7. March 2017

I finally did it – I got my Internet line upgraded! For the last eight-ish years, I’ve been on a DSL-6000, which meant about 6 mbit/s downstream and only about 0.5 mbit/s upstream. That was not really an issue years ago when there were no video chats or huge files to upload, but nowadays, such a slow upstream really becomes a terrible bottleneck as file sizes increase and bandwidth for live video is necessary. In addition to that, my internet provider, the German Telekom, had been bugging me to upgrade from the old ADSL and the analogue phone line to VDSL and VoIP telephony, so I finally decided to take the plunge and make the change – even though the last upgrade eight years ago resulted in a two week outage and an odyssey through the call centers. But I’m happy to report that nothing blew up and for the last two weeks I’ve been finally enjoying really fast internet.

The first step was to spend a bit of money, even though the contract update would be no major change in monthly fees. I was still using the old-as-dirt Teledat 331 modem, which against all odds and recommendations had been working since 2003 on the line that had been upgraded over time from 768 to 1000, 2000 and finally 6000 kbit/s, the maximum speed possible over ADSL. I originally did not really want a Telekom modem-router, but everything else turned out to be too expensive and so I got the Speedport Entry 2, the cheapest alternative that still has everything I need. It’s not even being sold by the Telekom anymore, but I was able to get one for a reasonable price from Amazon instead. It even allowed me to kill three birds with one stone: before, I had a separate modem, router and WiFi router, which now all reside in the Speedport. The Entry 2 model was good enough for me, because I don’t need any TV over IP or other fancy things and its two Ethernet ports and the surprisingly powerful 300 mbit/s WiFi are more than enough to hook into my existing home network.

I actually bought the new modemrouter long before upgrading the line and to my surprise it even worked behind the soon-to-be-obsolete DSL splitter, so I was able to set it up well in advance – especially my not quite uncomplicated WiFi configuration.. Then I wanted to do the actual upgrade, but at first it seemed like I needed to wait until June because some contract clause prevented me from changing to a tariff with the same value until the yearly renewal! Originally I just wanted to take the lowest available 16 mbit/s speed, but then I discovered that I could upgrade to 50 mbit/s for only five Euro per Month more and also get a €60 cashback for buying a new router myself, so naturally I chose to take that option. But there was one surprising and somewhat disappointing downside to it.

To my great surprise, I found out that in almost all of our neighbourhood, the seven houses on our side of the street are the only ones that get 25 mbit/s instead of 50 because of some strange problem in the telephone line infrastructure! That white slice on the availability map on the left there represents the side of the street I live on. It’s absolutely ridiculous especially because the houses just around the corner are connected with 50 mbit/s, just a few meters up the road! I can actually see the grey switching station box on the other side of the street, but that could actually be the culprit – because there are only three houses apart from the elementary school across the street, it could be possible that the capacities on this stretch of the street have been unintentionally undersized. Another factor could be that this part of the neighbourhood has been neglected by the Telekom because most people in our block get their internet from the cable tv provider – but that doesn’t explain why the rest of the block is on 50 mbit/s! Oh well, so I’m stuck on 25 mbit/s, which is not that bad. After all, I’m luckier than some friends of mine who live only a stone’s throw away from me and can only get 16 mbit/s!

I had selected a Monday afternoon for the switchover and to my great surprise, about half an hour before the given time the line briefly went down. I didn’t even notice because I was busy elsewhere, but when I wanted to look up something on my phone, I realized that something must have happened. I had already connected the new modem before and when I looked at its status page, it said it had already connected at 25087 kbit/s downstream and 5055 kbit/s upstream! But no data got through yet – I still needed to remove the splitter! So I hooked up the modem directly to the telephone line as instructed and it immediately re-sychronized and the data connection was restored. To get my landline phone running again, I only needed to add my phone numbers to the modem, because the upgrade also meant a switch to Voice-over-IP. That also worked without problems and the voice quality has noticeably improved too.

So, how fast is the new line really? I was a bit apprehensive about the “promised” speed of 25 mbit/s, but it actually seems to reach exactly that. You can see the famous Ookla Speedtest result on the left (with the somewhat satisfying remark faster than 60% of DE!). The downside is that I actually pay for 50 mbit/s, but only get half of that – on the other hand, I get significantly more than I would have with a 16 mbit/s line for €5/month less. On my own webspace, the download speed easily reaches 2800 kb/s down and an astonishing 575 kb/s up – in comparison, I was stuck with about 670 kb/s down and 60 kb/s up! Additionally, uploading does not disrupt the downstream any more, since this is not ADSL, but VDSL now. The more important upstream is almost TEN TIMES as fast as before – that is certainly a speed gain I had absolutely not expected! I would have been content with even half of that, but this is really a welcome surprise even though it could be faster.

Over the course of the last two weeks, I haven’t noticed any speed problems that could not be attributed to slow servers and especially uploading without the terrible bottleneck is now really comfortable. I already uploaded a couple of videos I had on hold which I’ve already posted over on the photography blog. Overall, this could not have gone any better and the Telekom was really helpful and friendly – I did get three calls from their service center asking if everything is okay and before they helped me to fix a problem with my user account that prevented me changing my contract on the customer center website.

Okay, it’s 2017 and I’ve finally got broadband. Sort of. Not really. But it’s enough for me and I could be worse off, so it does feel like I’ve arrived a bit more in the future now.

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