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My Fibre migration experience, some bad some good

jimbof
Grafter
Posts: 348
Thanks: 2
Registered: 02-05-2013

My Fibre migration experience, some bad some good

In summary I'd say:

  • Great pleasant staff, even at 4am!

  • Very fast product once installed (will see if it degrades much as the cab fills up)

  • Integration with Openreach systems questionable, why no router but not notified order cancelled for fibre?

  • Could have easily been left without a working broadband connection without my vigilance

  • Member centre could show the true install dates not the requested, adds to impression of not having good systems

  • £50 charge for missed appointment "threat" pretty galling when you've been on the receiving end of unannounced cancellations, why not offer a £50 credit if you/Openreach miss your slot?

  • Seemed to have to do too much chasing myself to get timely responses to stuff

  • Why not enable the authentication account before the install has completed, so as soon are the fibre modem is in it can be used?  I guess if I'd been on plusnet ADSL this wouldn't have been an issue


I was on TalkTalk LLU unlimited ADSL achieving 17mbps down / 1mpbs up; I must admit I'd been pretty happy with it but then I guess I'm more capable of sorting out my own faults than most, and so had little cause to contact TalkTalk.  Recently I'd been seeing some issues around streaming and web page loading which seemed to be related to core network / congestion as sync and error rates had not changed in years - so moving to TalkTalk fibre didn't seem to be a particularly great idea.  I wonder if their introduction of Youview boxes has had much of an impact?
I figured it would only be worth moving once fibre was available.  I'd been checking the availability religiously as I'd seen the cabinet go in and considering we're in the City Centre it looked pretty small (it is an ECI unit); so I figured I needed to get in there pretty quickly to avoid the cabinet being full to capacity.  I'd used Plusnet years ago and been happy, my work colleague had gone live with Plusnet and was very happy, and on researching the 1/2 price deal plus quidco cashback it seemed that over the course of a year I'd only pay about £9 more a month than TalkTalk so a bit of a no-brainer.
I had phoned Plusnet a couple of times before the cab went live and had found the staff pleasant and approachable; though they'd all tried to sign me up for ADSL with the idea being to migrate to fibre once it arrived.  It was only when I'd ask what would happen to the half-price deal on migrating that I was left feeling pretty unlcear - I'm pretty sure I got two different answers at different times.  Anyway, I didn't want to go with it as it sounded likely that I might lose out financially for the sake of waiting a bit.
I completed this initial web order and chose my dates; got sent an email confirming and then a bit later got sent an email with a different date.  A bit annoyingly every time I logged in to the member centre I'd still just see the list of dates I had submitted - this could be improved to show the actual install dates allocated.
The install was due on Monday 15th April; on Friday I was scratching my head a little as I hadn't had a router yet so I phoned up to see what was going on.  Turned out that the order had been cancelled and wouldn't be going ahead yet.  A bit annoyed as I'd booked the day off.  The person I spoke to was apologetic and told me someone would get back to me that day as I clearly didn't want to end up with no working phone etc.
No-one called so on Saturday morning I rang in and was told that I shouldn't have been given a timeframe for the call back and that I'd be called when they got round to it, and that also my phone was going to complete on Monday still.  So at this point I was a bit livid; sounded like come Monday Plusnet would have taken over my phone, leaving me with no broadband and no information yet as to when Fibre (my reason for moving to plusnet) would be available.  I cancelled the phone order over the phone as I couldn't be in that situation, and awaited a call about what happened.
