I have purchased the Viihde package about a week ago.
Since most of the articles are in Finnish, I thought I would post my experience for those who are considering moving from ADSL to cable, but do not know what to expect.
- I am a customer of DNA, in particular, their ADSL service: I have an 8M/1M ADSL line from them.
- I live in Tampere, Rantaperkiö (in case you need it for reference to interpret connection stats)
I was pretty happy with ADSL up until a year ago or so - when my son was born, that is. The scenario is really simple: you live abroad, and you want to share media (pictures, videos) with the rest of the family abroad. It's year 2010 and I just could not bear the thought any longer that we (us in Finland and relatives abroad) need to sit around and wait hours to fetch pictures and videos from one another. Especially that I have an HD camera (hence my recordings are much bigger).
Anyway, the bottom line is that I was fed up with the 1Mbit upstream, especially that it costs a little over 40 euros: by now it should have been less than half of that, but it seems that prices only go up; I think I paid about 30 euros when I started with Saunalahti ADSL about 6-7 years ago.
The search for candidates
So. I went looking around for service providers with better speeds below or within the same price range. There are quite a few - which is good because there's a healthy competition on the market.
My number one choice would have been DNA, because they have optical (well, semi-optical to be precise) 100M/10M service - but unfortunately some hardware needs to be deployed in the house. I am pretty sure that it's not going to happen for a couple of years because there are a bunch of elderly people living here who are always a major pain in the butt whenever it comes to improvements and changes in the building.
My number two choice was Elisa, because they had 100M/5M without requiring modifications in the building, simply over the existing cable and price was comparable to what I pay today.
Finally, on Friday, 19-Feb-2010 I headed to Koskikeskus. This is not related to the topic, but there was a nice dance-show in the middle of Koskikeskus, youngsters dancing all kinds of classics all dressed up in tuxedos and such - it was nice. Anyway, I went to the Elisa store in Koskikeskus. I took a seat at the table on the left and I started asking about the internet service from the lady. I was told that currently there's a promotion, so I could get:
- 100M/5M cable internet for about 45 euros per month (see price-list http://saunalahti.fi/internet/kaapelimodeemi/hinnat.php ' TARGET='_blank for slower connections) with an 18 months contract, or
- the identical 100M/5M cable internet plus digital TV, movie rental and recording service (plus a bunch of things I can't even remember) - all in a package called "Viihde" (see http://www.elisa.fi/viihde/ ' TARGET='_blank) with a 24 months contract.
I asked my wife what she thinks (explaining that we already have digibox so we did not really need the rest unless she thinks we want it). She asked the salesperson what TV channels are included. The lady grabs one of those blue fliers laying around on the table, flips it, and shows us that these are the channels included. She's pointing at a white box with a dotted line in it, a bunch of channels above and others below. I was suspecting that some of those might be actually pay-channels, so I asked her. She said all of those are included - having my suspicions cleared, I nodded to my wife silently. Travel channel was amongst those that I thought to be pay-channels in the first place - my wife likes this one for some reason -, so my wife said ok, let's go for it then. Also, I asked if we could watch the Olympic Games. The salesperson said yes, on channel 223. I asked how long time it takes to get it up&running - she said 1 hour - so I signed the contract thinking I am not going to see a faster internet line for two years anyway (time will tell if I was wrong).
Assembling the hardware
At home, I open the package. It includes:
- Quick start guide (here are http://sites.google.com/site/fonalemelde/Elisa_QuickStart_Page1.jpg?attredirects=0&d=1 ' TARGET='_blank and http://sites.google.com/site/fonalemelde/Elisa_QuickStart_Page2.jpg?attredirects=0&d=1 ' TARGET='_blank - be warned that these are high-res scans, ~7 megs each)
- the two boxes: a digibox and the cable modem
- the necessary wiring, including a 'T' splitter
- a USB stick with F-Secure logo containing security software
- a free "ticket" for your first rent (see sample http://sites.google.com/site/fonalemelde/Elisa_Ticket.jpg?attredirects=0&d=1 ' TARGET='_blank)
- a pack of popcorn.
