NOTE: I have since posted an update to this blog post that corrects some of the technical aspects of the post, provides some further feedback from Beanfield, and points out some serious limitations of their service. You can read these updates in my 2 month review of Beanfield.
It’s been roughly 1 month since Beanfield came and installed my Fibre (FTTH) into my condo, and seeing as I couldn’t really find any online reviews (and zero specific details) of their service before signing up, I thought I’d write my own.
Installation involved running a fibre strand into the cabinet in my unit, which is not done by default unless a previous tenant or owner has had the service. The Beanfield tech arrived on time, and quickly got to work. It was overall a pretty painless process, and took around 2 hours to complete. Total setup time was around 2.5hours, and they charged me $150 for installation (you can also opt for $75 install and $10/month fee).
What you get
Beanfield appears to install a Zhone zNID GPON ONT, model 2628A Beanfield installs a zNID 2600 Gigabit Active Ethernet ONT (8 Gigabit Ethernet and 2 POTS ports) – see 2 month review. Perhaps I am incorrect on the exact model number or GE vs. GE POE ports, but it’s definitely a 26xx model. Everything was neatly wired up to the fibre.
Below you can see 3 ethernet cables running to my built in Cat6 wall sockets (not used) and one cable running to my wireless router (that I moved into the coat closet), which is then connected directly to my headless server (also living in the closet).
What’s interesting to note here is that this is essentially a router with 8 GigE ports and the fibre is terminated in the unit. There is no public network socket. This is very different from a normal Rogers or Bell setup, where you can install either a router or an ADSL/router combo (for DSL) and get the public IP on your own router. What this means is that your existing router is pretty much useless, and everything is controlled via the Zhone 26xx.
When the Beanfield tech left my condo, my router had been configured as an Access Point, essentially providing a bridge into the internal network provided by the Zhone. This means if you have a USB printer or a USB HDD attached to your existing router as a form of NAS, it is essentially useless as your old router will not have an IP address and will be inaccessible. At least this is how Beanfield configured my router, with the DHCP server disabled and DHCP provided via the Zhone 26xx.
You can work around this using a couple of steps:
- Set a static IP for the router in the same subnet as provided by Beanfield (10.88.111.xxx)
- Setting the gateway on router to be the IP of the Zhone 26xx (10.88.111.254)
- Re-enabled DHCP on the router (in the same range as provided by the Zhone 26xx).
This setup is shown below on my router running Tomato. (Additionally, I have defined OpenDNS DNS servers to be assigned to clients.) The default gateway is the IP of the Zhone box, making my router forward all traffic to the Zhone 26xx.
This essentially does is a number of things:
- Gives the Wireless router an IP address so you can connect to it (USB NAS, USB Printer Sharing etc).
- Allows you to configure other services on the router (e.g. bandwidth monitoring, QoS, etc).
- Adds another hop in your network for devices not connected directly to the Zhone 26xx (no big deal as the router and the Zhone are connected via GigE).
Another thing that is important to mention is that Beanfield provide a web interface to manage firewall ports on the Zhone, so you can do port forwarding. I had to e-mail Beanfield Tech Support to inquire as to how I was supposed to manage port forwarding. (Beanfield – you really should be providing this information to customers upon installation).
While it’s a very basic web interface that is provided for controlling the Zhone 26xx, it serves it’s purpose. You can see some screenshots of this web interface below. Note: you cannot currently change the Local Network Settings on the Beanfield portal – for some reason, changes to this section will not save.
Below is a screenshot of my Port Forwarding rules. You can set up any combination of port forwarding rules, much like a full firewall config.
Initial Beanfield Review
Overall, I’m very pleased with the Condo Connect service from Beanfield after 1 month. Below is speedtest results from Speedtest.net for my 50/50Mbps service.
Sometimes the speed drops down to around 30Mbps, but on the whole it is pretty stable. I am not sure whether this is due to internal 2.4GHz interference with my Wireless Router, or whether it’s due to Beanfield themselves. I plan to test this with a 5.8GHz router when I get a chance, and will post my results here. Downloads max out at around 6.25MB/s, which is around the maximum theoretical speed for a 50Mbps connection, so I’m pretty happy. I can download an 4-5GB 720p movie in around 30 minutes.
Overall, I would highly recommend Beanfield FTTH to people if you’re lucky enough to live in an area connected to their network. You can’t really go wrong for $45/month for a 50/50Mbps service with unlimited bandwidth. My only suggestion to Beanfield is that you need to provide more technical pre-sales information to customers on your website, which is extremely basic, and lacking any detailed information on the services provided (which may deter some customers).
I look forward to seeing how competitive the iPTV service is when it launches, and then perhaps more Canadian consumers will finally kiss goodbye (or provide a middle finger) to Rogers and Bell.