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Tracking down slow internet on SingTel Fibre to the home

SingTel makes big claims about the beauty of their fibre offering. I do not experience the claimed benefits. So I'm starting to track down what is happening. Interestingly when you visit SpeedTest, it shows fantastic results. I smell rat.
So I ran a test with Pocketinet in Walla Walla, WA. SpeedTest claims a 5ms ping response, but when I, immediate before or after such a test, issue a ping -c5 I get results rather in the range of 200-230ms.
Ein Schelm wer böses dabei denkt!
While this evidence isn't strong enough, to accuse someone of tampering, it points to the need to investigate why the results are so different (IDA are you listening?). So I started looking a little deeper. Using traceroute with the -I parameter (that uses the same packets as ping) I checked a bunch of websites. Here are the results (I stripped out the boring parts):
traceroute -I
  9  3.913ms  3.919ms  4.033ms 
 10  204.256ms  170.493ms  171.314ms

traceroute -I
  9  4.316ms  4.882ms  4.680ms 
 10  193.164ms  188.148ms  196.526ms

traceroute -I
  9  4.772ms  4.679ms  5.160ms 
 10  171.006ms  187.336ms  171.447ms 

traceroute -I
 9  4.385ms  5.857ms  3.853ms 
 10  178.135ms  183.842ms  181.097ms

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark international connectivity! (Sorry Wil)
Only Google bucks that pattern. But that's due to the fact that their DNS sends me to a server in Singapore. So the huge jump in latency happens in the 203.208.182.* and 203.208.151.* subnets.
whois tells me:
% []
% Whois data copyright terms

% Information related to ' -'

inetnum: -
netname:        SINGTEL-IX-AP
descr:          Singapore Telecommunications Pte Ltd

So, the servers might be in the SingTel overseas location? InfoSniper sees them in Singapore (you can try others with the same result). Now I wonder, is the equipment undersized, wrongly configured or something else happening that takes time on that machine?
Looking for an explanation.

Update 19 Sep 2014: Today the site shows ping results that are similar to traceroute/ping from the command line - unfortunately not due to the fact that the command line results got better, but the results worse - Now ranging in the 200ms. I wonder what happened. Checking the effective up/down speed will be a little more tricky. Stay tuned


Dear SingTel, please fix your routing performance!

Slashdot asked for the latency to their site, so I ran a few tests with pretty consistent results in the 250ms range. Slashdot labels that as "still stuck on dialup or in space". Their expectations for overseas users was 80 to 150ms. Puzzled by the result (local websites typically respond in the sub 2ms range), I used traceroute to get to the bottom of this. Here are the results:
Hop IP DNS Name Packet 1 Packet 2 Packet 3 AVG Delta
1 router 0.3730 0.5390 0.3200 0.4107


2 ( 5.9160 4.8020 4.7630 5.1603


3 ( 2.7000 2.6150 2.8210 2.7120 -47.45%
4 ( 3.7700 2.8390 2.5490 3.0527 12.56%
5 ( 2.8160 7.1180 3.6210 4.5183 48.01%
6 ( 29.7140 3.1530 2.9850 11.9507 164.49%
7 ( 6.1800 3.6980 3.0630 4.3137 -63.90%
8 ( 3.0040




3.9300 2.9730 3.3023 -23.44%
9 ( 180.7350




193.0680 192.9220 188.9083 5620.45%
10 ( 185.7070




189.3080 189.1780 188.0643 -0.45%
11 ( 185.5320 181.1660 181.5870 182.7617 -2.82%
12 ( 192.5370 185.9260 185.3730 187.9453 2.84%
13 ( 185.3240 201.3570 202.9370 196.5393 4.57%
14 ( 239.1180 234.3400 234.1810 235.8797 20.02%
15 ( 228.7670 240.4970 240.9600 236.7413 0.37%
16 ( 240.7050 244.1670 243.6270 242.8330 2.57%
17 ( 240.7910 264.4990 253.7380 253.0093 4.19%
18 ( 235.7960 242.7860 242.3070 240.2963 -5.02%

Checking for the hosts that created that 5000% jump in latency it turns out, they are SingTel's:
stw@box:~$ whois
% [ node-3]
% Whois data copyright terms

inetnum: -
netname:        SINGTEL-IX-AP
descr:          Singapore Telecommunications Pte Ltd
descr:          31C Exeter Road, Comcenter III
descr:          Unit #06-06
descr:          Singapore 239734
country:        SG
admin-c:        SAK3-AP
tech-c:         SAK3-AP
mnt-by:         MAINT-SINGTEL-IX
changed: 20070615
source:         APNIC

stw@box:~$ whois
% [ node-5]
% Whois data copyright terms

inetnum: -
netname:        SINGTEL-IX-AP
descr:          Singapore Telecommunications Pte Ltd
descr:          31C Exeter Road, Comcenter III
descr:          Unit #06-06
descr:          Singapore 239734
country:        SG
admin-c:        SAK3-AP
tech-c:         SAK3-AP
mnt-by:         MAINT-SINGTEL-IX
changed: 20070615
source:         APNIC

Looks very much like an underperforming switch/router/filter. SingTel, please fix that!


