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Life In The Fibreoptic Lane: an article by: GF Willmetts.

May 5, 2019 | By | Reply More

I was a latecomer to broadband nearly a decade back and only discovered it was possible to change to fibreoptic last November and that my broadband supplier could do it on special offer. Obviously, this will vary from broadband supplier to broadband supplier and what kind of price they offer but if you get one that includes VAT and it works out cheaper than your current bill, then it might be worth considering if it’s available in your area.

I was also told that as my 18 month contract ended, there was bound to be another special offer so could keep going at a relatively cheap price. Obviously, I’m directing this mostly at those of you who live in the UK but a lot of the information might be useful to know worldwide.

What is FibreOptic?

For those who don’t know, ‘fibreoptic’ can often and should be two words but this can vary although they seem to be joined at the hip with no hyphen. It actually stands for ‘fibre optic cable’ but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it reaches to your house. This is just the means to send a faster signal, literally at the speed of light than speed of sound with the bottleneck really when it arrives at your computer.

Like when broadband first came about there was a lot of misinformation. Some people thought they had to increase the size of their pictures on their websites being one that I came across. Speed of delivery of information has nothing to do with file size. Indeed, file compression is still a delivery preference in whatever you use to access the Internet, mostly because the data comes in neat bundles with fewer white spaces that could be corrupted in transit. In simple terms, a simple misinterpretation could turn a ‘0’ to a ‘1’ and mean something different and not allow them to open. That’s happening less frequently now.

U.S. Government wants a super-big super-computer.

Bits Are Smaller Than Bytes

Where I live receives a multitude of signals, slowing down my signal. My broadband speed didn’t exceed a 6.5Mbps and would break connection from time to time until I used a TP-Link gadget to whip the link through the electricity supply and by-pass my laptop’s wi-fi modem and cable into it. ‘Mbps’ is MegaBites Per Second and NOT MegaBytes. Don’t confuse the two as the amount of data delivered is different. 8 bits equals 1 byte and then you keep multiplying by a progression of 8 until you get to a kilobytes is 1,024 bytes and then multiple up by 1024. A Megabye is 1,048,576 bytes. A Gigabyte is 1,073,741,824 bytes. Think of those size numbers when downloading or processing information and how big the files get.

Even so, playing a game such a ‘Fortnite’ through it and the problems with connections, waiting in mid-air and indistinct territory was pretty rife. I should point out even going fibreoptic doesn’t change this although it will finish a lot faster most of the time. More of that in a while.

Selecting Your Speed

There are usually three different speeds to choose from and broadband supplier personal will usually suggest 28Mbps as opposed to 63Mbps, although being tied down to an 18 month contract, so think ahead as to what you need and what you can afford. I doubt if any broadband supplier will live up to being the fastest because they will still be limited by the phone company who serves the line and how many channels that are open to the broadbsand supplier. Currently, my new download speed is 40Mbps even though I opted for 63Mbps as it was about the same price I was already paying pre-VAT. If you have more than one computer or other Internet connected appliance in the home on at the same time, the speed you select will be divided between them all, so the higher your speed the better, providing it’s within your budget.

What About 5G?

I’ve turned on the router’s 5G reception software as well, although it appears it’s not in available yet in my area. According to the bumf, when 5G does go live, Internet speeds if your router is equipped for it will rocket up to 250Mbps which should be interesting to see how accurate that is. This is because this is supposed to be for smartphone usage, you do have to wonder what the true speed will be and how quickly it will fill up. Until then, it will remain inert with that aspect, although I might come back to the subject when it does happen. There are various speeds given by Internet speed tests on-line but it’s the download speed that is the most important or you won’t see anything on the screen, but that’s moving ahead.

There is a big ‘IF’ here and I’m going to be repeating various things throughout this article. It is possible to change your desktop modem card to receive 5G fairly easy and at a reasonable price but you will need to check with your computer manufacturer as to whether or not your current laptop has the right modem for 5G. I suspect for most of you, it won’t. I know mine isn’t because I asked. Frankly, I have a feeling it won’t take long for the 5G medium to be filled up and you might actually be faster on fibreoptic when all those smartphone users clear out of our wavelength so don’t be too hasty in making a change. Even so, I doubt if any computer manufacturer will be too long in making the update option available in later models when it’s widely available.

Going Fibreoptic

The most important thing first of all. Check to see if fibreoptic has been set up in your area.

I used this link: https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/guides/broadband_availability/

to check mine in the UK even though I knew from various stickers that it was on the new estate near me before talking to my broadband supplier.

This doesn’t necessarily mean there is any change in the telephone cables in your area unless you’re living in a new estate or had cables laid underground already. The current main distance cables to the telephone exchange and conventional lines will still be used, although there is likely to changes made to the junction box. So don’t worry if you don’t see teams arriving to strip your current telephone cable down in making the change as that probably won’t happen. Quite how they differentiate between the three speeds depends a lot on the telephone exchange. Don’t forget that the Internet connection is separate to your regular phone, assuming you use it to call out or receive calls. Whatever the speed they offer, assume it’ll be a third less than that and then work to your budget accordingly. The distance from the telephone exchange to your home by conventional wire is usually only a couple miles and the speed of sound still makes that less than a second.