Anyway, Monday rolled around and I was relieved that my phone didn't die; eventually (after calling in) I found that an unspecified issue at the suppliers side (Openreach?) had casued the order to be cancelled and would need re-ordering, and that Plusnet had no knowledge of the situation.  While I accept that it probably was cancelled by Openreach, I find it a little strange that Plusnet didn't know about it.  I hadn't been sent a router which I guess was because my order didn't reach some trigger point for the router to go out.  At a minimum I guess your systems aren't as joined-up as they could be here, which could have resulted in me having no broadband and a phoneline with Plusnet I didn't really want.  Anyway, order replaced and the router was sent out to me immediately.
This time I wasn't asked for a date preference and one came through which wasn't suitable, so called in and it was changes easily enough.  At this point the boilerplate SMS / email talking about £50 charge for missing an appointment was starting to grate a little and I do think you should make this two way - ie you offer to pay £50 if you miss an appointment.  Otherwise it just serves as an incendiary to people who have already been annoyed by missed appointments on your suppliers side.
Over the next couple of weeks I phoned in 4 or 5 times to make sure the order hadn't been cancelled again as I'd lost a bit of faith in your systems; all seemed good so looking forward to the move.
On the day of the install my phone went to a funny dial tone at midnight.  The Openreach engineer phoned me before he went to the cabinet to say he'd be over soon, and duly turned up.   By the time he got here the dial tone had completely gone, but he'd done the fibre hookup and was getting a DSL light on the modem along with great readings on his tester.  He told me I was only the 3rd person in the cab, and realising I was of a technical bent he was telling me how with VDSL particularly on estates near and far end crosstalk was starting to show up as an issue, which was all very interesting.  He didn't seem to know when my phone would start to work.  While he was there I got the router out and tried to connect it and just saw authentication failing.  We scratched out heads a little; he even got his laptop out to have a look but couldn't see anything, and eventually I guess he had to go as it was clear we weren't going to get anywhere with it.
I phoned Plusnet on my mobile (phone still dead) and was told that until everything got returned to Plusnet as signed off that the login to the internet wouldn't be enabled (hence authentication failures).  It could take up to midnight, and to call back if it hadn't by then.  The phone line started working a couple of hours later but by midnight the broadband hadn't gone live.  I went to bed, but woke up at 4am (Christmas present syndrome) only to find it hadn't been activated still.  I phoned up and was pleasantly surprised to talk to a real person in the UK who talked me through it and enabled the login.  It still didn't work, but that was quickly diagnosed as me having entered the password incorrectly the last time I'd tried (I'd put it in about 20 times - was bound to fail at some point!).  Anyway, all working and very impressed with the speed.
Found the Thomson router annoying and tried moving to my custom OpenWRT router box, but got trapped in the PPP session timeout issue others are also seeing (see my other thread) - it does seem there is some sub-optimal configuration of the Plusnet PPP server.  Once I realised it was a timeout issue I got the OpenWRT router up and running again and have been ecstatic with the speed and line reliability so far.  Two days after install I still couldn't see my phone line listed in the member's centre, a call sorted that out.
9 REPLIES
Plusnet Alumni (retired) orbrey
Plusnet Alumni (retired)
Posts: 10,540
Registered: 18-07-2007