Connecting to Wireless@SGx using Ubuntu Linux

Singapore's island wide wireless network Wireless@SG provides encrypted and unencryped Wifi access. Unless your are a fan of being a Firesheep target, you want to use Wireless@SGx with encryption. Singtel provides detailed instructions for many platform with the unsurprising absence of instructions for Linux. So here you go:
  1. You will need the certificate they use from GoDaddy. So go to their certificate site and download the "Go Daddy Class 2 Certification Authority" in DER format. Note down the SHA1 key for the file: 27 96 BA E6 3F 18 01 E2 77 26 1B A0 D7 77 70 02 8F 20 EE E4. Optional (but highly recommended): open a terminal and check the checksum of your download: sha1sum gd-class2-root.cer
  2. In your network manager applet connect to Wireless@SGx. You will be prompted with "Wireless Network Authentication Required"
    Wireless SGx settings
  3. Fill in the form:
    • Wireless security: WPA & WPA2 Enterprise
    • Authentication: Protected EAP (PEAP)
    • Anonymous identity:: leave empty
    • CA certificate: gd-class2-root.cer (The one you downloaded in step 1)
    • PEAP version: Automatic
    • Inner authentication: MSCHAPv2
    • Username/Password: Your Wireless@SG credentials
A little embarrassment for SingTel: The registration page (at of today 23 March 2012) uses an outdated https certificate.
As usual YMMV


Who designed that process (a visit to the SingTel shop)?

First the good news: The sales rep at the SingTel shop, Brandon, was knowledgeable, patient and tried to help as much as he could, making that part of the process pleasant.
Now the breakdown of processes. I visited the SingTel shop with 2 objectives: subscribe to Fibre Broadband, after all on the 19th OpenNet will install the fibre end point, and to switch my mobile number back from Starhub to SingTel. I failed on both accounts.
Brandon explained: The installation of the end point doesn't coincide with the activation of the line (I wonder how they can test it then) and I have to wait for another notification letter from OpenNet that will state the availability of the line, so I thereafter can pick an ISP of my choosing. I asked: but I have chosen, can't I do the paperwork and OpenNet and SingTel sort it out, once they are ready? Nope the process doesn't allow this level of customer service and prohibits me from taking up any of the IT Show promotions. Furthermore SingTel wants to charge me SGD 107.00 since I'm an existing SingTel ADSL customer with a contract younger than a year, a charge the ADSL sales man conveniently missed to mention, even when I clearly explained that the ADSL is only meant as the interim solution between Starhub cable (that was pathetic slow in the evening) and Fibre Broadband. Aaaaaargl.
My second item on the list was switching the mobile phone line back to Singtel. I had switched from SingTel to Starhub 2 years ago, but my changed usage pattern requires better and faster 3G coverage than Starhub does offer. Besides their customer service .... Since the number originally belonged to SingTel, Brandon explained it could not be transferred back (what a logic). The way to go would be to terminate my contract with Starhub, which would return the number to the SingTel pool (after a while) and then to apply for a new contract and ask to reuse that number from the SingTel pool. Besides leaving me with all the work it would have the nasty side effect that I not only would be without a phone for a few days, but every caller would hear: "The number you have dialled is not in service". The irony: If I would have a Starhub or M1 number SingTel could transfer it without disruption. So I suggested: come up with a fancy form that I sign and then your ops sends it to Starhub ops and you do the cancel/reconnect in one go. After all you want my business. Unfortunately the process is not designed that way - Memento bene: there is no change to any technical system necessary, just a better coordination between the Telcos (guess the regulator needs to have a word with them). Brandon promised to sort this out for me. Stay tuned.



To see what your ISP has in store for you SpeedTest and PingTest provide the measurements you are looking for. All the shiny web2.0 applications are less vulnerable to speed bumps but to latency since they make small calls but a lot of them. While the local figures for Starhub, my current ISP, look close to the advertised speed, latency and international speed leave wanting. SpeedTest measurement
SpeedTest measurement
PingTest measurement
PingTest measurement
PingTest measurement
Starhub doesn't fare well for their mobile access speed in Justin Lee's field test known as #sgtelcotest. So back to SingTel?


Boys and their toys X

Huawei topped their already impressive E5 device
Huawei E5

with a new entry, the E583C
Huawei E583C

On top of being a mobile hotspot for 5 devices it spots a OLED display and via microSD up to 32G shared storage. So a small team working away easily can share what they are working on and access the Interweb at the same time using a good looking gadget.


Starhub is building confidence in their service (are they?)

It turned out a lot of my Blackberry Blues was mainly based on faulty settings on the side of Starhub. They work very hard to dampen my confidence in them. From my inbox:
Dear Stephan,

Congratulations! Your StarHub Hub ID *myid* has been activated with FREE
StarHub Wireless Broadband service. 

You can now use your Hub ID and password to access StarHub Wireless Broadband
service at any of our 300 hotspots
islandwide and other partner hotspots
(locally and overseas). 

For wireless access at any partners hotspot, you will be charged on a
pay-as-you-use basis and any applicable usage charges will be billed to your
StarHub Digital Cable or MaxOnline account with effect from today. 

For more information on StarHub Wireless Broadband, click here. 

Yours sincerely,
Hub ID Management

Pretty neat, good customer service. Unless of course you try to follow any of that links. The are ALL broken. I do understand that from time to time you want to reorganize your web site and links change, but I side with Jakob Nielsen: Links need to live forever (12 years ago!!!!). It is plain lazyness to use the 404 redirect to the main page after a website redesign, especially once you sent out relevant links like billing information pages that people use for referenence. How hard would it be to maintain a list of old urls (before the re-design) and map them to new urls (after the re-design) and then in your 404 page either auto-redirect or have the page up long enough so people can take note or update their bookmarks?

And it is sloppy governance to upgrade your website without upgrading the links your automated systems use.