All of the following depends on your broadband supplier although I suspect that they will tend to follow the same protocols. Once you’ve arranged with your broadband supplier to do the conversion and they’ve checked fibreoptic is available, you’ll have a 12 day cooling off period before the change and receive your new router and microfilters with instructions about fitting them.

On the day of changeover, your regular broadband router will cease to receive any signal and you’ll have to wait a couple hours for it to reconnect. You’ll also be told to disconnect anything helping your previous signal as you won’t need it. Interestingly, when I did reconnect, I had an email already waiting to be read telling me they’d done the deed. Quite how you would know this without one of those mobile phone thingies beats me. I did try hooking up my TP-Link cable connection again later and it definitely wouldn’t respond. Although they served their purpose well, it’s going to look like a lot of old tech very soon so if you are using it find someone who might find a use for it than just throw it away.

You can still do a direct cable from the router to the computer but you will be advised not to do anything like that for the first 10 days as the broadband supplier will adjust your router from their end. This is the main reason why you shouldn’t use any router but the one supplied. Oh, you also get a couple new microfilters to replace your old ones because, again, you have a different order of things to filter. There hasn’t been any information on how long these new microfilters last yet but if you have to replace them, remember like for like and don’t get the wrong ones.

Finding out what was different will also depend a lot on your own computer. I did find my laptop was still a bit sluggish getting on-line at boot-up but will stay there while your computer is on. Don’t expect instant miracle solutions if this is a problem you already experience.

As always, the new router should be close to your phone line connection into your home. If you have it in your computer room, have it as high as you can on a shelf like you did with the old router but that should be drummed into you by now.

Life In The Desktop Computer Modem

My back-up computer is a desktop job and thought it wise to update its modem to an N900 WiFi card which also includes a third aerial for 5G, although I hadn’t realised the importance of that when bought, as I selected one based on a faster speed and this was up to 450Mbps speed. I’m including this note as a reminder not to be complacent when it comes to potential bottlenecks and this is something that can be overlooked if you have an old modem as it won’t receive any faster than its top speed. Although I doubt I’ll see much difference overall now I’ve changed, my instincts were that no one seems to mention this on whatever I’ve read on fibreoptic. There’s a case of getting too complacent with the hardware we have. Even so, the slowness of linking in after booting up seems to be a common problem.

What Does It Change?

Much of the changes were in speed although you don’t necessarily see them. Well, sort of. You’re less likely to get no signal when you want to watch something on YouTube and I haven’t seen that since the change. Putting attachments onto emails are done in seconds, even for big files. The download of a major update to Windows 10 will, instead of taking a couple hours, will be in 20 minutes!!! However, the installation will take just as long which took 6 hours on that occasion. Even so, the time saved is worth it and you can still use the computer until it asks to reboot but make sure you save any files regularly. With smaller download updates, everything is a lot faster.

Adapting to the transition is very quick. Compare when you get a new faster computer and you get used to things in a couple days. The important difference is download speed and when writing this article as to what changed significantly.

If you’ve ever run through the long information lists MSN runs off their home page and it suddenly crashes, the recent watches I’ve done will still go that way but W10 can now recover to the same point the data was lost which did surprise me.

I’m In The Mode For Gaming

I think the biggest reveals is with on-line games like ‘Fortnite’. Just because the downloads are faster doesn’t mean translating them into files is. A 1.5gB download and install took 37 minutes with all the pauses although it did save over the usual 90 minutes on the standard broadband download. The fact that the latter doesn’t have to pause is you don’t see the delay pattern and the size of files. You do have to wonder if Microsoft will ever come up with a faster installation speed but I suspect we don’t see what it is doing behind the scenes, like checksums, certificate verification, virus checks and various linkages before putting in place.

Speaking of the likes of games like ‘Fortnite’, the load-ups are faster but it doesn’t remove the fuzzy landscapes in play that I find still crop up. The delays with respawns and broken connections varies but is still there. I was even surprised to be caught mid-air waiting to appear to land even longer than I used to so don’t think fibreoptic will resolve all your issues. In fact, it looks like the problems are at their end and the number of people on their website. After a few weeks, I’ve got so used to things back to normal now but still happen depending on the traffic they are having. If you want these issues resolved quickly, don’t choose peak times to play that you know are busy.

Something else I’m still pondering on is when coming off ‘Fortnite’, any links already open still fail to respond right away. I did wonder if it was because all the Internet channels were full up. I’ve tried everything from F5 to starting afresh but it really does vary a lot and there is no ready answer as to what works best. Anyone with a viable explanation and solution should contact me although I think this is something that is a consistent problem around that you might have to tolerate until one of the big companies gets a grip on it.