Re: My Fibre migration experience, some bad some good

Hi there,
Thanks very much for such a comprehensive write up. Glad it went smoothly and that you're impressed but it does look like there's still a couple of things we should feed back on from there and we'll do so.
Hope you remain this impressed though and that things keep working smoothly Smiley Cheers!
jimbof
Grafter
Posts: 348
Thanks: 2
Registered: 02-05-2013

Re: My Fibre migration experience, some bad some good

You're welcome.  I'm totally ecstatic about the performance of the service now it is up and running, and hope the feedback is useful to you. 
I do think this potential issue with PPP sessions taking a long time to time out could be a reason for some of the other customer's on here dissatisfaction with their fibre service though.  My line is rock-solid and so doesn't drop the connection; but anyone with a slightly less healthy line which gets taken up and down due to DLM or other factors would probably be mighty dissatisfied with losing their connection for minutes on end waiting for the PPP session to timeout (when I've played with it it seems to take between 7 and 8 minutes to time out before I can reconnect).  This seems to definitely be caused by some configuration at your PPP server end.
Capvermell
Grafter
Posts: 417
Registered: 16-12-2007

Re: My Fibre migration experience, some bad some good

As somebody who helped moved my close relative's (they are older and not technically minded but do like watching the BBC IPlayer's HD feed on their new high end Panasonic 3D tv, which was impossible with only a 2Mbps Be Unlimited service over 3km away from the local exchange)  Be Unlimited copper connection to Plusnet in February (before the deal for Sky to buy Be Unlimited was announced) I can generally concur with the positive findings above on customer support (especially the 24 hour technical support service and the fact that the overnight workers actually seem to be the most able and helpful members of Plusnet's staff, probably because they are very different people from those who choose to take the more conventional day jobs).
However as the cabinet in question at my relative's address only became available for connections at the end of November (making the first installs in mid December) I was initially delighted to see downstream connection speeds of up to 64Mbps and a stable 58Mbps when the connection went live at my relative's house in early February but it has been disappointing to see this decline in just 3 months to only 44Mbps as the fibre section of the cabinet has filled up and crosstalk has increased.  I take it this means that downstream speed will decline yet further to BT's original forecast of only 37Mbps in due course as the cabinet becomes completely full (as it is likely to due to the very big uplift in speeds over copper at this distance from the main exchange).
Also I notice the OP mentioned YouView (albeit in the context of possibly being why there were some network stability issues with TalkTalk before he left them) so I have to say I do find it disappointing that for apparently purely marketing based reasons (i.e. BT main marketing people can't bear the full Plusnet offering to be as comprehensive as BT's) Plusnet customers still do not have any access to either a free YouView on a Fibre Unlimited connection and also nor do they have access to any of the growing range of BT Vision IPTV services.
If BT is actually serious about the long term retention of the Plusnet brand name as a separate entity and physical operation from BT broadband (as it appears to be) then this is an area it must address as it makes no sense at all for it to run an ISP with superior customer service (all UK based and generally trained to be fairly polite and helpful) compared to BT Main but with a vastly inferior total package compared to parent BT in terms of video on demand.
jimbof
Grafter
Posts: 348
Thanks: 2
Registered: 02-05-2013

Re: My Fibre migration experience, some bad some good

I'm not sure on the TV point; there are loads of ISP's out there carving out their own niche without having to offer TV products; and I actually quite liked the relative uncomplication of Plusnet's offering compared to BT.  Youview is OK (I got the talktalk version for my mum) but not brilliant. 
On the whole point of getting Youview for Plusnet; having had some experience in the licensing of TV / film / music material I can say that it isn't as simple as BT have a box, just grab that - most often contracts are specific about under which brands content can be marketed otherwise it would leave the door open for BT to wholesale the content out to whoever they like.  And then as Plusnet you have to weigh up how many of their customers would be likely to take up the offer for it to be worth putting it into their offering and having that diluting effect on what is a simple product mix.  I understand that Plusnet's customer base is much smaller than TalkTalk or BT, so the numbers may just not stack up. The alternative (which talktalk did) is to make the box part of one of the current packages, which inevitably means that people who didn't want it end up subsidising those that do, and the whole product offering becomes uncompetitive (as Plusnet are clearly spending more money on their support side than the competition)
I recall reading (I think on a TalkTalk forum) that it had been disclosed in financial reports for TalkTalk that their box which they give away free costs them £140, which is getting absorbed into your bill one way or another;  You can buy a retail Youview box for not much more than that.
Capvermell
Grafter
Posts: 417
Registered: 16-12-2007

Re: My Fibre migration experience, some bad some good

Quote from: jimbof
I recall reading (I think on a TalkTalk forum) that it had been disclosed in financial reports for TalkTalk that their box which they give away free costs them £140, which is getting absorbed into your bill one way or another;  You can buy a retail Youview box for not much more than that.