Broadband and web2.0 applications

Singapore is one of the most wired companies in the world with a Broadband penetration exceeding 100% (Korea take that ). I recently switched to Starhub from SingTel on one of their midrange plans (not the alledged 100 MBPS one), so I was curious and headed over to SpeedTest to check how I'm doing. Locally I got 8.42 Mbps and overseas 5.37 (Boston), 4.76 (San Franscisco) and 5.3 (Texas) Mbps.
Local broadband results Result to California
Should be ample power for any web based application isn't it? Not so fast. Just recall how most of the web 2.0 applications with their Ajax goodness actually work:
Ajax sequence
(Image shamelessly borrowed from

You will realize that while you want all the speed you can get for watching video or download files, you want fast reaction to your requests too. Reaction time in the internet is called latency. How long does it take the other side to react. There are many factors influencing latency. Physical distance, quality of lines, number of nodes to traverse, things happening on that nodes (packet inspections, firewall activities) etc. In a local network you can expect latency in the range of less than a milisecond up to 3-4ms. Once firewalls get inbetween figures get higher. Here the Singapore figures (mesured using ) look different:
East coast US ping West coast US
Locally I got 31ms (just 15x slower than a 2ms local network), overseas between 200ms and 350ms (just 100x and 150x slower than the lan). You can imagine what that does to your "chatty" web2.0 application. While 100 calls in the lan take just a fifth of a second you would need to wait 20sec on the slow connection. Now travel to places sourrounded with great walls or exotic destinations and your app will suck big time. My recommendation for all web2.0 developers: Schedule some time in a remote development facility (Yes people actually write code there) but leave your servers at home.


I love my MIO box

The MIO box is very cool*. It has build in mechanism to make sure that you never run on obsolete hardware. Within 15 month we have the 3rd box at home now. The voice part stopped working (Hello SingTel: I'd like to use my own VoIP equipment). SingTel's service got much better. The first time I had to go to some obscure office in an industrial estate. This time they sent an engineer to fix things. And the new box is shiney white, so it matches the Apple equipment.

* post might contain irony without special markers.


Customer Disservice

What is the last thing you want to hear when calling the customer service? "Sorry sir, but I will not help you!". Happened to me just now, here is my story:
I pay big bucks to SingTel every month for Broadband, Phone and Blackberry service. Especially the data roaming service is a huge item on my phone bill. In their own words SingTel describe themselves as world class telecom company. Seems that self perception doesn't reach to their customer service hotline (and I'm not talking about their recent refusal to reveal how to configure a SIP phone to use the Mio phone service). 2 days ago I got new SIM cards for my blackberry and my phone. The friendly sales guy told me, just to wait until the old card stops working and to swap them then. So far so good. When I swapped the Blackberry card (at the airport in Frankfurt on my way to Cambridge/MA) everything seemed to work fine. The usual swash of emails populates my inbox and SWMBO gets duly informed via SMS that the flight was all enventless. The trouble starts when I reply to a message. Message status is "Service blocked" instead of "Sent". Very nice, failing communication technology is very suitable to send the average traveller into distress. Also standing in the middle of an airport cuts you off from the usual selfhelp. Luckily foreign telecoms have the (apparently not so) annoying habit of sending a welcome SMS (to remind you whom your provider is now teaming up to rip you off) that states the numbers you can dial for mailbox and helpdesk. So I called the SingTel helpline. The gentleman told me, that he won't help me. To be fair: he said that he can't help me, but for a traveller in distress that amounts to the same result. I would need to call the Blackberry helpdesk (which is actually not in charge for corporate Blackberry) and that is all he could do. I feel a little sorry, because I expressed my dissatisfaction with the help provided in very clear words. He tried his best in the constraints of his possibilities. What is broken is SingTel's customer service.
I don't care what product segmentation or specialization SingTel has internally. I'm one customer, I get one bill and I expect one service. Asking a customer to write down a number and call that one is a joke. Bad Service. A few bullet points how that could be fixed:
  • Put a voice hell menu at the central service number, so customers can select what service they need. Keep the direct lines. So if one is clueless like me, the central number will read the options, while the expert help seeker can benefit from direct access.
  • Equip your helpdesk operators with a decent integrated telephony system, so they can say: "Sorry, you need someone else to help you, do you want the number or should I put you through?"
  • Let the customer know that the problem has been recognized (read back the problem description, pull the other questions out of your CRM) and offer a call back by the respective expert. This way you can put the solution into a task queue improving the utilization of your help staff
  • Offer (self)help and help requests via SMS. You know your customers, so you know who did send the message. A lot of issues can be fixed without a direct 2 way conversation. And hey SMS is a money printer
Unfortunately the alternative doesn't look very attractive either.
I send one SMS to SWMBO and she fixed it for me. Took the right guy less then 30 sec. SWMBO is the best.


Dear SingTel, I love your MIO service and I really would like to use a SIP Phone!

OK, that was maybe a bit exaggerated. Generally I'm OK with Singtel's broadband now (except the slowness in the evening, but that's a gateway issue). The MIO Voip/Surf package works well. What irks me: it comes with a 2Wire ADSL modem that I simply don't like. The configuration isn't intuitive, there's no support for DynDNS and I can't pick the firewall I like.
But I'm tied to it. The 2Wire has the interface to connect the normal phone to Singtel's VoiP service. I'd rather use a SIP phone (or an Asterisk), so I called support. They didn't even understand the question. So my request for the SIP configuration parameters was turned down: "No we don't do that". *sigh*.
Note to SingTel: Check my monthly bill, the first vendor offering me a choice here gets it!


