Vodafone – Update

Following on from the broadband item in Cllr Finlay’s January Newsletter (which you can read here as a PDF) and my account of switching from BT to Vodafone, here’s an update.

I’ve run into two problems with Vodafone.  The first is that they promised a minimum download speed of 25Mbps and, just as I expected, the actual speed is around 16Mbps. Without amending the laws of physics, it can’t really be otherwise as we’re nearly a kilometre from the cabinet.  When I mentioned that the speed was far below the guaranteed level, the Vodafone agent flipped us onto a 25% discount tariff without missing a beat.

The second problem took a bit more sorting out. It doesn’t matter what speed you’re getting if the connection is unreliable, and the service had the wrong sort of reliability.  You could rely on it to drop out every 60-90 minutes.  That’s really not acceptable and it did cause some problems when dropouts occurred in the middle of transactions.  I tried one call to Vodafone support and was guided through some useless and ineffectual changes (altering the WiFi channels, turning off UPnP, going for split SSID and so forth).

The penny dropped when I looked at the Vodafone customer support forums.  The problem was clearly with the supplied Vodafone router.  It seems that when Vodafone decided to go for the home broadband market they bought a container-ship’s worth of Vodafone-branded Huawei routers which simply weren’t up to the job.  Maybe if your household just has a phone and a laptop it would be OK, but we have a PC, two laptops, two tablets, two phones and various other internet connected devices.

The solution? Simple. Nip over to PC World and buy a decent (TP Link, Netgear, Linksys etc) modem router and never look back.  We’ve gone from dropping out for two or three minutes every hour or so to having a rock solid connection that’s not dropped out so far in a whole week.  It’s not ideal having to source your own router, but given that we’re saving around £70 per month we’ll make the additional cost back very quickly.  Looking back through the forums, it seems that Vodafone initially took a hard line, insisting that subscribers had to use their cr*p router.  For some reason big companies often adopt policies that make them look brain dead, but at some point in 2018 they woke up.  By the time we subscribed, they were handing out the necessary details required to use a third-party router as a matter of course, without even the need for a request.

Is there still a fly in the ointment?  You bet there is.  BT can’t quite understand that customers leave, and so they’re still billing us.  The agent I spoke to had to go and find a manager who was at least aware of the concept.  He was too busy to talk to me, but I was given his name and assured that at some point in the next week he would organise a refund and ensure that the billing stopped from now on.  Stand by for the next episode.

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1 thought on “Vodafone – Update

  1. I offer some comments in response to your useful reports.
    1. My observation is that now Cabinet 7 has Fibre to the Cabinet, in principle anyone can get the circa 20Mb/s rate. It is controlled/capped by OpenReach. I’ve observed this with a neighbour who is on BT’s standard tariff but (for a few glorious minutes!) enjoyed circa 20Mb/s measured performance. This was observed during a fault-finding exercise. The rate was then quickly shut down to the performance level appropriate to their tariff/payment. The (not-unreasonable) basis for charging more, even though the capability is available, is presumably that providing the fibre to Cabinet 7 did cost something (and of course the market is likely to stand a higher tariff for faster broadband).
    2. My experience with BT is that their technicians are almost always knowledgeable and helpful, but that ‘the system’ is clunky, inflexible and opaque.
    3. I have carried out a brief survey of bit rate versus distance to Cabinet 7 recently (Cllr Finlay has a copy) which shows clearly the point you have made – distance counts [even before taking into other factors such as state of cable installation, type of cable, contention, etc]. As usual, I think we see the divergence between (i) the engineering people who know about this and could draw (probably have drawn) maps showing contours of equal rate based on distance from the cabinet) and (ii) the sales and marketing people who if not well disciplined will be tempted to blag about the products they are selling and which affect their bonuses. The word disingenuous comes to mind quite frequently, even if it may be explained away by ignorance.
    4. Yes, I’ve had troubles with routers. I used to buy my own quite often, especially to begin with. Now, the need to have a cooperative ISP (in my case PlusNet) is less easy without their router being used. It does seem that you need to be a hard-nosed negotiator if you wish to avoid getting charged for the ISP’s/Openreach’s problems when they don’t really know if the line is at fault or the router and point the finger at you.
    5. I have heard it acknowledged by a technician that when he connects an additional line to the broadband cable there is a significant chance that some adjacent lines will be disturbed. So, as a general rule, the more broadband connections that are connected, the worse things will get (aside from the contention angle).

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