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Standard User Woolwich
(member) Fri 04-Oct-13 17:03:36
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Is Zen really that good?!


[link to this post]
 
Currently with Be on ADSL. I think I want to go to Fibre before Sky get around to moving me over. (Sky bought Be, most Be punters not happy about that, mass defections.)

I require a fixed IP. I had though Plus Net my only reasonably priced option until I noticed Zen's new packages. I know of Zen's reputation, but are they 50% better?

I'm paying Be (aka Sky) around £28 for ADSL and line rental. A Plus Net fibre connection and phone will only cost and extra few pounds per month, £20 plus £14.50 = £34.50. Zen are asking 50% more for their fibre at £30 plus £15.44 line rental = £45.44. A bigger jump in cost!

There are other savings with Plus Net (discounted fibre for 9 months as well as the option to reduce the line rental fee).

Do I really want to be paying an additional £10 per month to Zen? Are they really that much better?
Standard User iand
(fountain of knowledge) Fri 04-Oct-13 18:38:25
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Re: Is Zen really that good?!


[re: Woolwich] [link to this post]
 
you will know depending on the number of replies to your posting.

In my view, you would be hard to tell the difference. If it were not for the fact that SKY currently do not offer a static IP address, then you could have used that also (so long as you are not using SKY for business purposes). There is talk of SKY actually allowing static IP and your own router when BT go to self install (rumour).

Is it not true that all of these providers use the same underlying technology and service provision into your house for FTTC. The only differentiator is then the options the ISP activate on the line (speed vs stability, static ip, speed of the line itself), the cost of that service and finally their backend network from the exchanges into their own network to the internet.

Its getting to be from a service point of view there is no difference, but from a features/cost point of view it is different.

IanD
Standard User David_W
(fountain of knowledge) Fri 04-Oct-13 19:07:36
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Re: Is Zen really that good?!


[re: Woolwich] [link to this post]
 
Zen and PlusNet differ somewhat in philosophy, but both are clearly very competent providers with attractive products.


Zen's primary focus is on the business market, though they have always catered for home customers wanting a premium product and might well be more active in this market than historically was the case. If you want, you can buy a Zen leased line or a Zen multi-line VoIP solutions.

Zen's philosophy is typically to operate their broadband services in a way where no contention will be noticed at the links into their network and beyond. They have installed their own points of presence in approximately 200 exchanges; where GEA-FTTx handover takes place at an exchange with Zen presence, Zen use their own network for backhaul. In all other areas, Zen use BT Wholesale WBMC. There is no price difference between 'on network' and 'off network' users.

Zen's customer service operation is UK based. In my experience, you get through with minimal delay to someone who is technically adept - there does not seem to be any first line staff who can only trot out standard solutions. You can get a flavour of Zen customer service from the issues I had last week, which turned out to be a BT Wholesale fault in Milton Keynes.

With Zen, a static IPv4 address is standard. I believe IPv4 blocks are still available on request if you can provide RIPE justification for them - historically customers could have a /29 free of charge and larger blocks for a one-off fee (I gave extensive technical justification for two non-NAT subnets, for which a /28 is the minimum allocation, so I have a /28). With IPv4 depletion, I suspect the threshold for allocating multiple IPv4 addresses is now rather higher, though if you can justify why NAT is not a complete solution for you, Zen may still be able to help.

Zen have said IPv6 is part of their roadmap, but have said they will not launch it until they have a complete product. For now, I use SixXS via the gblon2 PoP, at the cost of 7ms latency (the RTT from Zen's network in Manchester to LINX) and 20 bytes per packet (for the IPv4 protocol 41 encapsulation). I look forward to native IPv6 from Zen, though am aware that I am in a minority in operating a router/firewall with full IPv6 support (in my case, a rack mount server running pfSense).

Zen's minimum contract period for FTTx is 12 months, reflecting the minimum 12 month period of the underlying BT Openreach GEA-FTTx connection.



PlusNet are primarily if not entirely targeting at the residential market. I have never used their services personally, though I have recommended them to several people looking for a quality residential broadband product at a competitive price.

My impression is that PlusNet operate their network somewhat closer to saturation than Zen do, in order to keep their BT Wholesale backhaul costs down, but their use of traffic management typically ensures any contention has minimal impact on the customer experience.

PlusNet use the BT Wholesale network in all areas. Their pricing depends on the Ofcom 'market' classification of the exchange, with Market 1 customers paying a supplement over the listed prices.

PlusNet's customer support is UK based, and seems to go down well with the majority of their users.

With PlusNet, a single static IPv4 address can be obtained for a one-off fee of £5. Routed IPv4 blocks are not possible. PlusNet have not announced any IPv6 plans.

PlusNet's minimum period for FTTx is 18 months.


Ultimately, you must balance up the factors. We rely on our Internet connection for business purposes, and have found it easy over the ten years we have been with Zen to justify the relatively small monthly premium over consumer ISPs.

Of course, any form of Internet connection is fallible and DSL does not carry a service level agreement. We have backups for the occasional outage, primarily mobile broadband contracts on two different mobile networks.


It sounds like both Zen and PlusNet would be a good match to your needs.

If you are seriously considering Zen, make sure you think critically about the speed estimate. If your line is unlikely to manage much more than 40/10 Mbit/s, you can save £3/month by taking Unlimited Fibre 1, which is based on the 40/10 wholesale product rather than the more expensive 80/20 wholesale product. Unfortunately, the £30 activation fee on Unlimited Fibre 1 wipes out this small saving for the first ten months.

Edited by David_W (Fri 04-Oct-13 19:09:44)


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Standard User Chrysalis
(legend) Fri 04-Oct-13 21:58:12
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Re: Is Zen really that good?!