MIO Box Upgrades

Upgrade the System I'm a big fan of the MIO box (and I'm not alone). I cherish and preserve it. I preserve it to an extend that I don't want to put the burden of serving a WIFI signal to my home computers. It wouldn't do it reliably anyway and would stop to run DHCP over the air sporadically or stop functioning until rebooted. So an AirPort moved it recently. My MIO box software version is Its online user interface tries to make it easy even if you don't understand networks very well. It nicely shows all locally (LAN and WIFI) connected machines including their names and even - sometimes - let you assign a name if the unit didn't broadcast one. To reduce confusion there is no way to delete entries of disconnected machines or force a full refresh. So the machines happily serving kids in an Indonesian school still live on my network. One really good feature is the prominent link on the status page to firmware upgrades. The idea is intriguing. Instead of going through the hoops and loops to navigate a support web site and locate the correct product a simple click would do and voila your router would be current. So in my tender loving care for my MIO box I regularly check the site to see if there is an upgrade. Unfortunately in 8 out of 10 attempts I'm greeted with this:

An Error has Occured
This really improves confidence in products and services of my favorite provider. Unfortunately the phone is hooked to the MIO box, so I can't toss it out increase my care and release it from the burden of active duty. Anybody knows how to hook an Asterisk to Singtel's MIO VoIP?


TOT Hotspot @ Chiang Mai International Airport --- or --- How not to run a hotspot

We had a terrific holiday in Chiang Mai (more on that in a later post when the pictures are sorted out) and we are on our way back. To kill time at airports I like to catch up on email and my news reader, in short: I want WIFI. Luckily there seemed to be some. TOT Telecom provides a pay-for internet access. While by now I would expect WIFI as a free airport service this seemed to be better than nothing. A quick check showed, that there were no contact information except a Thai phone hotline (and no FAQ, Online form, contact email). I happily started the procurement process (for a ridiculous THB 200/hour). From there everything went downhill. Being cautious I use Firefox with the NoScript Plugin. So whenever the in order process a new base domain would be used that depends on JavaScript it wouldn't work. I started off:
  • http://portals.tothotspot:8080/home?
  • : Here the next button did require JavaScript. They just verified that you enter a username and a email (nicely disguised as password field : Here the hand-off to the ePayment provider happens
  • : Without JavaScript active a nasty error message puts an end to the purchase: You are not authorized or Data encryption error !!! (Step1.2) .. Please contact your merchant's webmaster to investigate this error.
  • When enabling the page the year for the credit card (a dropdown field) wasn't populated. I had to allow
Finally the return page showed up with a double JavaScript error and no username/password information. Eventually the process worked and the information is in my email which of course I only can access with an online connection.
So to recap: I had to trust 6 different hosts for their JavaScript to finally fail to gain WIFI access. Well I guess they don't make much money on their hotspots that way. At least investigating this killed the waiting time.


MIO oh my - Act 2

The day after the hotline operator called back. He confirmed, that it looks like a hardware problem and that I can come to the MIO service center to exchange the modem. This also was very necessary since the phone line stopped working this morning. It turns out, that the MIO service center is nowhere near any of the Singtel locations and I have to come to Playfair Road. This is an industrial area off any sensible public transport. In the building no sign about Singtel or a service center. Singtel actually has outsourced the handling of MIO modem hardware problems to a 3rd party. The sign (printed on A4 paper), that this would be the place was sensible pasted behind the open door (if the door is closed you could read it). A rather bored receptionist told me I had to fill a form and queue up.
Luckily the in-tray of the service was empty and I had to queue about 10 sec. The room where the service people were working is about the size of my study. With 4 engineers and 3 customers squeezing between shelfs and desks. Two engineers took care of me (maybe I looked scary <>). They were fast and friendly and I pitied them for the working mess. The engineer asked me if I had tried to disable the virus protection. So I explained that this is a rather bad idea to recommend such thing to a customer (how many systems stay switched off after such an advise) and that he probably is referring to the firewall. I explained that the problem is wireless and that I had confirmed the problem on Windows, Linux and Mac.
He then shrugged and reached for a replacement modem. He configured it (with WEP instead of WPA) and made sure it worked with the ThinkPad. Asking about the reliability of the modems he answered rather evasive, which I could interpret (but that is my guess), that they have a lot of "fun". On my question: will everything work including voice I got a nod. Well, it doesn't. Voice doesn't work. So no mother-in-law calls for the time being. - Over to the hotline

OK - that was fast, only 5 minutes in the queue and a quick setting. If Singtel's online help would have matched the real software I could have figured that out myself.

All in all: a disappointing experience. 25$ in Taxi bills. In total more than 2.5h of my time and the clear impression: support is an afterthought.


