O2 Broadband Review: Part 1

Written: 7th July 2008
Section: Internet

This is a three parter review, consisting of one at the start (this one), one after six months and one after a year. In this portion I will go over the switch from the previous ISP, initial bandwidth/response performance and overall feelings towards o2 as an ISP.

Having moved back home for a year I wasn't going to put up with Sky's less than commendable offering during my stay. The question was which ISP to choose. After raving reviews all over the internet, I decided to switch to O2, mainly because of its unlimited usage at a reasonable price.

The switch happened about a week ago. As I was still away when the line was activated it was up to my dad to sort out the router and wi-fi security. This should be a great test as my dad is used to me doing this sort of stuff. It didn't take long until I got my first phone call from him saying that the internet wasn't coming on. I'd received the text and email from o2 confirming the line was indeed active so rather than take random stabs at the problem I suggested he call the free support number. That was the last I heard until my arrival a few days later. My dad was very impressed with the quality of the tech support, even though it did take 45 minutes. In the end it turns out they sent the wrong DNS addresses out.

Now that I was back home, it was time to do a little survey of what we had. The router we received was a black Thomson ST780 WL (white if you're not on business). It came shipped with o2's custom firmware and branding which I found to be lacking in all areas. Because the default wi-fi encryption was WEP (ouch) it needed to be changed over to WPA2. The problem with WEP is that the key can be broken in as little as an hour if someone has the right tools. An access list will remove any doubt if using WEP, but the interface to do so, again, wasn't great so I decided to go with the WPA2. With its concerning response times, the router itself isn't great and I plan to buy a replacement WRT based one just as soon as there are funds available.

As a gamer I was hoping to get some seriously low pings (I chose the business package just or this reason) however it seems the lowest I get to anywhere is 31ms, which is a shame when I know the line can do (and has done) better. The speeds to the rest of europe aren't great either - 70-110 ms for the Czech Republic, 80 for Norway, etc. Connection speeds have been varied. If plugging in the ADSL line during the day we tend to get about 8-9 Mbits but are getting just under 13 Mbits right now. I believe this was because I plugged it in during the morning - when the network is under less stress. Bear in mind that you only need to plug the line in once and the connection rate will be constant as long as your router is on, I was merely seeing how high a speed was possible. Download speeds haven't passed 1MB/s yet but it's hard to tell if that was due to the line or the servers I've been downloading from as it's not been long enough to tell yet.

Overall, I'm quite pleased. The response times didn't impress me but at least they are better than we had with sky. The unlimited usage is also a great thing to have. I'll be back in January with a mid-way report on how it's going.

Read the second part.

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