[re: David_W] [link to this post]
 
Good writeup but my view of plusnet differs to yours.

Both providers do cater for tech minded users, but plusnet is also a budget isp, and I dont consider them high quality.

Zen's higher price point alone is an attraction as its 'insurance' if you like that will keep the masses away from it to aid in avoiding network saturation.

Both providers aim to hide visible congestion, zen seem to do it the honest way by keeping capacity ahead of demand, plusnet seem to do it by robbing paul to pay pete, although plusnet rep's have claimed earlier in the year they have plenty of capacity.

Personally I am heavily leaning to zen currently, but annoyed my exchange isnt enabled for their network (yet the neighbouring exchange just a few 100m of it is), seems odd zen would pay for fiber to my city to connect just one single exchange and at least also not the one close to it. Plus the 12 month contract is scaring me off. As in the past when I have been on smaller isp's I have found they tend to focus only on uk peering, then when EU and US/ASIA sites are slow they just say things like its the internet not our fault look this uk site is fast so we are innocent. Whilst the majorisp's tend to have better worldwide peering, thats why I am holding off as I cant 'trial' the zen network.

BT Infinity 2 Since Dec 2012 - BQM
Standard User din100
(member) Fri 04-Oct-13 22:02:48
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Re: Is Zen really that good?!


[re: Woolwich] [link to this post]
 
I use Zen mainly their contract length is shorter and a good overall ISP. They are independent isp where plus net is owned by BT group.

Standard User Woolwich
(member) Sat 05-Oct-13 11:02:10
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Re: Is Zen really that good?!


[re: iand] [link to this post]
 
Thanks iand. Sky say they will allow Be customers to keep their fixed IP (but only one) when they are transferred over. If they were doing that this week I'd probably just stay but they are unlikely to move me until next spring. I'd rather get Fibre now as it's become available in my area.
Standard User Woolwich
(member) Sat 05-Oct-13 11:08:47
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Re: Is Zen really that good?!


[re: David_W] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by David_W:
If you are seriously considering Zen, make sure you think critically about the speed estimate. If your line is unlikely to manage much more than 40/10 Mbit/s, you can save £3/month by taking Unlimited Fibre 1, which is based on the 40/10 wholesale product rather than the more expensive 80/20 wholesale product. Unfortunately, the £30 activation fee on Unlimited Fibre 1 wipes out this small saving for the first ten months.


Ah, yes. Hadn't noticed that. I'm told by the checker to expect 57.2 down and 15.7 up so I'd go for Fibre 1. Thanks for the other info. I think Zen makes sense from a piece of mind point of view.
Standard User Woolwich
(member) Sat 05-Oct-13 11:13:42
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Re: Is Zen really that good?!


[re: Chrysalis] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by Chrysalis:
Personally I am heavily leaning to zen currently, but annoyed my exchange isnt enabled for their network (yet the neighbouring exchange just a few 100m of it is), seems odd zen would pay for fiber to my city to connect just one single exchange and at least also not the one close to it. Plus the 12 month contract is scaring me off.


Are you talking about their points of presence? I see they have one in my city but no idea what it means in practice. I'm pretty sure that POP is unlikely to be at my local exchange. I expect to go via the Openreach network to Zen's network but do I really care as long as I get my expected speeds and a reliable service?
Standard User David_W
(fountain of knowledge) Sat 05-Oct-13 11:52:39
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Re: Is Zen really that good?!


[re: Woolwich] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by Woolwich:
Are you talking about their points of presence? I see they have one in my city but no idea what it means in practice. I'm pretty sure that POP is unlikely to be at my local exchange. I expect to go via the Openreach network to Zen's network but do I really care as long as I get my expected speeds and a reliable service?
Zen produced a Google map of their PoPs that identifies the exchanges. I'm not sure if they plan to update the underlying data feed if they roll out further PoPs, but this map used to be available via their web site until they started to use the more abstract map currently on the Zen web site.


All FTTx traffic starts off over the BT Openreach network in your local area, and travels over that network to the GEA-FTTx handover node. The handover node is often at your local exchange, but the FTTx network in some areas runs back to a handover node at a nearby larger exchange.


If Zen have a PoP at the handover node for your FTTx connection, the traffic goes from the BT Openreach network to the Zen network via the PoP. Existing fibre customers were migrated to this system if it was available in their area.

If Zen do not have the necessary presence at the handover node, Zen use BT Wholesale WBMC for backhaul to the Zen network. The price is the same irrespective. This is how I'm connected to Zen, and I've never noticed any contention or latency spikes on my Zen FTTC connection apart from the three recent evenings with the aforementioned 'volcano' fault due to a defective link in the BT Wholesale network.

The 'View Line Data' option in the customer portal indicates if your connection is routed via WBMC.


Zen have indicated they may use the MSANs at their PoPs for LLU ADSL2+, but no further details have been announced. All ADSL2+ customers are currently connected to the Zen network via BT Wholesale apart from those at the four (I believe) exchanges on the legacy Zen LLU network.

Standard User AndyPandy
(experienced) Mon 07-Oct-13 11:38:53
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Re: Is Zen really that good?!


[re: Woolwich] [link to this post]
 
If you can afford it, and the bandwidth caps are enough for you (unlimited on the new fibre packages), I could only recommend Zen. Excellent service and support.

If your budget is limited, or you're a heavy ADSL users, then PlusNet looks like an attractive alternative, however I've not been with them in years. The traffic management, though well explained, still doesn't sit well with me.

No getting away from the 12mo contract for FTTC with any ISP I don't believe, as this is imposed on the ISP by BT.

ZeN Pro
Draytek Vigor 2710n
My Broadband Speed Test
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