One Year Later: Pros and Cons of Bell Canada’s Fibe IPTV service

by Ben Lucier on June 6, 2010

It’s been almost a year since I signed up for the Bell Entertainment Service, now called Bell Fibe. During that time, I’ve been writing about the service and sharing my experiences with people I know.

Given the popularity of my “How Bell’s IPTV Service Works” and subsequent post detailing the Internet speed test performance results one can expect, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about the features I like, what I don’t like and what I’d like to see in upcoming software releases.

Reliability.

Given the underlying technology of the service (DSL), I didn’t have high hopes for a reliable service. In the end, the DSL portion of the service is less then a couple blocks away from my house. After that, the pedestal on the street is connected back to the Bell CO using fiber (that’s why they call it a fiber-based service, even though houses are connected via traditional copper).

Reliability is a big thing for me. If the service wasn’t reliable, nothing else would really matter. Despite the fact that the service has been in beta for the past year, I’ve been very impressed with the reliability and service from Bell’s support reps on the phone and their technicians in the field.

Television Service

In the past year, I suffered only one outage (that I noticed) and that was due to my PVR console suffering from a faulty hard drive. My two other TVs worked fine during this time, although I was unable to record any shows. I was very surprised when Bell scheduled a technician the very next day so I was back running almost immediately.

Internet Service

I have zero complaints abou the reliability of the Internet service delivered by Bell’s Entertainment service.

What I like about the Bell Entertainment Service.

Whole home PVR service.

Since the consoles are all networked together using Ethernet or Coax (using HPNA), shows recorded on the master console (aka the PVR, aka the Motorola VIP1216) are viewable from any console in the house. Want to watch a show you’ve recorded in the living room from your bedroom? No problem!

Great looking program guide.

I’ve used all of the consoles from the cablecos and the satellite providers. I also have a lot of experience with the FTA (free to air) consoles for satellites. None of them come close to the ease of use and clean display of the Motorola 1200 and 1216 consoles and PVR.

Simple to use.

For the first time, I find myself actually searching for content to watch and record. The input and realtime searching of shows is super easy and intuitive.

Resume show watching in another room.

All too often I’ll begin to watch recorded content in my living room and then wish I was in bed. With the Entertainment Service, all I have to do is pause the show and when I go up to bed and turn on the TV, it remembers my position in the show and I can resume from there.

Super fast Internet, especially useful for VPN.

I hear that Bell has been changing things, but at the time of installation, my Internet speed was 22Mb downstream x 9Mb upstream. A typical DSL service from most service providers is 6Mb x 800Kbps. Having 9Mbps upstream means that I can do a lot more when connected to my office VPN, where upstream speeds are important.

XBOX operating as a media console.

I haven’t heard whether or not Bell will be doing this, but AT&T’s uVerse service announced the Motorola consoles will support the XBOX 360 as a media extender. This means that in some cases, the XBOX can be used in place of a Motorola 1200 console.

What I don’t like about the Bell Entertainment Service.

Despite my overall satisfaction, there are some areas of improvement that I’d like to see addressed by Bell Canada and Motorola.

External USB connected hard disks for additional storage.

The internal hard disk that comes with the Motorola 1216 is 160GB. It’s ridiculous to think these consoles don’t have the USB ports enabled for additional storage capacity. I’d have a 1TB drive connected in a heartbeat. Bell already supports this function on some of their satellite PVRs so I’m not sure what their plans are to enable additional storage. If they don’t plan for this soon, I’m going to seriously consider modding my PVR (which I’d rather not do).

Pause live TV on all consoles.

Right now, you can only pause and rewind content on the master PVR (the one with the hard drive in it). This should be an easy one because I can already do this via a workaround. When we’re watching TV from a regular console, we tell it to record the show. Once the recording begins, we then go into recordings and watch the show from there. Tada! We now have full pause, rewind and fast forward capabilities. This should be a standard feature.

Audio occasionally cuts out when using HDMI cable.

Occasionally, the audio will cut out when using HDMI cables. This is a known problem. Bell places the blame on the HDMI spec itself which doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s not a huge deal since it doesn’t happen often and when it does it lasts for less than 15 seconds.

60GB monthly data transfer cap is too low for today’s Internet-connected families.

