet PPPOE link to my Zyxel 1312 router. Next step is to replace the router.

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    1. I had my G.fast installed this morning too. Openreach engineer also failed to bring the Huawei modem. He showed my his notes though that stated it was being sent in advance by the CP. Thankfully, he managed to get a spare one from one of his colleagues.

      I haven't conducted a proper speed test yet as I'm currently limited by my old Ubiquiti AP. But clueless shows line rate at 159M!

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    2. So not bringing the Huawei modem appears to be more widespread than just me. My engineer said he didn't really understand why anyone bothered with anything other than a BT Hub, and went on to say so long as he could read his email and browse the web he was happy. I think he failed to understand different users have different needs/desires.

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  12. Following on from a comment RevK made on irc about no analogue phones after a certain date. So I assume then that at some point broadband routers are going to gain an analogue phone socket so people can plug their existing phones in if they want? Have you considered putting one on the next version of the FireBrick?

    My parents have a large house and garden. One phone is by their bed for night time use (avoiding the stairs and having to turn the alarm off), another is in the lounge so they can hear it ringing over the loud TV (they are both starting to lose a bit of hearing with age), a third is a DECT in the kitchen where my mum is a lot of the time, and a fourth is in the shed halfway down the garden so they can hear it ring and don't have to take wellies off to answer the phone. This is all cabled by me as extensions, the shed phone is on exterior grade Cat 6 in ducting put under the terrace and foundations of the shed. The only way to keep all that lot running is to have something that provides an analogue phone socket to plug the entire network into, I can't get cabled networking to all the locations (wiring plastered in by my Dad unfortunately, I told him not to but he did) and anyway I wouldn't want four separate VOIP phones. wifi is out, it only covers a third of the house because the breeze block walls make stunningly good wifi attenuators, I'd need to put three more base stations in and then we're back to the trouble getting cabled network to all the locations.

    And with all this VOIP, where does the software live that takes the call? In the router/firebrick, or are we going to have to pay someone to run a server? I can tell you my dad's response, bugger that! It should come as part of the broadband if we're being forced to ditch our analogue phones.

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    1. Well, you can connect a phone, just has to be an Ethernet connection to a VoIp phone. And DECT base stations that do that exist. VoIP phones have been around a long time - I have not had any sort of analogue phone service at the house for at least a decade, and before that was all ISDN. The nice thing about VoIP is that IP works over WiFi or wired, and wired can be via power line or ethernet or all sorts. Way more flexible than requiring an textual copper pair for an analogue phone signal.

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    2. Oh, and ATAs exist (i.e. VoIP phone devices that provide an analogue pair). They have existed for a long time. So anyone wanting to stay in the stone ages can easily do so.

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    3. Oh, and yes, there are various types of broadband router you can buy that include ATAs in them with an analogue port, though that would be an odd way to do things these days really.

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    4. Since you haven't had an analogue phone for a decade, I believe you don't really understand why people want to keep them or in what way they want to do that. You are very much a special case being a techie geek (in the best meaning of techie geek, I don't mean that as an insult).

      My dad won't allow me to put ethernet switches in his house, or extra wifi base stations, because it is all extra clutter and pointless boxes (as he puts it) and it all costs more money on the electricity bill. He insists on just one box with mains connected to the phone line that does everything for his broadband, because anything else is wasting electricity and hence money. He is a true Yorkshireman in having this view, but I assure you there are plenty of other people with the same attitude. He will expect the analogue phone socket to be directly on the all in one router. VOIP phones are out of the question, each one needs power and he will not accept that, nor will at least half his friends.

      It is not a matter of staying in the stone age, it is using something that works well. Analogue phones don't need power, they can sit on the end of an extension in the shed half way down the garden with no power.

      It is also a matter of not having to abandon phone infrastructure for extension lines that were built into the house over the last 20 years. Some of the more recent ones could have been on CAT 5, but they aren't and changing them now is a lot of work and mess chiseling plaster off the walls.

      And then there is my 78 year old Aunt, who has no mobile phone or broadband. Not because she doesn't want them or won't pay for them, she would. But she just can't cope with them, she gets all flustered and can't wrap her head around how to use them. I have to write down instructions for how she uses the answering machine in her DECT phone, and it takes her about 6 months to stop getting it wrong and learn how to do it. She is increasingly annoyed about all the banks closing branches and going online, she can't handle online banking but doesn't want to surrender control of her money. She thus goes to the one bank that still has a branch in her town. When they close it I have no idea what we will do. It is no good saying my Aunt should learn how to do this stuff, she has tried and she really can't cope with it. And there are plenty of other people like her. Is she really supposed to be entirely dependent on family members to bank for her? And how is she supposed to keep a telephone that is simple enough she can operate it? If the broadband has gone down and needs resetting she won't know what to do. She won't be able to phone support, because the broadband is down and she has no mobile phone. Analogue phone lines have the great feature that they are incredibly reliable, several orders of magnitude more reliable than VOIP. Frankly my feeling that the world doesn't care about people like my Aunt and is quite happy to write them off and put them in a care home prematurely just because they can't use the internet makes my blood boil at times. She's perfectly capable, except with tech!

