Posts Tagged ‘broadband’

Zen Internet broadband cancellation

Monday, July 5th, 2010

At the end of May I wanted to cancel my broadband from Zen Internet because I was going on a long holiday to Japan. I’d worked out that despite Zen’s activation fee to re-connect, it would still be cheaper to cancel now and re-connect later, rather than keeping the connection while I was away.

Cancellation request

Zen have always been a reliable broadband ISP, who consistently get good reviews, so I expected the cancellation process to be smooth. I logged into the Zen Portal and went to the Cancel a service area.

zen services screen

It is mostly straight forward. You just need to remember that after creating the cancellation request you have to submit it as an extra step. It would be easy to create the cancellation and think it was done. The earliest it can be cancelled is 14 days from when you submit the request, but you can select a later date if you want.

Cancellation request reason

In the reason for cancellation I wrote “Going on a long holiday, cheaper to cancel and reactivate, then cancel and keep the service while away”. I’ve highlighted my reason in red.

view cancellation details

The cancellation request was now live in the Zen customer portal.

cancellations in progress


Five days later I got an email from their cancellations department telling me that I needed to give them a call to confirm a few details.

Unfortunately I was already in Japan so the 0845 number that they gave me wasn’t very useful – you can’t call these numbers from abroad. I didn’t have a convenient telephone either, and with the 8 hours time difference giving them a call for what should be a straight forward cancellation was inconvenient.

I sent them an email explaining I was abroad and I gave them a few extra bits of information answering whatever questions I guessed they might ask. (1: Yes I did want to cancel, not migrate, 2: I don’t need a MAC code, 3: any refund can be paid into the same bank account as the one I pay them with).

I also asked for the international version of their phone number in case this didn’t answer their questions.

Three days passed and no reply.

Phone calls

I decided I’d have to call them. This would mean having to use Skype as I didn’t have a convenient phone line. The call would cost me Skype credit, and I’d have to wait until the evening due to the 8 hours time difference. I found the non-0845 number on their website.

I called and tried to get put through to the person who sent the email. Unfortunately the line quality was very bad and the voice connection kept dropping (very common for international Skype to phone calls).

I managed to hear the lady saying she couldn’t hear me so she’d call me back. She then hung up. Doh! The only number she would have is my UK number, which isn’t helpful when I’m in Japan!

I tried calling a second time. This time I got through again and the call quality was a bit better. I managed to explain who I needed to talk to. The person wasn’t available but the lady looked up my details and found out what information was needed.

Zen wanted to know the reason for my cancellation request. The very piece of information which I’d put into the ‘Cancellation request reason’ box on the cancellation request form. The same reason which I’d also emailed back to the guy who’d send me the email which began this chain of events! Do they not read the ‘Cancellation request reason’ field or their emails?

I politely told her that the reason for my cancellation was because I’d gone abroad for a bit and so didn’t need the broadband. This done I crossed my fingers that all would go well.

The broadband is cancelled

I got an email soon after telling me that I’d got a credit note for £1.67 which was the amount of refund I was owed. I had said in my email to them that I wanted any refund to be paid into my bank account, but obviously they hadn’t read that.

The cancellation request also got updated over the next few days as things progressed.

cancellation in progress

And on the date the service was to be cancelled I got an automated email telling me that it had been done. Success – of sorts!

Once cancelled you can still access the Zen customer portal. This is handy if you want to re-activate later, or order a different service. From the portal I can also see my credit note. I suppose I’ll have to email them again if I ever want to spend that £1.67.

Summary of what went wrong

As a broadband ISP Zen have been very good. It seems that they are highly regarded from all the good reviews they get. But even a good company can cause problems for its customers if they are careless.

In my case it looks like they didn’t read my very simple reason for cancellation. Obviously any company wants to know why it is losing a customer, but if that customer is going abroad for a while then there should be no need for further questions. Certainly no need to ask why I’m leaving when I’ve already told them!

Having missed the fact that I was going abroad they sent me a slightly vague email telling me to contact them. They gave me an 0845 number, which if they’d spotted that I might be abroad they’d have known that the 0845 number wouldn’t work for me.

Then they failed to answer or acknowledge the email that I sent to them with an explanation of why I couldn’t call their 0845 number, and re-iterating the reason why I wanted to cancel.

This then forced me to call them twice, from abroad using my Skype credit. The calls didn’t cost too much, but they were unnecessary.

My advice to them – make sure you read the ‘request for cancellation’, and reply to your emails!

As for whether I’ll go back to Zen – maybe – their service was reliable, and I like the fact that they don’t force you into a long term contract. I know that any company can make these mistakes, and at least it wasn’t too difficult to sort out.

Overall – they are good, but not perfect. There’s room for improvement if they want to keep getting those awards.