I don’t have a problem with data transfer caps in general. They’re designed to keep a certain kind of network user from monopolizing the resources of the network. That being said, 60GB is NOT a sufficient cap for an average home. This cap should be at least 80GB – 100GB. If you exceed the cap, Bell will charge you an additional fee per GB, up to a $30 maximum. Although Bell hasn’t officially billed me for my overages, you should expect that you’ll be paying at least an extra $30 per month if you’re an Internet-type person.

A feature for copying settings from one console to another.

I went through considerable effort to create a favourite channel lineup, remove channels I’m not subscribed to or that broadcast in a language I don’t understand. Why should we have to do this for each TV? All of the consoles are networked together anyway, so there should be an option that lets be copy over the channel guides and favourite channels.

No support for playing UPNP video content from networked storage.

I have a two DNS323 storage devices on my home network with about 4TB of video content. Today, I watch this content from a PC using XBMC connected to my TV, or from my PS3 (which supports UPNP video content). It would be great if future versions of the Motorola consoles supported playing UPNP video content from other storage devices.

Maximum of 4 consoles per household.

I only have 3, so this isn’t a big deal for me. But there will be households where this will be a problem.

Support for user profiles.

With networked consoles comes additional challenges (and opportunities). There are three people living in my house. I’d love to see user profile support. This way, I could see my own channel guide, shows that I’ve recorded, etc. Another reason for user profiles: recording quotas by user. This way, parents could assign a storage limit to their recording-happy teenagers.

Certain versions of Slingbox won’t work in conjunction with an HD-connected television

If you have a standard definition (ie non-HD) version of Sling Media’s Slingbox, you won’t be able to use it if you have the Slingbox connected to a Motorola console that’s connected to a TV via HDMI cable. When the Motorola console detects an HD output source, it stops sending video to the standard defintion SVideo and Composite output ports. This is a big downer for me since it means I can’t use my slingbox to watch my Entertainment Service on my laptop while sitting in my backyard, out on my porch, or in my home office.

There is a workaround: disconnect the HDMI cable from the Motorola console when you want to watch Slingbox… but this isn’t really a workaround in my opinion. I hope that Motorola addresses this shortcoming soon in a firmware update.

Summary

I had a conversation with a good friend of mine last week and he asked me what I thought about Bell’s service. I told him that I was very happy with it, but that I feel like we’re still just now starting to catch up with what digital technologies can do for us in the home. I really hope that Bell and Motorola are paying attention to what’s happening because the possibilities are endless in this area and I’m just now starting to get excited about the future. I hope they don’t let me down.

Spread the word!

These posts represent a significant investment in personal time and effort. If you found this article helpful, would you please do me a favour and share it with your friends, by tweeting on Twitter, linking to, or clicking the Facebook Like button at the bottom of this post? Pretty please, with sugar on top? Thanks!

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  • Andrew M-C

    With all due respect, you sound like a Bell apologist. 60GB cap? “I have no problem with caps in general?” Limit of four consoles per house, DRM on recorded programs, no support for Slingbox or like technologies? Aside from anything else, DL/UL caps are draconian. I totally get what you’re saying, but download caps are ridiculous. For reasons I can’t even begin to detail here. Let’s chat at work tomorrow ;-)

    • Ben Lucier

      Andrew, I think I wrote a fairly balanced article about the service from the viewpoint of a consumer. The Entertainment Service is good value for my money.

      Would I like no DRM? Sure. No Bandwidth caps? You betcha. Slingbox? Uh huh. But does that make me a Bell apologist?

      Surely I could put my other hat on: The hat I wore when I spent more than 15 years in the operational trenches of Ontario’s independent ISPs… you know, the ones battling Bell Canada every day regarding net neutrality, bandwidth caps, deep packet inspection, etc.

      But that’s not what this post was about. :)

      • Andrew M-C

        Any railing on my part was against the big ISPs and their stranglehold. Hope I didn’t come off as overly harsh toward you. I read and enjoyed your article.

        • Ben Lucier

          I didn’t take anything personally. A blog post about a Bell Canada service wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t have a reader “railing against the big ISPs”. :)

  • Paul Marsh

    Thanks for the update Ben. I have enjoyed (with envy) following your experience with Bell’s Entertainment Service. Is there any update (or rumours / speculation) as to when this service will be rolled out across the GTA or further?