What's not in the box:
- the 5000Gigabytes for your recordings.
I plugged everything together (it really is easy even if you don't have experience because the plugs can go in one place only). I did not need the 'T' splitter because I plugged in the cable modem at another corner, closer to the computers. Also, I decided not to use the included security software from F-Secure because I have a proper firewall setup, and securing the digibox is not my concern. Anyway, I switched everything on.
Initial hiccups, day 1
The digibox asked a few questions in Finnish that I did not understand so I pressed the buttons on the remote randomly to get rid of most of the dialogs. I did press the yellow button at some point to select cable, and then the digibox began scanning for channels, but it did not find anything. I thought that this digibox needs to learn the network topology just like regular digiboxes do (which takes 20-40 minutes usually), so I left it on and moved on to checking the internet connection. I unplugged my main PC from my LAN and plugged it into the cable modem. The PC did get a new IP address (192.168.100.25), but it could not connect to the internet. Ping, traceroute, nslookup, nothing works. Somewhere in the instructions I found the address of the cable modem (192.168.100.1), so I opened the browser and connected there to see what's going on. I was surprised (negatively) that the management page is pretty much non-existent, it does not allow doing anything else then flashing new firmware. Anyway, the page said that the cable modem is ranging the frequencies, so I need to wait. For reference: The LEDs on the front indicate that that upstream is working (the LED is lit), downstream is connecting (LED is blinking) and there's not internet (LED is off). So, I waited. Had dinner, cleaned up a bit, plugged my PC back to the LAN on the ADSL line back and made some tests using speedtest.net (more on the results later).
After an hour or so, I went back to the TV, and I tried switching it to English. I did find an 'ääni' sub-menu, and under that there were two settings that I tried changing to English, but unfortunately the only available choices were 'soumi/routsi/hollanti', so I just quit. I checked the internet connection - still nothing, so I decided to call the customer service (050960600). This appears to be Finnish only, so I felt I am screwed. I gave the phone to my wife thinking maybe she'll have better luck making some sense out of the recording. Well, we ended up doing brute-forcing the highly sophisticated customer service - meaning that we we pressing each number to see where it leads. As it turns out, you just need to press '8' and then wait. Wait for 15 minutes, that is. Pretty long time if you ask me... Anyway, eventually somebody picked up and this person told me that
- the TV part of the digibox should work without the internet
- guided me through scanning the channels,
- I need to wait 3-4 hours for the internet to kick in.
With that, we hang up.
The digibox found the channels, though it took quite a while (there's a better way to do this, I'll let you know later).
The TV screen was pitch black when I switched to Travel channel and channel 223. I thought these channels do not work because these might need the actual internet connection.
So, I was waiting for 3 hours to be sure (the total comes to 4 hours), then I checked the internet connection again. No internet yet again. I dial the customer service, another 15 minutes wait once again. Finally somebody picks up (seems to be a different person), and I explain that my situation: that I called, what we did so far, TV seems to be working except Travel channel and channel 223, it's been 4 hours now altogether, my wife is pissed about not seeing the Olympics, I am pissed about no internet, etc. The person on the phone told me to unplug this, back on, that, back on, that she can see activity on the line and it should work but she does not understand why and since it's Friday evening, the first opportunity to get a technician here would be Monday morning. I told her that I don't have a choice, so let's do that. She tells me she will open a ticket now, but if it starts working I should call back because if the technician comes here in vain, then I would have to pay. I tell her I understand, thanks and I hang up. Shortly thereafter I for an SMS in Finnish - I guess it was about opening a support ticket. I was still messing around with the digibox, but I did not get anywhere so I gave up. The whole weekend went by without Olympics and high-speed internet - so I was not in a good mood last weekend.
