BT Infinity – a few days in

Firstly, let’s make this very, very clear.  I pretty much knew what I was getting into when I decided to move to BT Infinity.  When I first picked an ADSL provider I chose Nildram.  I did so because they had a reputation for not touching your traffic.  They were a data carrier, they didn’t try and intercept traffic or ‘offer value add services’.

Over the years, I got moved to other more ‘consumer grade’ ADSL services.  I knew when I chose to move to BT with BT Infinity that I would be at the mercy of BT policy.  I don’t like it, but I wanted to move from TalkTalk (who are no better) and at least Infinity is better, faster technology.

So how’s the move been?

Installation

Installation was a dream, literally.  This is our house, and it’s my network and I’m not happy with people coming in and messing with it, so I always get a bit bristly. My existing ADSL service stayed live until the BT Engineer called from the cabinet.  He said, “I’m going to disconnect you and them come round”, the cabinet is a street away.  The line dropped, the phone line was working within 5 minutes and he turned up 5 minutes after that.

My ADSL router was a fair distance from the master socket, connected via an rj11 cable.  Normally, ADSL providers hate you doing that claiming shocking performance reduction and instability, but it had been fine for years.  I knew that Infinity needed a cable modem (essentially), and the BT Home Hub.  I thought the cable modem had to be near the master socket, but the Home Hub could be further away, and I was ready for a ‘discussion’ with the engineer to make that happen.

Turns out, the cable modem sits on an rj11 cable to the socket – and the engineer was more than happy to place it exactly where my old ADSL router had been.  Win!  No cable changes required.  The Home Hub sits just in front of the modem.  This was a huge relief for me, I had visions of trying to run cabling everywhere and I was really pleased the engineer took the time to look at what I had and work with it.

Total time from engineer call to BT Infinity installed and working – 27 minutes.

He said it sometimes takes longer if there’s a lot of cabling to do – but I was pretty impressed.

Performance

I have to say, performance exceeds all my expectations, at present.  The line runs around 34-37Mbps download and 8-9Mbps upload consistently.  There’s some variation and I’m not sure if that’s the line negotiating a different speed, contention or just network throughput.  Either way – I’m super happy.

Reliability

I have a minor issue at the moment with reliability.  The connection is dropping once a day at the moment, late at night or early in the morning, for about a minute.  This might seem trivial, but it bugs the hell out of me, and it’s obvious it’s happened for two reasons.  Firstly, I don’t run a ‘normal’ consumer style network config here, I’ve got a lot of stuff going on with permanent ‘net connections so I can see it’s dropped.  Secondly, because the IP address is also changing on each reset, TweetDeck is getting its knickers in a twist with SSL certificates and moaning.  This might be a bug in TweetDeck being exposed by the IP change, but it’s annoying none-the-less.

Issues

These were issues I was expecting, I’m listing them here in case you might not, or in case you run the kind of stuff I do.

  • Non-fixed IP address: I knew it would change, and I’m pleased to say the Home Hub has built in support for dyndns.com which helps, but I hoped it would remain reasonably static for long periods.  That’s not the case at the moment because of the daily dropouts.  I’m surprised it changes every time it reconnects, but wonder if there’s something else at play since the subnet is changing completely.  We’ll see how it works over time.
  • Outbound Mail: BT provide SMTP servers for your local mail clients, but you can only use them to relay mail with a from field set to your BT Internet e-mail address.  You can ‘pre-register’ a number of additional addresses via the BT Web Mail page if you want.  I knew that BT’s SMTP servers wouldn’t be as forgiving as the Nildram ones, so I’d already been planning options for this.  I send mail from a number of UNIX boxes here, only 3 or 4 a day, but the from address can vary quite a bit.  I’ve solved this by using my own mail relay on a VPS I run.  It might impact you if you want to keep using an old non-BT e-mail address with Outlook or Thunderbird, because you’ll need to pre-register that address before it’ll work.
  • DNS Hijacking: I wasn’t expecting this, but I’m not surprised it’s there.  It seems the BT DNS servers return ‘helpful’ addresses if the URL you type in can’t be found.  This can be opted out of, but I’m not sure if that’s per browser (is it a cookie?) or per connection?  I’ll just avoid this by not using the DNS servers presented from the BT Home Hub and instead using Google DNS.
  • Deep Packet Inspect / Traffic Shaping / Traffic Inspection: I expect that BT will implement one or all of these technologies over time, and that I will have to do something about them, but I’ll cross those bridges when I get to them.  Internet service to the home is changing all the time, and as more organisations deliver fibre to the home, I’ll be able to choose an ISP who just offers to carry my data and not mess with it.

Overall

I’m really pleased overall with BT Infinity.  The speed is higher presently than the estimate, it’s consistent at present, and the installation was significantly less complex than I thought it would be.  The issues aren’t unexpected, and for most home users won’t be a problem (the e-mail one is the one that will get most folk who don’t use webmail).

3 thoughts on “BT Infinity – a few days in”

  1. Hi, I have infinity and even though the speed tests show 37mb connection, the page load speeds are slower over the last few days. How can I change the DNS in the home hub 3 to Google DNS?
    Thanks

  2. Hi I also recently got infinity and like yourself was not happy with the dynamic ip situation but decided to try and work with it.

    Your line drops may well be DLM related, I suspect when someone has a line thats been pushed to its limits (basically any line not able to get max sync) then it will have DLM changing settings which themselves will drop the connection, this can happen even if the line otherwise stable. I got lucky and my line syncs at the full 80mbit presumably with headroom spare and hasnt dropped a single time since the installation, DLM has left me alone so on that side of things all is great. I am seeing very little variation on speeds, but certian transit links at BT get congestion so then variation occurs for those links but for the most part its very consistent performance even at 80mbit/sec. There is very heavy p2p shaping going on but since I rarely use p2p its not a big deal for me.

    Back to the ip issue, although my line is stable, its frustrating that if I drop the ppp session for any reason such as a router reboot or dare I say it changing wireless settings I get a new ip, I got a new router specifically for infinity and the firmware I got on it very annoyingly will reset the pppoe connection for ‘any’ change made to the wireless configuration, my previous wireless access point had no such issue and was capable of having changes made without shutting down all its networking but only had a wan to lan performance of around 45mbit so I had to change it, the times when I lhave left the router alone the ip has not changed so I was able to eg. keep ssh sessions alive for many days in a row. Usually I wouldnt fiddle with wireless but on my new router it seems flaky so hence needs fiddling and hence all the ip resets. I will likely play with this over the next few days, trying different firmwares etc. so more pain on ip changes but hopefully it will end up in a stable router configuration meaning then long term ip stability, someone I know has kept the same ip on infinity for 6 months (he also has a good full sync line).

    Hope this helps

    Chris

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