Monday, 19 March 2012

Forget the two car family - now we have the two broadband family

Sneaky new router hiding behind the TV
It's several weeks since we acquired our Apple TV box and it is getting very heavy usage. The quality of TV shows and movies from iTunes and Netflix is much better than I expected - generally indistinguishable from ordinary TV.

But a problem has reared its head. Inevitably the Apple TV box takes a hefty chunk of our internet bandwidth. If one person is watching TV this way and someone else wants to download a file or watch something on YouTube, the viewing becomes pretty well impossible, with lots of pauses and hiccups.

Where we live we can't currently get ultra-high speed broadband, because there is neither cable TV nor fibre optic cabling. (I find this bizarre in a yuppy estate built less than 10 years ago, but who can fathom the minds of BT and Virgin?) But luckily there was a solution.

As it happens, we have two phone lines into the house, one for my business, one for home. Our internet has always come off the business line. So I bit the bullet and got broadband on the home phone as well. In one of those rare bits of sensible planning by the housebuilder, there is a phone socket behind the TV, so I was able to hardwire the Apple TV to the new router, while our computer-based internet use still remains on the old router. Web heaven.

As an added bonus, if I want to do two heavy things at the same time, I can always hook up on the new router's wifi - and if my business broadband goes down (which it has twice so far for at least a day each time), I have a fallback. It isn't hugely expensive either... but somehow it does feel decidedly decadent, being a two broadband family.


  1. That fallback idea is good, but did you get the two connections from different providers? If they go to the same ISP, it is extremely likely that when one of the connections is down, the other one is as well. If the physical connections run in the same bunch of cables, connect to the same DSL multiplexer and continue from there in the same gigabit ethernet or whatever... wherever one of your connections fail, the other one will fail as well.

    Your solution is just fine for the added bandwidth requirement, of course. But if you want failover, the other connection should be done with a different technology. A popular way to do it where I live is to have the primary connection with ADSL (or something similar) and have the failover with a 3G modem. Many cheap routers provide the failover mechanism which works nicely.

  2. Good point, though both times I've had problems so far, the business line has stopped working while the 'home' line has continued, so it seems to have been a telcomms problem rather than an ISP problem. In such circumstances I may still get a fallback - but in the end it wasn't my main reason for doing this.

  3. That's pretty slick - all that writing beginning to pay then :-)

    I must say that we miss our Virgin cable. 'Play it again Sam' (as we used to call it) was great, i.e., 'catch up' tv.

    We're on BT here - so I recognise that router. When we first moved here - actually, before that even - I checked out the likely connection speeds and found that BT were going to put in their Infinity network. The actually month it was to be available slipped a bit, but it's here now. However I don't know that I want it – for starters we get a good 6Mb (4Mb at the worse), and that's fine for me. Plus, BT have pissed me off a bit with their cold calling about it (ok, so I did click a link once that said I'd be interested in their Infinity stuff). The other day a guy called to tell me how vastly superior the new network was to their old one – basically, he was saying that what I was using was crap – and that just made me angry; as in, so you're happy to sell me crap (even though it's anything but) and then charge me for something that won't drop-out etc – how dare you!
    We've also just been mailed about BT Vision (don't know how this compares Brian) for £1 a week. Should I shouldn't I?

  4. I think I'd go for Infinity, Peet, but we have four of us in the house, all using the internet, plus that hungry Apple TV box.

    Also it's a bit like the old 'go for the fastest PC you can afford, as in 2 years time you'll be surprised how slow it is.'

    Don't really know a lot about BT Vision, but I assume its video-on-demand is as bandwidth hungry as the Apple box - so it would hog your 6Mb if you had it and used it...