Making The Boot-Up Connection

Now, back to that previous problem. Why did it take so long for the laptop and my back-up desktop computer to make the initial connection to the Internet. A little investigation and a surprising result. From 5 minutes of attempts, with this change it took not only a minute and I was on YouTube and playing something effortlessly. This is for PCs not Macs, although they might have a similar control. The main thing this will stop or reduce is the number of times you get locked out or freezing. At least it will stop you looking at the screen waiting for something to happen.

I found this solution link on-line although clarified some information below.

https://superuser.com/questions/557810/why-does-it-take-several-minutes-for-my-internet-to-start-working

Essentially:-

  1. Control Panel and Administration Tools.
  2. Select ‘Services’ and double-right click it. Give it a couple minutes as it has to scan your software. If you get a ‘Properties’ window by pressing the wrong mouse button, just close that window and wait.
  3. Select ‘Wired AutoConfig’ from the alphabetical listing and you get a separate window page.
  4. Select ‘Properties’ and you get several selections.
  5. If it’s on ‘Manual’, switch it to ‘Automatic’ and select the ‘Apply’ button.
  6. The real test is to turn off the computer and reboot and see how long it takes to go on-line. Don’t just do a restart because you’ll need to check that nothing has been left in residue in memory.
  7. You might still have to F5 your opening page maybe a couple times but that’s normal and it quickly locks on. It doesn’t stop the problem but your computer will be less inclined to freeze while it links into the Net so should reduce some frustration.

Of course, if you want to go back to the way it was, do the reverse on point 5. DON’T play with any of the other controls on that window.

I suspect it will also work for lower broadband speeds as well and you have to wonder why Microsoft doesn’t have ‘automatic’ as its default setting.

It doesn’t necessarily speed up reconnection with other websites after playing the likes of ‘Fortnite’ although does speed up a fresh link onto your home website. I suspect the width of lanes it takes up on the Internet being the cause of that and causes interruptions no matter what speed you use on the Net.

When booting up, let it complete all the necessary before going on-line should be accepted anyway.

Other Problems That Come Up

Problems like loading up your home page and trying to link in elsewhere only to get a Norton website warning, which you tell to ignore and wanting to print a page still happens. Oddly, the solution is to selection ‘Not Allow’ and it sorts itself out and goes to the right website in a separate link. This might not be perfect but it does stop the print window and trying again will get to the right link. It might also be a matter of not going the same way.

This morning, not wanting to be defeated, I chose to go to another link but not through my homepage, I actually went into Google but didn’t use it only my ‘Favourites’ option, and got there immediately which is going to take some experimenting with to see if that is consistent. Applying some logic here, a home page, like MSN, is loaded with feeds so perhaps choosing one of your own through it might be overloading it.

Again, this can vary depending on Net traffic and might get worse as more people upgrade. Methinks mine and your broadband supplier needs to have more channels. You literally do pay for what you get although if a smaller supplier has fewer users you might actually be better off than a supplier who has many users.

Things like ‘long running script’ still exist that I’ve yet to find a satisfactory answer to, mostly because it comes up irregularly and it’s easier to tell the software to stop it or re-link the page.

Always remember and, it is noted by my broadband supplier, if your Net connection does become sluggish, don’t be afraid to turn off your router for a few minutes so when you re-engage it finds a clearer signal/channel. It also helps with switching between ‘Fortnite’ and other websites although not with their blurring suggesting they need to do an overhaul.

Even Electronic Highways Have Traffic Jams

Frequently, in the past, the Internet has been described as being an electronic highway and that has become ever more true over the years. Fibreoptic is over 100% faster than standard broadband. When 5G becomes operational, this is supposed to be 150% faster than that. As with all such things, this also depends on how many people are using the various channels and they can quickly fill. Jumping off the road for a few minutes can find a clearer channel, so never be afraid to do that no matter what kind of router you are using.

You also don’t gain by leaving your computer on all the time or even in sleep mode. Windows 10 will update even in sleep mode and, I don’t know about you, but I like to know when updates are going on. It might be inconvenient some times and I wish Microsoft put up alerts of choosing when to install major updates also applies this to smaller updates and when you want them installed. At least W10’s facility to preserve files on an enforced reboot mostly works. As I pointed out earlier, the speed of the download is immensely faster but you still have the same length of time for installation.

Cautions

I hope none of the above is too complicated for some of you. Hopefully, some of what I’ve written might sound familiar and at least reassure you that you’re not the only one with some of these problems. I’m only offering some things that I’ve found worked. You might well have solutions that you’ve found that are better or at least now know you can look for them. However, as with anything from the Internet, check the sources and what people have to say about them before trying out and know how to uninstall or reconfigure or setting up a W10 restore point if they don’t. With my background in science, I’m flexible enough to try a different approach if it might work better and making a couple discoveries while writing this article and even on the day I’m putting this on-line should speak for itself.

All going fibreoptic will really do is change the speed of data transfer, it is NOT a panacea that will solve all your connection and speed problems. If you do live in a signal-ridden area then it might get some sustained signal improvement and that is the important thing. Good luck.

© GF Willmetts 2019

my thanks to Andy Whitaker for looking over this piece

and pointing out where I need to add more information

and supplying some of his own.

 

 

Category: Computers

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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