Sunday, 28 August 2011

Broadband in Brookside

Broadband internet is in the news a lot at the moment, with complaints about companies advertising speeds it's impossible to get and £8m or so of investment in broadband planned for Shropshire (including Telford & Wrekin).

You may not know this but we're actually quite lucky in Brookside when it comes to broadband internet in terms of choice of providers and the speeds you can expect.

In all, five companies are able to provide broadband internet connections in Brookside.  Other companies will be able to provide you with broadband in Brookside but they will use the equipment owned by the five companies below:
  • BT
  • Orange
  • Sky
  • TalkTalk
  • Virgin
All of these providers except Virgin use BT's exchanges to provide your internet connection over your BT phone line.  Virgin has its own cable network - your house is connected via copper coax to one of those green cabinets you see dotted around the place which are in turn connected by fibre optic to their exchange in Central Park, St Georges.

Which broadband providers you can choose from and what your connection is like depends on whether you are in a cabled area and which BT exchange your line is connected to.
Almost all of Brookside and Stirchley are in the catchment area for the BT exchange on Stirchley Road opposite the junction with Stirchley Lane.  A few houses around Brereton and Blakemore are in the catchment area for the Cuckoo Oak exchange which is off Madeley High Street as well as Stirchley and most of Stirchley and half of Brookside are in the catchment area for the Hollinswood exchange as well as the Stirchley exchange.

If you are lucky enough to be connected to the Stirchley exchange (which most houses will be) you will have the most choice of providers with BT, Orange, Sky and TalkTalk offering broadband over a BT phone line (ADSL) at speeds of up to 20mbit/sec depending on your line and the provider.

If you are connected to the Cuckoo Oak exchange you have the choice of BT, Orange and TalkTalk for ADSL and if you are unfortunate enough to be connected to the Hollinswood exchange you are limited to BT for ADSL.

Whether you can get broadband from Virgin depends on whether you are in a cabled area.  Almost every home inside the perimeter road is able to receive services from Virgin at speeds of up to 100mbit/sec.  Newer houses outside of the perimeter road may not be able to receive services from Virgin because they no longer cable new areas.

To find out which exchange your phone line is connected to, search for your postcode at SamKnows.  To see if you can get Virgin broadband, search for your postcode on the Virgin Media website.

All of the ADSL providers will be able to provide you with a connection of up to 20mbit/sec, although the speed you get will depend on the quality of your phone line and how far away from the exchange you are.  As a rules of thumb, if you live within half a mile or so of the Stirchley exchange with a good quality phone line you should get close to the advertised speed.

Virgin can provide connections of up to 100mbit/sec to cabled homes in Brookside but the speed you get depends on the quality of your cable and how many of your neighbours are connected to the same green cabinet as you - the more there are, the slower it will be!

Before you decide which provider to go with, you should look at the packages on offer as they're all different.

Virgin provides by far the fastest possible connection but it's comparatively expensive and there are limits on how much data you can use with quite severe speed cuts as a penalty if you go over them.

Orange is quite competitively priced but their customer service has been slated in opinion polls and you have to be an Orange customer to get the best prices.

TalkTalk is also competitively priced but once they have your contact details you will be hounded by a seemingly limitless number of affiliated companies until you change your phone number (personal experience!).  

BT has the advantage of being the biggest broadband provider and owner of the phone network that your house is connected to but they can be a little impersonal and intractable as you would expect from a former monopoly.

Sky is the only provider that offers unlimited broadband but you have to subscribe to Sky TV and phone services to get Sky Broadband.

Of course, if you don't want a fixed phone line then there's always mobile broadband - all five mobile phone operators cover Brookside to varying degrees with speeds of up to 5.6mbit/sec. But I won't go into that in this post, I'll write up a review of mobile phone services available in Brookside another time!