  • http://michaelcoulson.com Michael coulson

    Paul – I was told it would be launching in June some time ago. Cope said he would be launching this summer in t.o./montreal at the AGM http://www.iptv-news.com/iptv_news/may_2010/bell_aims_to_become_canadas_largest_tv_provider

    • Paul Marsh

      Thank you Michael.

    • DjLevel9

      Bell Fibe TV was Launched June 14th I have mine and it’s faster then the beta tester speeds lolbut hey helps when you know your way around bell and The Owners .and tell them at it is:)

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  • WATCHTOWER00

    Yea know Ben in the Ben in the Past years when i use to working at 211 Lochiel Street in Sarnia’s Bell Office before I transfered Up TO KW Then Toronto Bell orders all thease Systems and Equipment but there not Listening we told them for years stop buying in Bulk Before you test it and send it out to the Customer I like the 1TB you have here the Sling Box it has a few draw Backs but it works:) The Accatel Speed Toucj Home Pro was the BEST when it came out i would always buy my own this bell wouldn’t put there firm where in it lol and the 716 For Voip And IPTV can handle the speeds But again Bell Blocked the regular Res Customers from sueing it now with the Fibe 25 and the Fibe TV accounts. So I have a Meeting with the Ottawa Fibe Tve office today anything yea wanna add before i go talk to them.

  • Rob Hart

    You had me at the “whole home service” aspect. I didn’t even know this existed yet. I gave up on Bell (and Rogers) TV service about a year ago. I put all my money into 25 mb Internet and have only been watching downloaded or streamed content for about the last year.

    But I would still bitch about the lack of this feature in Bell or Rogers service. I hated having to put a big, loud PVR at each TV. And then shows on each unit were an island. I always thought they should offer a networked service like this. Bell should rent you a big, loud box to put in your basement. All the hard drives can be in there. Then each TV should have just a player. That’s how I run at home now, I have a server in the basement and 1080p HDMI media players on each TV that cost me $150. RG6 cable is big and bulky to run around your house, Cat 6 is a lot easier. Maybe even wireless N would work for some.

    If they also upgrade the Motorola boxes to be full and proper media players, with the same functionality I can get for $150 at any decent computer store, you might see me back with live TV.

  • Chris

    Another nice article Ben. Well written and I would agree that you were fair and balanced.

  • http://bellent.currentinternet.com Alex Sirota

    We now have a wiki map of use submitted FibeTV locations. If you subscribe please map them on the site

    http://bellent.currentinternet.com/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=158

    No need to register at all! Please don’t spam though.

  • http://www.apexpr.com Simon

    Thanks for all the great info. Had Fibe set-up recently and am very happy with the service.

  • tb

    Hey Ben,
    Great article. you nailed it on the head on all fronts, banged off several that have annoyed the heck out of me (and wondered many a time, “I can’t be the only one thinking this?”) like no profiles (after all, why should everyone see what you or someone else records – I have tenants in my house – and even policy management would be a sweet feature i.e. recordings cap, keep how many cap etc… with a family of four, and two tenants, my harddrive can get stuffed reall quick.

    I did not know that it supports an external HD. Assuming I have the same model, I can’t wait to try this out. Which is a nice segway to my next comment.

    My pesonal experience with the PVR units was initially horrendous. Many many times (somewhere in the order of 10+) my PVR froze and I was told to hard reboot my PVR loosing all my programs as a result. This immediately longed for the glory analog days when my tv was not a computer! But now that this issue no longer occurs to me, I must say, I’m a happy camper for the most part.