MIO oh my

MIO looks good on paper. It also can help to bring down your phone bill. However I'm not impressed by the performance. MIO suffers from the general congestion that plagues the Singtel connectivity. Also my installation is plagued by wireless problems. After a while the DHCP server will stop responding on the wireless network. It still works on the wire. Resetting the MIO box remedies the problem -- for a while. The ADSL modem router is a 2Wire 2700HGV-2 suitable for ADSL2+ and in theory capable of 25Mbit downstream (I subscribed to 10MBit).
So I called the MIO hotline. After the usual voice menu hell (why don't they publish the direct destination numbers on the website?) I talked to a support officer. He offered me to use a remote control software to take over the PC and check all the settings. Since the work laptop was connected to the wire I had to refuse. There is a rather clear IBM policy about that. Seems that support is getting better equipped. I explained the problem in detail: DHCP is not working, configuring manual IP addresses let me surf happily. I further explained, that all machines I have with all operating systems (Windows, Linux and OS/X) show the same symptoms. Obviously presenting a problem analysis threw him off the book and he insisted in checking the PC settings being blissfully unaware that Thinkpads are configured differently (using Thinkvantage for wireless network management).
Running out of options he suggested to reset the wireless to its default settings. I remarked: resetting will remove the problem for a while but not solve it. So it will be off his list but not solved.
Finally he concluded: "You need to call the modem vendor". I replied: "I'm calling the modem vendor, there is a Singtel sticker on it, I pay Singtel for it and a Singtel engineer installed it in my house, are you telling me that I have to call a third party to get that sorted out?". Sensing my unhappiness he suggested, that can arrange for a call back but it might take a while. So I'm waiting. At the end of the day the modem unit needs to be replaced (unless a firmware update could fix it). I'm curious how many hoops and loops I have to go through until that happens.


Surfing in Singapore

We switched to a SingTel MIO plan recently. It did shave of quite some $$ from the phone bill due to its tripple play (land line, mobile, internet) However quality of service is patchy. The plan came with a 2Wire ADSL modem and a theoretical access speed of 10 Mbit/sec. (I was toying with buying the 25Mbit Option, but it doesn't seem like a real deal). She-who-must-be-obeyed complained about a drop in phone voice quality which is bad since her mother speaks very softly and she is almost the only person calling the land line.
Connection speed to the internet has great variance. On a good day in the early morning I can get around 200 KB/s-300KB/s. Yesterday I tried to book movie tickets from ANY of our local sites ( Golden Village, Cathay and Eng Wah. ) and it took more than 3 minutes for each site to respond (today it was 16 sec/ 1.2sec/ 11.5 sec measured with this little gem.). Looking for more data I found a test that allows to measure local and remote data with not really surprising result:
Singapore SurfSpeed 26Aug2007
The latency seems particularly pathetic and about 12% of the potential speed inside SG is rather disappointing. Of course this is totally unscientific. However Other sites showed results in the same range:

Speed Test Results

What irks me is two fold: first that massive mis-match between real performance and advertisement and the patchy reliability. More than once a day the router drops off the internet and takes a few seconds to reconnect. Anything going on then is dropped (and if your 2GB file transfer --- that holiday video the aunties back in Germany wanted to see --- is 98%, too bad) and you have to restart.
Sigh -- consumer market and quality of service.


Finally some service.

Friday afternoon at the D&B SME conference I meet a SingNet marketing representative and shared my little story. She was shell shocked and promised to investigate. Since I wouldn't expect any reply before Monday I decided to give the help desk another shot on Saturday morning. What a different experience. OK first I had to wait 15 minutes in the phone queue (My guess is that phone queues are the reason why speaker phones have been invented <g>). The support representative was friendly, very apologetic about the massive delay and, best of all, very competent.

She immediately suggested to give me the modem parameters, so I could check. And it turned out, that the default settings don't match the SingNet settings (anymore I would say). So I'm back online. For reference here are the SingNet ADSL settings:
  • Encoding: PPPoE
  • Encapsulation: LLC
  • VPI: 0  (Linksys default/auto is 8)
  • VCI: 100 (Linksys default/auto is 35)
  • DNS: &

Of course you might want to consider using & for DNS as suggested by OpenDNS


Customer service anyone?

The story continues. Two days ago the SingNet engineer showed up to measure my DSL line. Unfortunately I had to travel, so only she-who-must-be-obeyed was at home to take care of that matter. The engineer connected his own modem - it worked. He connected my modem to his laptop - it didn't work. His conclusion: "maybe the modem needs settings". Then he walked away, since settings are a matter for the hotline.
Just to sum it up: The broadband service stopped working, I ask the hotline to check settings, they insist to send someone to measure the line, leaving me without service for 9 days and then turn around and claim: you need to check settings with the hotline. On top of that: the service engineer walks away and lets non-technical user behind with a non functional setup.

Speak after me: Customers need service!


You have to love SingTel and their Broadband Service

My regular readers might remember the fun I had getting details about the QoS of Singtel's ADSL service. Today about 1:30pm my VPN connection to mama blue started sputtering and terminated. Happily hacking away at my Domino and Portal Integration sample I did realize that only in the early afternoon. But it wasn't the VPNs fault. The whole Internet connection at home was down. A quick check: The Linksys AM300-A ADSL modem didn't show an internet connection but still a DSL connection. After resetting the modem the internet connection light came back on , but not the connection. The online status just stated: "Unable to obtain IP from PPPoE server".
Time for the hotline. After a few minutes (about 10) of the unavoidable waiting music, the friendly helpdesk operator walked me through the steps of resetting the modem (explaining to him that I did that before didn't help). Since this didn't help he promised to call me back in the evening, what he promptly did. However no new development, seems the behind-the-scene magic didn't work. So he decided to send the "wire man" to measure my line. They guy would stop by at my house between 11:00am and 1:00pm..... on the 11th of April. I reminded him that a) April fools was yesterday and b) it would be full nine days of waiting to measure something that very likely is not the problem. Horray!

Good to have a plan B (and a plan S, S like Starbucks). Digged out the cable modem and got a pay-per-day Starhub cable connection going. A quick Google rather suggests, that someone played with the firmware of the DSL end point.

