Tuesday, April 25, 2017

NBN - How to Avoid a Crap Merchant RSP

(And really, really bad if you pick the wrong one).


You're a Government.
And one day in 1999 you are sitting around going, hmmm, we're rather crap at managing a budget and we need some money.
I know! Let's sell off our telecomms infrastructure (because that never ends badly)!
So you privatise your telecoms and who would have thought - it gets turned into a maximum profit, minimum effort outsourced pile of rubbish.
The solution? Let's build a NEW government telcomms network!
Except instead of controlling the whole lot and making sure it's a good quality service, let's leave the messy, risky stuff like supporting customers and making sure there's enough backhaul bandwidth to any business who wants to play and not hold them to any performance standards at all!
And it shall be known as NBN. 

I know all that sounds a bit harsh, but tell me why I'm wrong :p

My ADSL Experience with Exetel

As a bit of a history lesson, I'll give you some insight into the service I've come from.

I've been using an ISP called Exetel for the better part of 10 years.

Exetel used to be a great ISP (in that you got the performance that you paid for) run by a guy called John Linton who sadly passed away in 2012.

Exetel's concept was that they were an ISP for techies with very little support (with the idea that you should be able to figure things out for yourself) with the added bonus that the provided 1:1 backhaul contention ratios, meaning you got what you paid for.

Here I was in probably 2010 and was using an Optus resold connection through Exetel paying $45 / month for a full performance ADSL2+ connection.

That's right - I was sitting there getting ~20Mbps down. Any time of the day. Any file from any country, transferred at my sync rate.

You could tell Exetel was run by true engineers through their open publishing of MRTG graphs demonstrating the usage of their peer and backhaul links as follows (with some captures of the old login pages shown to demostrate the difference between how they were then and, well, take a look at the site now):

Unfortunately, following Johns passing, profit margins seem to have taken priority over network performance and the things that set Exetel apart such as 1:1 subscription ratios and visibility into network performance have disappeared.

My NBN Experience with Exetel (Woeful).

Woohoo. NBN is coming to my house!

It's 2017 and all this money has been spent by the Government so I must be getting an AWESOME connection that will absolutely fly.

I look at the RSP websites and they're all very glossy, filling me with hope that this is a polished operation.

The woes of yesteryear of different ISPs providing widely varying performance for services such as ADSL are behind us, right?

Well, here I sit on a supposed 25Mbps down / 5 Mbps up plan from Exetel (FTTN VDSL2 - the most common form of NBN delivery).

I just did an Ookla speed test to a Brisbane based server at 8:30pm on Saturday 23/04/17.

To make things a bit more scientific, I ran up SNMP monitoring of my routers WAN interface to capture the overall traffic and make sure something else on my network isn't chomping my bandwidth.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Here we have a graph showing the WAN bandwidth. It averages it out so you don't see the speedtest but you get the general idea that the WAN interface isn't flogged.


Here's the super crap results of the bandwidth test.
Exetel - hang your head in shame.
Remember - this is LOCAL traffic within AU.

For good measure, just showing the sync rate and actual rate of the VDSL connection.

Let's try an international download:

73.3 KB/sec.
That's 0.58 Mbps for those of you playing at home.

So, just to recap, it's 2017 and I'm now paying $79 / month for an NBN connection which performs at only 10% of the (download) speed my service which cost $45 / month back in 2010.

My NBN Experience with Aussie Broadband (Excellent).
At this point I thought, hang on. This is bullshit.
I can see that my router sync rate is fine. It must be the RSP.
Thanks to my mislaid trust in Exetel due to my past ADSL experiences, I'd signed up for a three year contract.
I contacted them to advise that the service doesn't work correctly and I'd like to cancel the contract.
The response was pathetic.

So, being that I needed a working internet connection and just wanted to get on with my life, I thought I'd cut my losses, pay the huge cancellation fee and cutover to Aussie Broadband who I had heard good things about.

I contacted Aussie BB and my connection was cutover the next day.

Aussie Broadband does not lock you in for three years btw. They are month to month leave whenever you want.

Aussie put me (for the same price) on a 50Mbps plan with 500GB download quota and a bonus 500GB for the first six months.

Here's my sync rate:

And here's the results of a transfer test during peak time:

Let's Deep Dive This Sucker!
Rather than read online chatter, I thought I'd take this monster apart and pinpoint where the issue is and what my options are to make my NBN connection perform like it's supposed to.

NBN Design and RSP Responsibilities Overview
When you hear "NBN" it immediately conjures up ideas of a giant Australia wide network all owned and built by the Australian Government.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the Government (NBN Co.) only really a portion of the network, specifically:
  • Purchase of last mile delivery infrastructure from Telstra (copper and HFC).
  • Installation of POI infrastructure
  • Blueprint for how RSPs provide core connectivity for NBN provided customers.
NBN performance pain points in detail - Down the rabbit hole we go!

On-Net and Off-Net POI

Domestic RSP Performance (RSP Peering)

International RSP Performance (RSP Backhaul) 

I did my homework and changed RSPs - now my connection works correctly.

How to Avoid Crap Merchant RSPs


RSPs - What they can do to PROVE they're not oversubscribing customers.

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