Friday 13 November 2015

BWI5 (Deferral Account) Speed Problems - Check This Post

In about mid-August of 2015, I started to get fluctuating download speeds on my BWI5 (Deferral Account) service. At times the download speeds tested as low as .95 Mbps.

This was after I reported in this blog post of 10 Aug 2015 how steady the download speeds were for the past 12 months in spite of the growth in the number of users.

This slow down occurred at a time when the LED on the front of the Netgear unit went from green to blue, the receive signal strength went from around - 84 dBm to around -67 dBm, and the operating mode changed from HSDPA/HSUPA to LTE.  Common logic would indicate that these changes would indicate a better quality of service. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect.  

After working a few weeks with my Bell contacts, we may have identified the problem and come up with a solution for folks using the Netgear 1516 router.
After the last software update to the Netgear router, the HSPA (WCDMA) band does not play well with the LTE Band. That means that people like me who are located roughly where the signal from the LTE site, even though it is slightly farther away, overwhelms the HSPA signal and creates havoc.   

The same software upgrade disabled the ability for a user to disable a particular band on the Netgear router. After the upgrade, it seems the 700, 800, 1900 and 2100 bands are being treated as equal and the router decides which the best signal is. It seems the router is selecting the 700 band even though the installer aimed the external antenna at the Pine Shores tower. This site does not have a LTE capability. However, the back lobe on the antenna looks at Buttermilk and I assume this is where the LTE signal that comes into play originates.

 A tech provided the following info and asked me to try it.
            “New update of Netgear 1516 removed option to disable LTE
In cases where clients coverage is borderline HSPA / LTE and experiences drop connections or difficulty connected disable LTE and test

      Type the address below:
      From there you have the option to Enable/Disable Frequency Bands
      Disable the MBR1516: LTE B17 band (700 MHz)”
Note by Hermes: You need to sign in using the input you normally use to access the router web page.

I did as requested and even went one-step farther and disabled all bands except the 1900 band, which is the only band in use at the Pine Shore tower.  

 All the speed tests are now back to normal with speeds well above 5 Mbps.

I am not sure if you can do a similar thing with the Huawei router but one can check with Bell tech support.

For the moment, all is good in BWI5 land for me. J 

Tuesday 10 November 2015

CRTC Reports Average Data Download Per User


The CRTC released recently their annual Communications Monitoring Report (CMR) for 2015, which covers the data collected over 2014. One can find an executive summary of the report at this link. This page in turn has links to the complete report and individual sections.  

Average Individual Data Usage

For a number of years, I have been publishing the growth of the average data downloads.

For 2014, the CRTC is reporting, "the average monthly amount downloaded by residential subscribers increased 49% between 2013 and 2014 to 66.5 GB per month, and an average of 46% annually over the last 5 years, indicating that Canadians are likely using more video content and other high-bandwidth consuming services. Uploads have also increased 43% in 2014, reaching 8.6 GB per month." [1]This totals 75.1 GB for data usage billing purposes. (For comparison, it was only in 2009 that the CRTC CMR reported the average total data transfer was 15.4 GB per month.)

Except for users on the basic terrestrial services of Bell, Eastlink, Shaw or Rogers, the chances are their monthly data download quotas cover this average CRTC identified download activity. If it doesn't, the terrestrial ISPs offer an upgrade option at a reasonable price which in most cases can double the download limit, enough to cover the download limit.

It is the user reliant on cellular wireless (mobile wireless) such as BWI5 (Deferral Account) or Data Hub flex Plans that are paying a price for the trend towards more data usage. Most of these plans have basic data caps that do not meet the 75 GB data transfer usage identified by the CRTC based on input collected nearly a year ago. If the current trend continues and all indications are that users will continue to use more data transfer than ever, the totals will grow in the 40% plus range.

Fixed wireless (Canopy users) may be slightly better off due to unlimited data usage but pay the price with speeds way below the advertised speeds.

The bottom line is that non-terrestrial based systems are not providing an adequate or acceptable level of service for users in suburban, rural or remote areas.

[1] Bold and underline added by Hermes  for emphasis 

Saturday 29 August 2015

NightShift - An Application To Make Xplornet Netflix Viewing Better

Long time readers will realize that I seldom provide links to third party value added applications or commercial offerings. However, occasionally I find out about something that I deem may be of value to broadband (high speed) Internet users in the Algoma District.

My colleagues at Northland Consultants recently sent me a link to an application and product I feel may fit my referral criteria. The product is called NightShift and applies to users who are still stuck with Xplornet satellite service as their primary means of connecting to the Internet.

The concept of NightShift is that it uses a WiFi router and memory stick to download and record Netflix shows during the unrestricted off-peak hours. The product site claims that once recorded, the show can be played back as HD without buffering.  

There is a monthly charge for the service but some users may find it worth the cost.

Monday 10 August 2015

Are Data Caps the New Rural Internat Divide

Complaints about broadband (high-speed Internet) in the Algoma District area have quieted down considerably over the past year. I attribute this mainly to the activation of the Deferral Account services have come on line under the marketing name Bell Wireless Internet 5.  