Speak after me: Customers need service


ADSL2 - ADSL2+ and customer service

I learned the hard way, that ADSL2 and ADSL2+ are complete different specs. My hardware zoo recently welcomed a Linksys ADSL2MUE for the upcoming speed upgrade of my Internet home connection. I bought the package from the retailer, not the ISP:

ADSL Modem

When looking closer at the package, Linksys reassures you, that ADSL2+ is an option:

"The ADSL2 Modem is compatible with the latest ADSL standards including ADSL2 and is upgradeable to ADSL2+"

Singtel has adopted ADSL2+ (with PPPoA instead the usual PPPoE, but that's another story), so I searched the Linksys support site, where the ADSL2MOE seems to be non-existent. The only thing I found was the GPL software for it. Ok, contact customer service. Why wasn't I surprised by their answer:

Dear Valued Linksys Customer,

Thank you for contacting Linksys Technical Support.

To upgrade the ADLS2MUE to ADSL2+, the ISP will be the one who will update it to that standard. We do not have any available software that will set the ADSL2MUE device to ADSL2+ standard. You may check with your ISP on how you can upgrade it.

If you have further questions, you may reply to this E-mail so that we may further assist you.


[innocent supporters name]
Linksys – A Division of Cisco Systems, Inc.
Product Support Specialist
>Network Setup:

This correspondence is considered confidential and any reproduction for the purpose of public disclosure is forbidden without written permission by the author signed above.

I teach my children: Keep what you promise. Seems not to be valid for Linksys?


Customer Service

I got a number of bounced email that were apparently send by a virus infected PC. Since the mail header reveals the IP (and ISP) where it came from, it's a matter of courtesy to forward the message to abuse@isp. Hurray, the ISP made VERY sure that they are not bothered by such messages!

Dear Stephan H. Wissel,

Emails sent directly to our mailbox are no longer attended to with
immediate effect.  Please use the online form at to submit your
Internet Abuse Incident Report.

For more information on Internet Security, please visit our website at

We wish you a pleasant day ahead!

Yours sincerely,

SingNet Internet Security Team
(this is a system automated reply)

SingNet Homepage -
Internet Security -

I checked the online form.To make it more fun for users:
1) one incident per form
2) request to cut & past email headers & text

Speak after me: Customers need service!


Buying Broadband - Closing chapter

I'll give it a try. 400m to the MUX should be Ok even with an unknown cable quality. Hopefully I don't need to reopen the saga.

Case ID: 1392853

Dear Mr Wissel

Thank you for the reply.

My apology for the delay as I've to seek our ADSL Installation team
finding and feedback on this.

Based on their finding, your ADSL line has to be serve via local MUX. The theoretical loss
from the local MUX to the DP will be around 4 db. (Distance
approximately 400 metres).

We seek your understand that we are unable pre-measure the ADSL line
loss as it not terminated the local MUX yet. However, when you sign up
for 3500kbps plan, we can do a measurement from your premise for

Thank you for your kind understanding.

The other parts of the Saga
New (April 2007): Getting customer service for Broadband:


Buying Broadband - Part 7


The turnaround cycles get shorter and it looks like the sales department run out of (patience|answers|clues|excuses). I got a reply from the technical department:
Case ID: 1392853 

Dear Mr Wissel 

Thank you for the reply.

I will address your concerns on the transfer loss due to overheads (such
as cable condition, distance from exchanges, etc), as you are familiar 
with all the factors that affect a broadband connection's downloading 

You may wish to know that our Broadband 3500Kbps plans can only be 
used on ADSLs activated line for 3500Kbps. If the existing line served 
by exchange MUX has a dB loss of more than 30, it is not within 
specification. Under such case the line will be converted to local MUX. 

I seek your understanding that although we own the cables, 
condition of line wiring within users' premises may vary. When you sign 
up for our 3500kbps plan, we will need to ensure that the line 
condition is within the required specification.

Thus, I regret once again that we are not able to guarantee that you 
will receive the maximum download speed. 

Getting close... So I asked back:
Hi Support,

thank you for your reply. I realize being persistent enough finally gets me the answers I'm looking for.
To rephrase my question: I want to know if the LINE can support 3500Kbps. I didn't ask if I can achieve maximum download speed all the time.

So the current conclusion is:
a) The signal loss between ADSL modem and MUX must be lower that 30db to be able to support 3500Kbsp. And ideally a measurement would be performed on a hot day since copper cables have higher losses with higher temperatures.
b) Cable length and quality is a big issue. If cabling in my block the MDF room looks like the one above it might not work at all.

What do I need to do to get a measurement and assessment of the line quality? Since there is a specification, there must be a measurement to verify it.

I seek your kind understanding, that I want a verification BEFORE I sign up as a customer. You have sufficient fine print in your contracts, so I would end up paying the subscription even if the line doesn't match the specifications.

So how?


Buying Broadband - Part 6


It turns out to be quite funny. The reply to my last answer:

Case ID: 1392853

11 April 2005

Dear Mr Wissel

Thank you for your reply.

I seek your understanding that we are not able to guarantee that you
will receive the maximum doanload speed. You may wish to refer to the
following factors on why your broadband download speed may sometimes not
be optiomal.

a) Your access speeds may be affected by the content providers'
bandwidth connection to the Internet, especially when accessing oversea

If this bandwidth connection is insufficient, you may experience slow
access speeds.

b) Slow connection speeds are sometimes also due to overseas routing
delays/congestion. Unfortunately, such delays are usually beyond the
control of SingNet.

c) Computer system configuration.

d) Transfer loss due to overheads (such as cable condition, distance
from exchanges, etc) (highlight by me)

e) Whether you are running any other Internet monitoring software  (such
as a firewall)

f) PC infected with 'hidden' programs, such as 'Spyware', 'Malware'
and 'Adware'.