More problems, day 3,4,5
Monday came - and went without anyone coming here. I decided to call in the afternoon at about 3 o'clock (so, I would surely be calling during "business hours"). I call again, this time I had to wait only 8 minutes. Someone picks up the line, I explain that I was told that a technician would come on Monday to see what's wrong with our internet line. The person on the other end of the line tells me that he can see that the ticket is still open, but he cannot tell me exactly when the technician would come, he says it may take up to 5 days. In turn, I asked him to cancel my subscription because I am really unhappy with the service itself (and the slow response time of its customer service). He tells me that he cannot do that, I would need to call a different number for that. I take the number (050950500), say thanks and hang up.
I call this other number and I explain that the channels I am actually interested in are not working, internet is not working, and the customer service is way below my expectations. She tells me that I have made a contract for two years, so the only way to cancel the contract would be if their technicians determined that there is a technical problem that prevents me from using the service. She added that I will be compensated on my bill for the days while the service was not operational. I told her that's not helping because the Olympics are going to be over in the meantime. With that I hang up really pissed, considering filing a report at the customer protection because normally, if you're not satisfied with the service you're getting, you can return it/turn it off. I had a chat with my wife what should we do, weighting our options from smashing up the digibox and cable modem to hiring a lawyer and kick Elisa in the butt. In the end, we concluded that smashing up the hardware will do us no good, so we will play along as nice customers and let Elisa do their magic and we will see after that.
So we've been waiting for the technician. Tuesday went by without hearing anything from Elisa. In the meantime I took mental notes of the questions I am going to ask from the technician:
- no internet
- pitch black channels on TV
- change the menu to English
- configure WLAN, DHCP, open ports, static IPs, etc.
I got a call on Wednesday (about 2 o'clock in the afternoon) from the technician. He was asking if I was at home, he would come by. I tell him I'm home, so he comes. I show him the cable modem (the LED status is exactly the same as it was on Friday), explain what we tried with the customer support on the phone. With that, I left him there and a few minutes later he said it is working. I asked what was wrong, he said that it's a new hardware and it has difficulties picking up the right frequency. I did not ask any more details about that, I was just happy that the internet was finally working.
Then I told him that the Travel channel and channel 223 are pitch black even though those are supposed to be working, please check them. He pulls out a paper with the frequency table, enters the details to a manual scan and starts the scan. The scan is finished in a few minutes (instead of a few hours). I asked about the details where the numbers come from. He said you need to enter the current lowest frequency, maximum frequency and symbol rate (these are currently 12500000, 418000000, 6900). I took a copy of the paper with the channel frequencies, you can find it http://sites.google.com/site/fonalemelde/Elisa_Channels.jpg?attredirects=0&d=1 ' TARGET='_blank. We check Travel channel and channel 223 and those are still pitch black. He makes a few phone calls and says that Travel channel is probably a pay-channel but 223 should be working. I explain to him that the salesperson told us that the Travel channel is included, I even explain that the blue flier with the channel list and that I explicitly asked and then the said yes. In the meantime, we are switching channels forth and back, and after a while there is a picture on channel 223. We check Travel channel once more - it was still pitch black - so He says he does not know, he will check it out and call me about it.
Then I asked him to change the menu to English. He says he can try, but he is not sure because he does not have this digibox. He ended up in the same menu where I did, unable to choose anything else than 'suomi/routsi/hollanti'. I told him it would not make sense to sell equipment with Dutch interface in Finland, there are a lot more people speaking English here than Dutch. He said he agrees, but it appears that these are the only choices. I asked him to check internally if it were possible to flash English software in the digibox. He said he will check this, too and call me back.
Finally, I asked about configuring the router. His answer was that I can configure only the wireless settings and that I do via the Elisa web pages. I asked if it would work with any other cable modem. He said he does not know for sure, but he pulled out a NetGear cable modem from his bag and he explained that this is what they use to test the lines, so this one should work. Unfortunately that was only a cable modem (no router and WLAN). I thanked him, asked if I need to pay anything and said goodbye. He called the next day (today, Thursday) as he promised, and
- he told me that the salesperson in Koskikeskus must have made a mistake because Travel channel is indeed a pay-channel
- he also guided me through the menus to chance the language to English. As it turned out, it is supported, but we've been looking at the wrong menus.