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    5. The power comments seem weird to me. Surely the actual power usage matters more than how many devices? If the “one router” had PoE port and hence the VoIP phones worked via power from their “line” and not a separate power plug, would he be happy? After all analogue lines *DO* need power, it just comes down the line and so is part of your line rental to cover that. People have 5 years to learn, it is not hard and there is a lot of choice for phones, routers, mobile, etc.

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    6. Yes, the power aspect will be a psychological thing about having "3 things plugged in" (even if the three combined use less power than a single integrated product for the same job) - it's very difficult to grasp fully that the light bulb burns more power in an hour per day than having the router on 24x7, particularly when the router also has lights on. Like the shock people get with a "smart" meter when they suddenly discover the kettle costs 30p/hr to run while it's on - without factoring in that it's only on for a minute at a time, so that "huge usage" is still only a fraction of a penny.

      I must admit, I do still prefer landlines to mobiles or DECT devices for calling; at some point I'll probably go down the VoIP route and get an ATA up and running, but it's not something I'm enthusiastic about.

      My grandfather is reliant on his landline; he only got broadband originally because it was a free extra with Talktalk, and when it stopped working he didn't know or care for over a year.

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    7. Well, ultimately, telephony is turning in to a simple "over the top" service just like web pages or email, even to the extent that telephone numbers will eventually vanish. Times do change, and sometimes people have to adapt.

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    8. Some people do not have the technical capacity to adapt. Saying they will have to is essentially extending "special needs" to include people that can't handle the internet. I don't think as a society we should go down that road.

      Of course part of the problem is no-one makes really simple kit any more, or very reliable. As a programmer myself I know it is much harder to design a clear and simple UI than it is to lash together a mess that people have to learn to use. The mess is cheaper so that is what we end up with. Similarly robust reliable code costs more money to write than unreliable shoddy crap, so we get the latter.

      For phones, I think the way to go for my Aunt is forget about landlines or internet and try to find her a really simple mobile phone. I know she'll leave it at home and treat it like a home phone, but if that works it's fine. What is harder is online access for things like banks.

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    9. Take a look at the gigaset range of handsets. They're not the cheapest but they're nowhere near the most expensive.
      I have a base unit that can take an ethernet connection for VoIP *and* a normal fixed line (for the transition), and they do one with a built in ATA too iirc.
      Then I have cordless detc phones throughout the house (can be gigaset or any detc enabled phone). Put this in for my parents for aafew months an they didn't notice a thing when I switched off the analogue phone and made it all VoIP.

      If your even more lucky and get fttp installed, the ONT has a normal analogue phone output on it (assuming your provider supports it, a+a don't) which isn't getting turned off

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    10. No FTTP where my parents or my Aunt are. In theory I can get FTTP on demand, but we've seen A&A's comments on how bad the costs and delays on that are in practice.

      VOIP would be no good for my parents, my dad turns off his broadband router half the time when he isn't going to be using it for a while. Partly to save electricity, partly for security (but given the PC is already off at these times I don't see his logic), and partly because he thinks it will make the router last longer. I've tried to explain to him that thermal cycling it like that is quite likely to make it fail sooner due to PCB cracks or dry joints, and he does understand that but still feels leaving it running warm for days unused is a bigger factor for failures. I've also explained this will be seen as a fault by the exchange and will potentially reduce his broadband speeds, and he doesn't care as it is plenty fast enough for him (which is probably true to be honest).

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    11. As you note - if you keep turning off your router it will kill your broadband speed as the DLM in BT will think there are issues with the line and change the margins - really not a good idea! As you say, will also not make it last longer. I am puzzled he does not unplug analogue phones though as that too would save power (albeit power supplied from the exchange).

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  13. Returning to G.Fast. Having had it for over a day now the biggest difference I am seeing is latency improvement. On 80/20 FTTC, as soon as there was a reasonable amount of traffic to the server I host (eg. using 2 mbits of my 20 upload) the average latency would jump to 20 ms and max latency 30 ms or more. And if the load on my server rose to using 5 mbits or more of my uplink (I capped it at 10 mbits in its config) I would get occasional bursts of 1 to 4% packet loss and the latency would be all over place. These showed in the CQM graphs as short green grass for the latency and more rarely dripping blood for the packet loss.

    Both of these effects have now disappeared, and I have configured the server software to allow it to use 32 mbits of my 50 mbits upload and it has got up close to that a couple of times. Average and max latency are now both hovering either side of 10 ms.

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