At the same time, you may wish to refer to IDA's website with regards to
the speed issue:

I hope I have addressed your concerns. For further clarifications,
please reply to this email or you may visit our webpage at
http://.. . to send
us an online feedback form.

I look forward to serving you.

Yours sincerely

So slowly we get somewhere. My reply then:

> d) Transfer loss due to overheads (such as cable condition, distance
> from exchanges, etc)
THAT is what my question is ALL about!!!!
You own the cables, knows the network, runs the exchanges etc. So you are supposed to be able to
make a statement if a certain location can support that speed of ADSL. If you read my previous messages carefully, that is what I repeatedly highlighted.
And I would like to have a confirmation that the line to my flat CAN support the speed. If you need to send a technician and do a measurement I'm ready to pay a reasonable fee for that (or you do that instead of the installation --- don't need that service).
If the cable conditions, distance from the exchange etc. don't support the speed at all it would be selling me a service you can't deliver. Would you want to pay for a service you can't use?

So again: How can you check and assure me, that the overheads don't limit the maximum ADSL speed at my location? And that is not a GENERAL question, but a very specific for ONE location. Once that question is answered I'll be a happy subscriber.  


Buying Broadband - Part 5


No Katharsis but another round of not answering my question:

7 April 2005

Dear Mr Wissel

I refer to your email of 5 April 2005.

I have tried to contact you earlier at around 9AM via your mobile number
but did not manage to get through you.

I wish to clarify that the download speed for our Broadband 3500K
plans will reach to a maximum of up to 3500K, while the upload speed
will be up to 350K.

Please refer below on the maximum download speed that each of our
subscription plan can achieve.

BroadBand 3500kbps offers a download speed of up to 3500kbps  
BroadBand 1500kbps offers a download speed of Up to 1500kbps
BroadBand 512kbps offers a download speed of up to 512kbps

The upload speed for each of our subscription plan will be as follows:-

Broadband 512kbps offers an upload speeds of up to 256kbps
Broadband 1500kbps and 3500kbps offers an upload speed of up to

Please note that under normal circumstances, your service will be
activated within 4 working days, after submitting the Application form.
However, subject to telephone line conditions or locations, it may take
about one month or longer for the service to be activated.

You may also wish to know that our BroadBand is not applicable for
residential which has PABX, hunting line, ISDN, DID, key telephone
system, Auxiliary line.

For a more detailed information on SingNet Broadband service, you may
wish to visit our Frequently Asked Questions at the following website:

[faq that doesn't answer the question]

We strongly recommend that you follow the minimum system requirements
stated herein or those specified by the ADSL modem you have purchased,
whichever is more stringent.

For PC Users

- Win98 2nd Edition, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows 2000
Professional and Window XP Home Edition
- Intel Pentium Processor II 233 MHz, Intel Celeron 300 MHz, AMD K6 233
MHz (or higher / compatible)
- 32 MB RAM
- 70 MB free hard disk space
- 4x CD ROM Drive
- One built-in powered USB port with Intel Chipset recommended (for
users with USB ADSL modem) OR One 10 Base-T Ethernet port (for use with
Ethernet ADSL modem).

For Mac Users

- Mac OS 8.6 to OS X
- PowerMac G3s Blue/White, PowerMac G4s, iBooks and PowerBooks
64 MB*
- 70 MB of free hard disk space
- Built-in Ethernet Port
- 8X CD ROM Drive
* For Mac OS X, min 128MB RAM required. Additional RAM may be required
to improve your video streaming running.
Mac Users with OS X, it is recommended to upgrade to OS X Version

For further information on the minimum system requirement, please visit
our website at [repetition of the info stated above]

To do an online check on whether your personal computer meets the
minimum requirement for SingNet Broadband service, please visit our
website at:
[Another page not answering thw question]

For further clarifications, please reply to this email or you may visit
our webpage at
[had that page before] to send
us an online feedback form.

Thank you and I look forward to serving you.

Seems to mutate from a drama to a soap opera:

Dear sales,

thank you for pointing out the details. I've studied the websites extensively and are aware of the requirements. I'm currently using cable for Broadband and we are willing to switch. However when I look at your price plan/promotion: the minimum contract duration is 20 month. The monthly subscription SGD 83.90. So I have to commit SGD 1678 to your organization when subscribing (plus installation cost). That is a lot of money.
The nature of ADSL limits the maximum speed by the length and the quality of the copper cable from the ADSL modem to the network entry point. So while it WILL work at my home, it is not clear to me if it can work at 3.5MBit. Eventually it only works up to 1.5Mbit or 512Kb due to the copper cable leading to my flat. What I simply want to know: how can you confirm that it will work at 3.5Mbit? Of course I could subscribe and hope the best. Since you don't offer a trial period I rather not take that 1678 dollar gamble (remember gambling is illegal in Singapore).

So how?


Buying Broadband - Part 4


A classical drama has five acts. Since we arrived at instalment , I have hope that the climax of act 3 will end in act's 5 katharsis and a new broadband connection at home. In act 3 I was told, that broadband might not work all the times, but not if it would work at all. Since I did write a rather angry reply I got a nice formal "You are so important to us" message and still no answer to my question:

Dear Mr Wissel

Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to let us know your
feedback and observations/suggestions.

You are whom we ultimately serve and therefore the best source of
feedback, please be informed that feedbacks from valued customers such
as yourself are treated as material for our continuous process of
providing better service.