I thanked him and we said goodbye. Still no Travel-channel, but at least I can use the digibox now. After messing around in the menu, I noticed that there is a firmware update available. I started the update. The screen said it was going to take 20-30 minutes, but it took only about 10.
I made some tests using speedtest.net.
The previous connection is an 8M/1M ADSL line.
The new connection is a 100M/5M cable line.
I tested three cities: Turku, Helsinki, Budapest.
I tested each city twice, just to be sure that the results are not random.
You can find the combined results http://sites.google.com/site/fonalemelde/SpeedTestNet.png?attredirects=0&d=1 ' TARGET='_blank.
It seems that:
- speedtest.net is capped at 50MB/sec, so download never goes higher.
- the down/upload speeds are a bit off for some reason. I did measure locally the 100kbtye/sec (for the 1Mbit ADSL line) and 500 kbyte/s (for the 5MBit cable line) upload speeds accordingly. I don't understand why speedtest.net is showing less - I guess they have a problem. Now that I take a look at the download speeds, those are a bit off as well...
The good side:
Downstream works as advertised (10.3Mbyte/s) most of the day. In the evenings (I guess when most of the people are using it at the same time) it can go down to 4-6Mbyte/s. The service provider said they know about this and they are working on increasing the capacity already - we will see soon enough. I hope they won't repeat the same mistake that some service providers in the UK did, selling more capacity than they can handle, resulting in collapsing infrastructure and such things.
Upstream works as advertised (500kbyte/sec) - that is, uploading to a Google site. I did not notice slowdowns during the evenings - I guess it's because the speed is not comparable to the downstream so they can provide such capacity easily.
As you can see from the picture, moving from ADSL to cable - according to speedtest.net - was beneficial for the ping as well; I observe an average -30ms decrease.
Using the command line ping on Windows XP SP3, the ping has decreased from 53-54ms to 43-44ms.
Web sites seems to load a little bit faster, but it's mostly noticeable on web sites that contain a lot of media; those are much more responsive now.
I tried YouTube - now I can watch HD videos without glitches, it's coming down very fast, so I can finally enjoy the videos.
The ugly side:
According to members of the message board (and the service provider), the cable modem is very new and it's intended to the masses for home entertainment. As such, it is not much configurable. They said that they are making improvements to the firmware (within 1-2 weeks), but it's not going to have most of the features I want - so I am more or less screwed, and I need to buy a router. I have a thread about it http://palsta.elisa.fi/index.php/topic,1024.0.html ' TARGET='_blank, read it if you like. I also submitted those as feature requests http://palsta.elisa.fi/index.php/topic,1038.0.html ' TARGET='_blank.
I am going to wait for the next firmware Elisa promised (possibly to be posted in http://palsta.elisa.fi/index.php/topic,862.0.html ' TARGET='_blank thread), then, if I do not like what I see, I go for buying a new router.
http://www.netgear.com/Products/RoutersandGateways/WirelessNRoutersandGateways/WNR3500L.aspx ' TARGET='_blank is the router I am thinking about buying. It's even open-source so I could even mess around with it if I want. Verkkokauppa http://www.verkkokauppa.com/popups/prodinfo.php?id=17087 ' TARGET='_blank - I already placed on order, it takes about two weeks anyway.
If you happen to have this router, I would be interested to hear any good/bad experience with it. Thank you.
Well, that's about it. I guess I have learnt a few lessons once again. I guess you would do well not to switch the ADSL connection off until you have the new connection up&running.
If you need more info, just ask.
Crit (kaapeli) just posted a message http://palsta.elisa.fi/index.php/topic,1024.msg8273.html#msg8273 ' TARGET='_blank explaining the issue behind Travel channel. Please take a look, it's good news.