Update: July 2010 I’ve found out that they sent a letter to my home address asking where I wanted the refund to be paid. Again not a great idea as I’d told them I would be abroad! I only found out when someone visited my flat. If their system was perfect they should have spotted that I’d be abroad and emailed me instead – or perhaps they should CC all letters to your email address to increase the chance of you seeing them.

Fitting an ADSL faceplate to your BT line box

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

I’m going to talk about how to fit an NTE5 compatible ADSL filtered faceplate to your BT master socket. This will allow you to plug your broadband modem router directly into the BT master line box, rather than having to use an ADSL micro filter.

bt master socket with adsl microfilter

Broadband reliability problems

I’ve previously written about some of my broadband problem in my post about understanding signal to noise ratios, and my post about finding the best WiFi channel with Vistumbler.

These didn’t solve my problems so I decided to buy an ADSL faceplate which fits directly onto the BT master socket. By removing the need for a separate ADSL micro filter the theory is that the broadband signal quality will be improved.

Buying a new NTE5 ADSL faceplate

I ordered the ADSL faceplate from this link on Amazon, and a few days later it arrived. This is what is in the package:

adsl faceplate package contents

  • The NTE5 compatible ADSL faceplate.
  • 2 screws.
  • 2 cable ties.
  • An instruction leaflet from BT explaining how to fit the faceplate, and how to re-wire any telephone extension cabling you have.
  • A piece of paper with some supplementary information.

Here is a close up of the rear of the ADSL faceplate. You can see the plug that will go into the BT test socket on the left, and the connector for any extension cabling is the blue section in the middle.

nte5 adsl faceplate back rear

Fitting the ADSL faceplate

The first thing I had to do was to get the bottom plate off the BT line box. As a previous resident had painted the line box I had to use a Stanley knife to cut the paint. I then used a small screw driver to remove the two screws.

stanley knife screwdriver

This photo shows the bottom plate partially removed from the line box. I don’t have any extension telephone wiring, but if you do it will be attached to this bottom plate, so you’ll have to take care when pulling the bottom plate out.

bt master socket removing bottom plate

Plugging in the NTE5 ADSL faceplate filter is very simple. You can see how the plug on the new faceplate lines up with the test socket in the BT line box.

bt master socket and adsl faceplate

After it is plugged in, your master socket will look like this with a connection for your phone, and a separate connection for the ADSL cable. This ADSL faceplate is designed to be the correct size so it blends in with the BT line box.

bt master socket with adsl faceplate

There is a minor problem with the supplied screws. They need to be longer than the original ones as the new faceplate adds width to the BT line box. But the new screws have a thread size that is completely different to the original screws. You can screw them in, but that will damage the original thread of the line box meaning you won’t be able to properly put the original screws back in if you wanted to go back to using the original faceplate. For this reason I’ve not screwed the new faceplate in yet.

original vs new screws for adsl faceplate

ADSL faceplate review

I’ve been using this ADSL faceplate filter for over a week now. I was impressed with the speed of delivery after ordering from Amazon. It was very easy to install, but I think they should supply screws that match the thread size from the original BT line box.

Before installing the faceplate my signal to noise ratio was an average of 8.6dB / 27dB (downstream / upstream). After installing the faceplate the signal to noise ratio was still an average of 8.6dB / 27dB. So it made no difference to the signal to noise ratio. I therefore think that my low downstream signal to noise ratio is not related to my original faceplate or my original ADSL filter.

However I do believe that it has reduced the frequency of dropped internet connections. I can’t give any definite measurements to support this, but I do feel like I’m resetting my modem router less often now.

In terms of appearance it does look better with the new ADSL faceplate as opposed to having my original BT faceplate with the ADSL microfilter sticking out of it.

bt master socket with adsl faceplate and cables

Do I recommend it? Yes – but it isn’t essential. I don’t think it will perform miracles, but it may improve the quality of your connection, and it will make your BT line box look more modern, tidy, and up to date.

You can buy this ADSL faceplate direct from Amazon.

ADSL signal to noise ratio and line attenuation chart

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Whilst trying to diagnose my broadband connection problems I found many articles telling me to look at my modems values for signal to noise ratio and line attenuation values. The articles would then give big and complicated descriptions talking about distance to exchanges, DSLAMS, frequencies and all kinds of other things which I’d classify as ‘too much information’.

What I wanted was a simple chart so I could see if the signal to noise ratio and line attenuation values that my modem was reporting were good or bad. As I couldn’t find such a chart anywhere I made one.

To use it look up the values on your modem and see where they are on the chart. Needless to say green is good and red is bad.

adsl signal noise ratio and line attenuation chart

If you do want to read more about these values then this ADSL Wikipedia article is a good place to start, and has a useful list of definitions.