As an Internet Service Provider, we strive to provide reliable,
affordable and consistent services to all our valued customers. Please
be assured that we are constantly revamping our services to stay

Should you have any further clarifications with regards to the
connection, please feel free to call our Technical Helpdesk at [pathetic helpline] for their better assistance.

We hope we have addressed your concerns. For further clarifications,
please reply to this email or you may visit our webpage at
http://[The one with the password] to send
us an online feedback form.

We look forward to serving you.

So how? Since other are on a similar quest, I decided to continue:

Hi there,

Thanks a lot  for your kind reply.
So let us start over:

How can I find out, that a ADSL Modem plugged into the phone socket in my flat (in the store room to be precise) will connect using your ADSL at 3.5 MBit?

We found out so far:
- Singtel would like to sell me that service
- I would like to buy it
- It might not work all the time
- Advertisement and Terms of use do not match
- Technical question online can only be asked by your EXISTING subscribers

Still the question stays open: Can it work at my specific location? Your current promotion requires me to subscribe for 20 month and I want to have this very basic question answered.

What is the procedure? Do I have to pay a fee or is it included in the installation work?

Best regards



Buying Broadband - The saga part 3

Fullstop, customer lost.
I had a fairly simple question: Does my phoneline support 3.5 MBit ADSL. I thought I had expressed that question fairly clear and I had mentioned, that the support form does not work for prospective customers. However it seems my friendly support guy didn't get it:

" Dear Mr Wissel

Thank you for your email.

We have been advised by our Technical team that our offering does not warrant
that the services will be uninterrupted and/or error-free. For better
details, please refer to the webpage at
http://..removed to protect the not so innocent ...

We hope we have addressed your concerns. For further clarifications,
please reply to this email or you may visit our webpage at
http://..the url for existing customers to send
us an online feedback form.

We look forward to serving you."

How can they expect that I build up confidence if they can't answer a simple question?
Should I give it another try  


Buying Broadband - The saga continues


Did I hit the replay button? Today my little email was answered:
"Dear Mr Wissel

Thank you for your email.

We seek your kind understanding that for technical enquiries, please use
the online form at ..."

Well. Should we add that to: customer service boo-boo? Typically I now would move on. The web form they point me the second time still required an user-id from an existing customer. However I'm curious how the story unfolds further. So I'll be a little persistent:  

" Hi there,

it looks to me, that you don not want my business! I asked a presales question and if you are not able to answer that, PLEASE ask your technical staff yourself and come back to me. If you ever have bothered to look at you technical support online form, you would have realized, that one mandatory input is a USERID. Since I don't have one I can't even use the form.

If you would have read the mail thread, you could easily see, that this recommendation of yours didn't work before.

PLEASE: I'm willing and ready to spend money. I'm ready to buy the most expensive ADSL package you offer. The only thing missing is a confirmation: YES your phone line does support 3.5k. Or: We don't know, we will test it on installation if it is too slow we change your plan to 1.5k or whatever.

Neither you nor I want that you loose a customer and add a story in the tech community, how incapable your sales is.



Buying Broadband

I'm ready to switch. Currently I'm using cable with a nominal speed of 3 Mbit. However the international gateways of my ISP are under dimensioned (they do some basic blocking by law here - no for me) my effective speed is way lower. Now the main competitor introduced a ADSL based service with the same nominal speed. I'm ready to switch, especially since they sweeten the deal with free unlimited wireless access at my office Starbucks.
Knowing how much ADSL depends on the quality of the copper cables (and the worrying state of the wires in our block) I went to the shop and asked. OK I not really expected an answer, so getting an URL was OK. When filling in the feedback form I had to decide between sales enquiries and technical support. Since technical support extended the form with a lot of categories to fill in to describe your ACTUAL problem, rather then enquiry the availability of a service I opted for sales enquires. I wrote:
" Hi there. I'm very pleased, that you offer new speedy broadband connections. I'm very interested in the new 3.5k plan. However I wasn't able to find any information if my landed phone line could support that speed and how the testing would work. My phone number is 6xxxx... Could you
a) Provide information on the process
b) Test my line

I go a nice reply:
" Dear Mr Wissel,
Thank you for your email. We seek your kind understanding that for technical enquiries, please use the online form at  <same URL I used before> to email to our Technical Team. To access the Technical Support form, enter your contact information in the Personal Details section and choose the following in
the Feedback section:
Nature of Feedback: Comments/request/suggestion, etc
Subject: Net
Type: Technical Support"

Since I'm ready to spend money with them I was a bit disappointed by that answer, which I expressed in my reply.
" thank you for the reply. My question is: can you sell me the service that you advertise. So it is pre-sales. I'm not sure if that is a technical question for support. Anyway as a matter of customer service I would expect an answer like: "Our technical department can answer such questions, I have forwarded your enquiry to respective team, your tracking number is...". Of course throwing it back to somebody who is willing to spend money with you is cheaper, thus bearing the risk of a lost sales opportunity. So your seek for my kind understanding failed."

OK, I went back and filled in the tech support form. One item on the list is the USER.ID. Of course I don't have one. I'm a potential not a current customer. A nice JavaScript prompt tells me, that I need a valid userid. It didn't accept "n/a",  "none" or an empty entry. Since I'm very persistent if I want something, I reviewed the Javascript validation and found out that anything between 5 and 8 characters would work (This will haunt them when the customer base grows). So I got my form to validate, only to be greeted by an MS-OLE database error without any help how to continue (basically the original Microsoft error page). Stay tuned for the next instalment of this saga.  


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