Review by mdrejhon
Good "Internet on FibeTV goes 25/7 Mbps when televisions are turned off."
- Location: Toronto,ON
- Cost Contract price not specified. (36 month contract)
- Install: about 21 days
- Bell Canada
Bad "Some Bell CSR's are good, and some Bell CSR's are hellish."
Overall "This is the Canadian version of AT&T U-Verse triple-play (TV+Internet+phone)"
|Pre Sales Information:|
Value for money:
(ratings match consensus)
[Original Summer 2011 review; see January 2012 addendum near bottom for improved rating]
This summer, Bell Canada launched the Canadian version of AT&T U-Verse (VDSL Internet connection with IPTV service, utilizing Mediaroom-based PVR boxes). Since Bell Sympatico and Bell Fibe TV are as distinct, and AT&T DSL versus AT&T U-Verse, this warranted a new category.
I was looking for the best triple-play, and I considered TekSavvy -- I really wanted to stay with them as I didn't want to go Bell for Internet. However, I also needed television, and I didn't want either Rogers HDTV or Bell Satellite. Bell FibeTV finally came to my neighborhood.
The worst part of this was several different CSR's gave me conflicting information about whether Fibe TV was available in my building. I had moved to downtown Toronto, and had not ordered my phone line to be installed yet. I went ahead to order TekSavvy Cable Internet, while I set out to order television service, not knowing the limitations of my condo's wiring (in having only one TV service at a time, without ugly hacks). After trying for a week, Bell had finally told me I couldn't get Fibe TV+Internet, and proceeded to set up an appointment to install satellite TV (which they later found out would replace my Teksavvy Cable Internet). We promptly booted the technician out, as we weren't going to sacrifice our Teksavvy Cable Internet. Bell later proved frustrating over the phone, and I was about to swallow the bitter pill and go get Rogers Cable TV in order to keep my TekSavvy Cable Internet connection.
However, I posted a message in the Bell Direct forum on DSLReports, and got a very helpful guy (Bell_Daryl) who finally informed me that my building could get Bell Fibe TV. I had a phone line installed by then, so it was much easier to look up my phone number for availability. I promptly ordered the Bell Fibe TV triple-play package, as it was pretty clear from reading reviews of similiar American-based PVR's, that they were using one of the better PVRs -- and Bell Fibe TV force-bundles a 25 Mbps Internet connection so TekSavvy Cable had to go. Fibe TV comes in only one speed (25 Mbps sync, divided into 6 Mbps for Internet and the rest for television)
I have now had this service for a few months now, the TV portion exceeded my expectation and the Internet has been more than decent for my needs. Officially, this is a 6 Mbps Internet connection. However, with the TV turned off, the Internet goes at a full 25 Mbps download (speedtest of 22,500-ish download), and 4 Mbps upload (speed test of 3,400-ish upload). Everytime the TV is turned on, the Internet slows down a bit, as Fibe TV redirects some of the bandwidth to TV. The Internet only slows to 6 Mbps if 4 channels are being recorded or watched simultaneously (on separate TV's). The VDSL sync is always 25Mbps/4Mbps at all times, with the Cellpipe router automatically redirecting some bandwidth to the TV. Picture quality is better than Rogers (since it's H.264/MPEG4 at with 720p about 6.5 Mbps, roughly six times the quality of YouTube HD).
I use DynDNS to solve a problem with needing a single port for remote access services, and that has proved reliable (I don't think my IP address has changed since I got this service, though)
I had to call Bell fix some Bell billing issue, because Bell promised me free rentals of equipment for 3 years, and I still got charged... For this, I have to go through CSR hell to get it fixed.
I have had a few brief outages that simultaneously blacked out my Internet and TV. Then one outage that that lasted several hours that was chalked up to growing pains. (Given the bleeding edge nature of the system, the TV has actually proved more reliable than I expected it will be). Only the longer outage is worth noting.
I am not a big downloader and I do not use BitTorrent or anything (Bell is known to be a terrible ISP for that!), however the 25 Mbps connection shines when I'm sharing my digital vacation photos and high-definition video recordings via Dropbox with friends -- uploads and downloads go speedily -- and a gigabyte of data is shared with a friend pretty quickly.
If one is concerned only with Internet only (without being concerned about bundles), I would still lean towards TekSavvy Cable 15 Mbps. However, Fibe TV does comes really close if you're forced to go with a major incumbent Internet connection due to factors such as having the best TV service available.
Over the last month, there has been no disconnections. We shall see if it remains that way.
[UPDATE January 2012]
I have since moved to the Riverdale area of Toronto, and the install co-ordiation has been significantly improved. They offered me a Saturday install and showed up almost exactly on time (right at the beginning of the timeslot). They moved my service, reactivating my existing box, with minimal problems -- and a little bit faster (more experienced installers). All my recordings on my original Motorola VIP1232 were all preserved.
Fibe TV receivers recently got a good firmware upgrade; now permitting simultaneous recording of 3 HD streams (and 1 SD, for a total of 4 streams), and the set top box seems to perform a little bit faster, with a few small extra features thrown in.
Reliability is much better now. There's occasional rare glitches (I've only had to reboot the set top box two times in 12 months), but has been far more reliable than the Rogers set top boxes which has had quite a number of hair-pulling moments...
I decided to purchase 2 additional Fibe TV boxes from Best Buy (VIP1200's without hard disks), and self-installed them using Ethernet. All I have to do is call Bell to give MAC address to activate them with my main Fibe TV box. The first Bell CSR I called gave me no problem letting me activate one of the two boxes (second box), but the next Bell CSR gave me a bit of a hassle (essentially scolded me for trying to self-install). I waited a few hours, called Bell back, got a co-operative CSR and spoke more nicely, and with a little supervisor verification, activated my third box. The trick is to pre-install your Ethernet wiring (or HomePlug/Ethernet bridge) between the Cellpipe modem and the extra Fibe TV receiver, power it up, and make sure the free CPAC (Canadian Prliament) channel works as unactivated boxes display two free Fibe TV channels, BEFORE you call Bell to activate the extra Fibe TV box over the phone, to prevent Bell installers from coming to visit you when installing extra boxes...
UPGRADED RATING of "Install Co-ordination". -- As the install experience was much more pleasant (I also got a "Retentions" deal, since I was seriously considering switching to Rogers; Bell's cancel department approximately price-matched a Rogers "steal me back" price). Bracing myself for "bhell" (which I'm used to), most CSR's were more pleasant -- probably because they're still using front-line premium Canadian call centres for Fibe TV support at the moment. The only exception is one Bell CSR (for attempted on-the-phone activation of a third set top box) ... that probably was simply a little bit tired at the end of a long day or grouchy from a previous call... (that docks 20% from the co-ordination rating). On average, the Fibe TV callcentre uses better CSR's than the Sympatico callcentre, so you're at least using Bell's best tech support callcentres when you're a Fibe TV subscriber. At least for now, until Fibe TV market saturation...
At one point, they discontinued free 25 Mbps, so I had to pony up the funds to reup to 25 Mbps (but gained 7 Mbps upload), but my retentions deal now compensates and puts me back to 25 Mbps at promotional pricing. I still wish it wasn't capped, but I'm not a bittorrenter, so I stay well within the download cap. And you can get 7Mbps upload speed for $5 extra per month; very handy for cloud storage/backup use!
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