So Plusnet is £6 per month cheaper for 18 months compared to BT's equivalent Fibre Unlimited (£7 per month headline minus the Plusnet £1 per month charge for Caller Display that I suspect most customers do actually pay for and need) which = a £108 saving.  Then Plusnet gives you £10 per month off for 6 months on fibre if you move the phone to them at the right time (its an on/off offer that they switch with one for copper broadband) which is worth £60.  BT gives you half price for 3 months on their service I think but then charges installation of some kind on the fibre so another £40 or so saved with Plusnet.  Then Plusnet advertised £38 cashback via TopCashBack but actually paid out £70 compared to BT's £10.    So £108 plus £40 plus £70 comes to £218, which is I suppose roughly the price of a YouView box.
So I suppose you have a point up to a point.  The main problem is that due to the initial costs with installing fibre etc Plusnet have gone back to a BT style 18 month minimum contract period so you can't just move on elsewhere when you want to as before.  The reason for this is clearly so that the cost of the work at the cabinet and in fitting the filtered master faceplate installed in your home is recovered.  Therefore presumably as an out of contract fibre customer migrating on elsewhere deals without an 18 month lock in from the smaller independent ISPs will start to become available as none of that installation work is done and the reconfiguration to a new ISP can all be done remotely by computer.
Thinking about my relative and their purchase of a 2012 Panasonic tv which only supports the BBC IPlayer (due to Panasonic's cynical policy of no further development of software for its tvs once a new model is in the chain) I suppose the best answer is to buy a Samsung Smart Hub Video Player that should provide access to all the On Demand tv services whilst letting them do their recording on an Echostar 600RS Freestar PVR I already happen to have.  Its just that this will be more complicated to work for them than a YouView box.
jimbof
Grafter
Posts: 348
Thanks: 2
Registered: 02-05-2013

Re: My Fibre migration experience, some bad some good

Good analysis, and I think that's where it is at really - there is no free lunch as the fibre wholesale plus line rental costs are all common, so it is just down to how and when you pay (unless you have a provider dumping cash into a market to gain market share, which can only be sustained for so long). 
My local cash converters had a youview box for £60 in the window (ex TalkTalk) - which apparently would function fine as an unbranded box on anyone else's network, and for me that would be all I'd be prepared to spend really.
To be honest, at the moment the streaming market is so disjointed it is hard to favor any of the providers.  What the world needs to evolve to is a common video delivery platform with micropayments for consumption of titles.  At the moment I need one box for sky, then a netflix capable box if I want House Of Cards, and then a lovefilm capable box for any of the new Amazon studio productions, and then another thing for the youtube premium content about to drop.  Oh, and all with their own junk User Interfaces.
Capvermell
Grafter
Posts: 417
Registered: 16-12-2007

Re: My Fibre migration experience, some bad some good

Quote from: jimbof
To be honest, at the moment the streaming market is so disjointed it is hard to favor any of the providers.  What the world needs to evolve to is a common video delivery platform with micropayments for consumption of titles.  At the moment I need one box for sky, then a netflix capable box if I want House Of Cards, and then a lovefilm capable box for any of the new Amazon studio productions, and then another thing for the youtube premium content about to drop.  Oh, and all with their own junk User Interfaces.

Consider a Samsung Smart Hub equipped DVD player then as it now has built in software support for all of those services apart from the Amazon one.
If I had my time again I would buy a Samsung and not a Panasonic Smart Tv as Samsung are committed to properly supporting customers by continued development going forward whereas Panasonic quite clearly are not.
jimbof
Grafter
Posts: 348
Thanks: 2
Registered: 02-05-2013

Re: My Fibre migration experience, some bad some good

Will give it a look, thanks! Smiley
jimbof
Grafter
Posts: 348
Thanks: 2
Registered: 02-05-2013

Re: My Fibre migration experience, some bad some good

Grabbed a second-hand TalkTalk branded Huawei Youview box at my local Cash Converters today for £60 - there are a lot coming on to the market with Talktalk giving them away like sweeties... Smiley (I imagine a lot of their customers have Sky anyway and decide against YouView).  Anyhow works well on Plusnet, the only bit of branding left when running on a non-TalkTalk line is the very first splash screen.  All the TalkTalk TV stuff disappears from the UI, just leaving the 5 standard on-demand players (BBC, ITV, 4oD, Demand5 and Milkshake), plus the option to subscribe to Sky's NowTV pay service. 
Sweet box for £60, nice UI, and the PSU is external (that is usually the first thing to bite the dust in PVRs so external is great).
Looks like I'll be flogging my Freesat box then, they still haven't got their act together with the various players.