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Things were getting dicey in Chez Duke. The amount of time that I was spending on the internet was really starting to annoy the other people who live in this house as they couldn't take or make phone calls. I'd been eyeing up broadband of some description for a while and finally it came down to acceptable pricing levels.
The first thing I did once I'd decided to get broadband was to surf to www.adslguide.org which is an excellent site containing almost everything you need to know about DSL broadband services including information on providers, equipment etc.
My main criterion was, of course, price. Once I'd compiled a shortlist of affordable ISPs, I then set about comparing the actual packages. Out of them all, Pipex's Xtreme Solo 500 (Wires Only) package seemed to suit me best and it was £19.99 per month excluding VAT. This was not the cheapest by a long stretch, but Pipex's reliability was a major factor in choosing them over a cheaper competitor.
I opted for a "wires only" deal as I was buying specialised equipment for networking and sharing the connection between at least 2 PCs, although Pipex do offer deals which include ADSL modems.
I headed to the Pipex website at http://www.solo.pipex.net/ where I was able to find out if broadband was available in my area (many exchanges are not broadband ready and you need to make certain that your local exchange is ready.) This was easily done by entering my postcode into the website for confirmation, which it duly provided. The Pipex website is easy to navigate and any information I required from it was easily found.
Ordering online was a breeze. The forms were nicely laid out and easy to fill in. I wasn't asked for anything out of the ordinary and if memory serves, only required information like name, address, phone number of the BT line on which I wanted to install ADSL and payment details. During this registration process, I was advised that the lead time i.e. from ordering to installation, would be approximately 7 to 10 days. This didn't concern me much as I had read elsewhere that this is a standard time period for an ADSL installation. Less than 24 hours after ordering, Pipex confirmed my order via email with all the relevant details in case I'd made an error anywhere.
As it happens, there was a delay in my installation as British Telecom had to remove a line sharing device, but Pipex informed me of this within 24 hours of my initial order being placed.
Once B.T. had removed the device (which didn't involve any contact with me at all and was seemingly done within a day or so), I received another mail informing me that the line was ready for ADSL installation and that the process would be complete within 10 days. They also informed me that my login details were being sent separately through Royal Mail's first class post.
Once B.T. had tested the line, I was once again contacted by Pipex who gave me a date for the installation to be complete.
From my initial order through to actual ADSL activation, I received around six emails giving me information on the status of my order along with contact details should anything have gone wrong. This was very impressive as I'd heard stories of other people getting ADSL installed and being kept totally in the dark.
The letter containing all my login details arrived on time (days before activation, in fact) and the instructions were clear and easy to understand.
Thanks to a combination of Pipex's communication and the easy to follow instructions of the Netgear equipment which I had purchased separately, getting online once the ADSL had been activated was simplicity itself. If you have bought your ADSL hardware from Pipex, then if you run into any difficulties, help can be found on the Pipex website. Obviously this is only helpful if you have another way of getting on the Internet i.e. through a dial up account with another ISP and it's worth considering an overlap if you're upgrading just in case things don't go smoothly.
So there I was with my new, speedy ADSL connection from Pipex. £23.44 per month (£19.99 plus VAT) is not exactly cheap though, but for this price I get download speeds of up to 512 Kbps and upload speeds of 256 Kbps. In real terms, this means that download speeds are generally between 55 – 60 KBps which is over 10 times faster than the 5 KBps I was getting before on my modem and Freeserve.
*** A technical explanation ***
Just in case you were wondering about the differences in speed listed above and the use of KBps and Kbps, I shall attempt to explain for you. Most ISPs and modem manufacturers use Kbps as their measurement of speed. It stands for kilobits per second and is simply a measure of the speed at which information is sent to and from your modem. However, a lot of software firms use the slightly different KBps and if you're downloading or uploading stuff to and from the Internet, it'll usually be reported using KBps which means kilobytes per second.
The KBps figure will always be 'smaller' than the Kbps figure, but that's only to do with the unit of measurement. 1 byte is equal to 8 bits. For example, an ordinary modem has a maximum transfer rate of 56Kbps and if you were checking in a software package, this translates to a fastest possible download speed of 7 KBps. The same applies to ADSL where a 512Kbps connection can provide a maximum theoretical download rate of 64KBps.
If that's a bit confusing for you, try thinking of it in terms of metres and centimetres. 1 meter is the same as 100 centimetres and so it follows that a speed of 1 m/s translates to 100cm/s.
*** End of technical explanation ***
There is no limit on how much I can download (some ISPs place limits on how much you can download usually on a monthly basis and you get charged per megabyte over your allocation) and you must remember that it isn't restricted to stuff you download, but all kinds of data which you take from the Internet like email, web pages, instant messenger conversations etc. This all soon mounts up, so it's worth considering carefully before agreeing to a package with a bandwidth limit.
I have 50Mb of web space (so far unused, but I'll put something up eventually) and 12 mailboxes, both of which have to be activated via the Pipex website should you choose to use them. The process for doing so is very simple though, although still a minor negative point.
Instructions on setting up any of these extra features (and there are more than I've currently mentioned e.g. newsgroups) can be found on Pipex's website and they are clearly written and very easy to understand, especially if you use the software which Pipex recommends.
I'm now paying around £7 per month more than I did with Freeserve Anytime, but this has opened up a whole new world for me to play with. No longer do I have the dreaded 2 hour cut off and I have an extra 35MB of web space. I can now listen to internet radio, watch film trailers, play online games and have good quality voice chats across the Internet. Downloading software and patches or upgrades takes a fraction of the time which is incredibly handy given the amount of security flaws that Microsoft seem to have in their software!
Overall, I can't fault Pipex at all. The installation was completed on time, despite problems with B.T. They offer a range of connection packages over a range of speeds and prices, and their website is clear, easy to navigate and easy on the eye. Perhaps most importantly is that their communication is excellent so far (although I've yet to be in a position to need their customer services) and in the three months I've been connected with Pipex, I've not had any difficulties connecting to them.