As far as I can tell, there are about 300 subscribers to the service spread over the five areas covered by the program.  As to the service itself, all indications are that the Deferral Account network can handle the load. I have only heard one or two complaints about dropped connections and speed degradation but they are rare.  I am glad to see that even with the growth in the number of users, the Deferral Account service is consistently delivering downloads and uploads that is in excess of the CRTC/Industry Canada 2017 target of 5/1 Mbps.

I have had to remind some people that they should do a data hub/router/modem reboot on a regular basis to clear out the "corporate memory" that is built up over time as this can negatively affect speed.  I recommend every two weeks. It could require action more often depending on use.  This action appears to resolves speed and connectivity problems people have contacted me about. Recent third party studies have found that poor wireless LAN performance and congestion at major Internet peering points can be a major cause of slow network speed.

The major draw back to the Deferral Account (BWI 5) service is the data cap.  Latest statistics show a huge increase in the average webpage size in the past 5 years: 

Nov 2010 = 626 KB;
May 2012 = 828 KB;
  May 2013 = 1246 KB;
 Nov 2014 = 1935 KB.

One can attribute much of this increase to growth in the use of images and video. Video's contribution to the data cap overload is insidious as in many cases website "designers" are causing videos to start automatically upon page download. In addition, it is common practise for the video to default to the data hungry HD standard.  I have carried out various local tests that indicate it is possible to reduce a daily data usage in the multi-GB range by controlling the display of video. In many news and technical sites that I access, the sound track from the HD video is almost identical to the written story on the webpage. You can get the information without huge hit to the data cap.

This means that routine web browsing can cause a significant hit to data caps. Of course, the other major hit to the data caps is the growth on popularity of the streaming video services such as Netflix, Crave and Showmi.  User numbers for all three streaming services continue to grow in an almost exponential manner.  

The use of cloud-based services can also cause a user to burn through a data cap quickly.

Overall, Deferral Account (BWI5) users have to monitor their data usage.

Many of these challenges do not exist for users with terrestrial connectivity with the availability of large or unlimited data caps. 

Tuesday 30 June 2015

BWI5 Service Package Still Available.

I have had reports that the Internet links to the Bell Wireless Internet 5 (BWI5) pages only work intermittently.  

A search of the Bell website fails to turn up a link or indeed any reference to BWI5 or the Deferral Account connectivity. It is as if the service package did not exist.

However, I have received confirmation from Bell that as of 30 Jun 2015 the BWI5 service package is still available for delivery in the designated Deferral Account areas - namely Echo Bay/Laird, Goulais, SSM-Airport, St. Joseph island  and Wawa.  Interested parties can order the service via Bell direct sales at 1-888-466-2453. 

Thursday 4 June 2015

Submission to the CRTC About the Deferral Account Program.

A reader submitted a comment to the blog entry "Bell Now Taking Deferral Account Sign Ups 22 Aug 2..."

I feel the link in the comment is of such value that it is worthwhile publishing the comment as a separate blog entry in addition to publishing it in the comment section of the targetted blog entry. 

Here is the comment in full including the link. Be forewarned, the complaint in the link runs to over 25 pages plus annexes and contains a very detailed history of the Deferral Account saga.


It appears that Bell is either hiding, or has not completed the rollout of the program despite reporting "mission accomplished". 

I have complained to the CRTC Case ID 701360

A copy of the complaint can be found at the link below:


Wednesday 22 April 2015

Bell Mobility Wants to Expand Into Lake Superior Provincial Park

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) on behave of the Government of Ontario has published a “Proposed Occupational Authority for Communication Towers and Associated Infrastructure in Lake Superior Provincial Park”

Published in the Sault Star on 22 May 2015, the notice identifies Bell Mobility as the telecommunications proponent and lists three specific locations:  a) Gargantua Road b) Coon Lake and c) Sand River Road. The locations shown on the map below are approximate as the exact latitude and longitude of each site was not listed in the public announcement. 

The towers will be 35 metres tall and “designed to mimic a pine tree.” 

 Pictures of similar designs can be seen at this link.

The closing date for public comment to be submitted is 22 May 2015. The principal contacts are:

Matthew Milligan
Advisor, Real Estate and Government Relations
Bell Mobility
Tel: 905-282-2778

Bob Elliott
Superior Provincial Park Superintendent
Ontario Parks, MNRF
705-856-2284 ext 2225

Tuesday 17 March 2015

New BWI5 (Deferral Account) Price and Service Structure

It did not take long for Bell to adjust the price and service structure for the Bell Wireless Internet 5 (BWI5), the name of the service provided in the Deferral Account areas.

The major changes are in the hardware, the data caps and the basic costs.

a. The 4G LTE Huawei B882 Turbo Hub replaces the 4G NetGear MBR 1516 Turbo Hub;

b. The new data cap is increased to 40 GB monthly from 20 GB with the option to add an additional 20 GB per month. I received confirmation from Bell that the 20 GB usage insurance will remain at $10.00;

c. The basic service is now $49.95 (plus taxes) per month on a 2 year term, an increase from $41.95. There is no reduction if the user buys the Turbo Hub outright.

