Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bluewave IOM Review

Let me start by saying I'm not the first of the lads to sign up for Bluewave broadband so I'm hoping that the other fella will chip in here at some point as well, but this is my point of view on it.

We had the Bluewave Ultraband (40Mb) home broadband installed very recently having previously been on a Wi-Manx VDSL (40Mb) connection, technically speaking we still have access to both but only for a little while.  The Bluewave installation was as quick and easy as you like, the engineer was here for about an hour and with a crystal clear view of the antenna everything went very smoothly.  I know people have asked about the router you get, we got a TP-Link 840N (Link Here) but more on that later.  One thing that could have been pointed out was the default username and password for the router but perhaps they assume people won't be interested?  It only took a few seconds to find it on the bottom of the router and I quickly altered the SSID, username, password and WLAN security key.

With everything secure I could test the wireless signal around the house, performance was...ok.  Not a very technical review I know.  Put it this was it was better than a typical Netgear ADSL router, better than my old TP-Link ADSL router, not as good as my Billion and not near the standard of the FritzBox.  I'm fussy about wireless, it's why most of the big stuff in the house is wired now.  Was it good enough?  Just about in our 3 bed semi, I wouldn't want to rely on it if I was in a big town house, certainly not without a repeater.  So I did the easiest thing which was to replace it with the Fritzbox (quick note - even though Bluewave say you can't use their service with an ADSL/VDSL router most modern routers have the ability to set one of the LAN ports as a WAN port, on the Fritzbox this takes about a minute to do - handy if you are thinking of moving from Wi-Manx VDSL).  With the Fritzbox in place I could get a full signal throughout the whole house/garden.

Next came the issue of speed and this is where things got a bit complicated.  Initial tests at 3-5pm were not great.  Ping on Bluewave - average around 45ms, average on Wi-Manx VDSL around 18-20ms.  Download on Bluewave - average around 15Mb/s (lowest 7Mb/s), average on Wi-Manx VDSL around 37Mb/s (lowest 37Mb/s).  Upload on Bluewave - average around 3.5Mb, average on Wi-Manx VDSL around 2Mb/s.  I should say that I was not expecting Bluewave to be as fast as the wired VDSL service and I was happy to lose some of the download for a faster upload and the considerable cost savings.  But I wasn't expecting such a massive drop in performance so that led me to try again at a quiet time of the day.  I thought this shouldn't have much effect seeing as how Bluewave advertise the capacity of their network and not being left wanting for more speed, even at peak times!  So I tried it again at 7am, here's the results:-

Bluewave Ping Average - 33ms
Bluewave Download Average - 25Mb/s (lowest 21Mb/s)
Bluewave Upload Average - 4.5Mb/s

Wi-Manx Ping Average - 18ms
Wi-Manx Download Average - 37Mb/s (lowest 37Mb/s)
Wi-Manx Upload Average - 2Mb/s

That is within the accpetable limit for what I set myself for Bluewave, like I said I wasn't expecting it to be as fast as the Wi-Manx VDSL service.  This leaves me with a problem, at first glance there appears to be significant contention with the Bluewave service (as of right now 9am'ish  it's really up and down all over the place, 1 second it is OK - the next it is poor - ...then this at  9:10 - ).  To be honest I'm not sure if it's 100% contention or something more atmospheric but either way it's very much up and down a lot and it does coincide with the busiest times of the day.  I'm hoping the other lad with it can chip in on that?

Just to prove that all these SpeedTest results were meaningful I also tried a load test on the connection thanks to some iPlayer HD content, 1080p Youtube videos, a HD stream of the United game last night and a couple of Steam downloads.  The speed really is as variable as what is being made out in the Speedtests and several times it had a fit and stopped various streams altogether.  Looking at the throughput on the Fritzbox it was showing a steady load of around 18Mb/s + the variable rates for the downloads and this was too much for the connection to maintain at 7-9pm.  This leaves the question of will I stick with it?

If I was a big online games player then the answer is no.  The difference in the ping plus the fluctuations in bandwidth would be just too anoying.  But I'm not a big gamer.  If I was cutting edge and spending half my life looking for dodgy streams then I'd give it a miss as well.  But we are just an average household with a few tablets, a couple of PC's and a Youview box.  Under normal circumstances it should hold up fine, nothing like as quick (or with the spare capacity) as what we were used to as Wi-Manx but good enough considering the massive savings, appox £20 a month.  So we'll be staying with Bluewave and just hoping that the variation settles down over time as the network matures, I'll do a follow up once we've got a couple of weeks of use out of it.

PS Just to add that none of the testing was done in a completely controlled environment.  I did however plugin directly to the router for all Speedtests and only granted WLAN access to what was needed for testing.  All automatic updates were turned off.  The Fritzbox had zero throughput at all time when I wasn't testing so I made it as accurate as I could.

PPS Just at add that it's now been rock steady at 30Mb/s download for the past 20 minutes.