As per the usual Bell practise, the new terms are only being offered to new subscribers only. (In Bell-speak, a new subscriber usually means a subscriber who has not had a similar service from Bell within the last 3 months.)

Like the original BWI5 service, this new service is only available on a direct sales basis from Bell Canada at 1-866-668-9104. The local Bell Stores do not handle this product line.

The qualification to receive BWI5 service remains the same i.e. one must live in designated Deferral Account area.

Details can be seen on the Bell Internet Promotions page

Friday 20 February 2015

BWI5 Available to Both Private and Business Users

There appears to be some confusion as to whether or not the Bell BWI5 (Deferral Account) service is available to business users as well as private residences.

Bell has confirmed to me that the BWI5 service is indeed available to business users provided the business is located within a designated Deferral Account area. The standard BWI5 speeds and data caps apply.

If a Bell Customer Service Representative (CSR) claims otherwise or refuses to enrol a business user, ask to speak to Supervisor Rose Tacconelli or phone her at 905 282-3587. 

Monday 9 February 2015

Licensed Cellular Frequencies and Modes

When cellular telephone service in Canada went main-stream two decades or so ago, there were only three frequency bands that consumers had to worry about; namely, 800 MHz, 850 MHz and 1900 MHz. Each vendor operated on its own band and used difference technology modes: - CDMA, GSM and PCS.

Although there were multi-band and multi-mode phones available, most users opted for a single band, single mode configuration.

At the start of 2015, thinks have changed drastically. There are three nationwide carriers and numerous regional carriers that operate their own infrastructure networks. There are also carriers that have licenses to operate across the country but for economic reason have chosen to build out infrastructure only in selected areas, usually high density and thus high demand urban areas. They use roaming agreement to provide service to their customers outside the operators’ home areas.

The technology side has advanced to the stage where most carriers are operating their networks using the two major modulation schemes: - HSPA and LTE. Basic CDMA will be a dead technology in Canada long before the end of this decade. There is no indication at the moment that GSM and PCS will be shut down soon but things can change quickly and with short notice in the fast moving cellular industry. .

User demand has forced the agency responsible for spectrum management in Canada –Industry Canada (IC) - to dedication more of the radio spectrum to cellular service. This is usually done in coordination other national agencies in order to ensure interoperability. For example there are specific agreements on frequency use along the Canada-USA border with particular attention being paid to First Responders frequency needs.  

A lot of today’s hardware can handle numerous frequency bands and both of the common modulation schemes. However, there is a significant amount of fairly new hardware still in use that can handle only HSPA modulation and have limited frequency capability.  

The following table summarizes the more common frequencies bands currently in use,  

Band Name
Frequency 1
Mobile Broadband Services
700 MHz 
iDEN 2
800 MHz
850 MHz
Advanced Wireless Services-1 Up/Down
1700 MHz & 2100 MHz
Advanced Wireless Services–3 3
1755 MHz to 1780 MHz
2155 MHz to 2180 MHz
Personal Communications Services
1900 MHz
Advanced Wireless Services-2
1915 MHz to 1920 MHz
1995 MHz to 2000 MHz
2020 MHz to 2025 MHz
Wireless Communications Service
2300 MHz
Broadband Radio Service 4
2500 MHz
Fixed Wireless Access
3500 MHz

1      These designations are a shorthand terminology to identify the various bands in everyday discussions. The actual operating frequencies may vary and in some case be outside the frequency ranges noted.
2       iDEN -  Integrated Digital Enhanced Network. This is a press-to-talk design that operates like a        walkie-talkie network.
3      Auction scheduled for March 2015
4      Auction scheduled for April 2015

Note there is no direct correlation between bands and modes. HSPA and LTE can operate in any of the bands.  Frequency bands are normally allotted as paired or unpaired frequencies across a specific bandwidth measured in MHz that varies from 5 to 30 MHz.  A paired frequency allows the use of part of the frequency band for download and part of the bandwidth for upload.  There may be numerous paired bandwidths within a frequency band. This allows a number of different vendors to operate without interference in the same band. It also allows IC to allot specific parts of a band to specific carrier classifications such as national, regional, new entrants, etc. This was most recently done in the 700 MHz band auction and will be done in the upcoming AWS–3 auction in March 2015.

Most bands also have one or more unpaired frequencies. Traditionally, these unpaired frequencies were used as one way broadcast networks or occasionally combined with another unpaired frequency in another band to provide two way communications. LTE-TDD (Long Term Evolution-Time Division Duplex) can use these unpaired frequencies to provide broadband service. The FWA (3500) band is currently being used by vendors such as Bell and Xplornet to provide broadband (high speed) Internet to rural and suburban areas. In the Algoma District Bell FWA is available in the Elliott Lake and SSM-Airport (Prince Township) areas. This service is considered an Internet service and not a cellular service.