    Keep up the good work.
    TB

  • Goleafsgo007

    I just did a Fibe install in Rosedale (Toronto) in a house with 8 televisions……Well, the installation lasted about 45 minutes before the customer decided to pull it out and go pick up Rogers’ digital terminals. First off, Fibe can support up to 6 receivers in the house, 1 is the Whole house PVR and the rest are standard terminals that can talk to the PVR. The problem is I had 8 televisions to install so we decided for the “not so important” televisions share the terminals by using the channel 3 output over coax for the kitchen and exercise room. Problem there is that once the digital terminal is connected by HDMI on the first television it will cut off the sides on the channel 3 output and display it in 4:3 aspect ratio…..The same applied when we connected it with Composite, S-Vid and Component…….The next issue as Ben stated is that you can only pause live TV on the main PVR….Not good in my opinion and on top of that in the 45 minutes that the system was operational the picture was “jumpy” and glitchy. I also thought that the installers from Bell were misleading the customer by telling them that Bell Fibe and Expressvu are the only “real high definition services”. They actually said that Rogers is NOT High Definition and only “upconverts” Analog………In my opinion I’d stay FAR FAR FAR FAR away from Bell Fibe. It’s just not there yet.

    • Andrea

      this is true, Roger’s upconverts analog and boosts it to digital with a receiver. Roger’s can never be true digital when they transfer the signal through cable. It would be far too slow. Fibre allows true digital transfer. Satellite comes directly digital and unscrambled through the receiver – this does not require an analog conversion as Roger’s requires from dish to cable to home.

    • antirogers

      It is true rogers upconverts analog and boosts it to digital with a receiver. I know because I had to work with Rogers when they changed from analog to so called digital. There cable system is analog that is why you need the digital converter.

  • Zion

    I stopped reading when you said Bell support over the phone was awesome. Your bias is laughable.

    • http://www.communityguy.ca Ben Lucier

      Bell Fibe support is pretty awesome, not sure what else to tell ya. I’ve been critical of Bell in the past, but I’ve found this division to be very responsive. I’m not begging you to read what I write, so do what you please, Zion. :)

      • Anonymous

        Fibe TV is still in limited roll out, which means they’re still training their phone reps.  Right now you’re getting the well-paid manager-trainees on the phone.   Next year they’ll be 2nd level support and you’ll get the low-paid drones on the phone when you call in.

  • Mike

    In the Point St. Charles area of Montreal, Fibe picture quality is all over the place.  The best HD channels approach cable, however darker scenes are detail-free hash.
    Bell support has noted this; I’m giving it a couple of more weeks before returning to cable.

    • http://www.communityguy.ca Ben Lucier

      That’s a real bummer, Mike. Sorry to hear that. It sounds like quality can be hit and miss depending on location. For me, near Woodbine/Danforth in Toronto, video quality is great.

      • Mike

        To update, Bell tech support suggested using component video cables rather than HDMI.  This appears to have cured things completely.  Fibe is a keeper and I have to say that their phone support is surprisingly good compared to previous Sympatico experience.
        Motorola needs to address the HDMI support, but in the interim, I don’t have to dread returning to Videotron.

        • http://www.communityguy.ca Ben Lucier

          Yeah, I’ve heard that too… but it’s not a good solution. Those component cables are big and bulky. :(

          • Mike

            Meh. On the one hand, a minor cable downgrade.  On the other hand, a parochial Soviet-model cable monopoly.  All decisions should be as easy.

    • Astro_cricri

      Hi Mike…so what did you do at the end…I am in NDG and they are suppose to install it a t my place this Tuesday   what should I do……also can you connect your regular dvd recorder to the pvr…Thanks so much for your advice Christine

  • Homer

    Hello Ben, I am in the west island area of Montreal (west island= upper middle class English area).  I recently noted  a lot bell trucks around my area laying what looks like fiber optic wire for the last year. I want to ask , what are the costs/ packages/ contract terms that you got or that you know of. Here are my stats

    Videotron Quebec:

    30Mbps
    120 gig cap.
    Basic cable ( basic english and basic french channels + abc nbc cbs + global quebec).
    home phone w/voicemail  CID
    1000 minutes LD north america.
    (129 ish +Gst+Qst).

    What are you costs , thanks in advance.

  • Jbhickey2000

    from North Fredericton NB. I too am experiencing trouble with intermittant service over an HDMI connection! Often I lose both audio and video, having to disconnect the HDMI connection and change my input back to component.Were I to leave it connected(HDMI), my component signal is still screwed up …very annoying to say the least! How can motorola not supply support for HDMI on these otherwise decent PVR’s?,,,,further to this , if you are using component cables, is the audio not analogue? and if so, what type of signal is the (digital) optical out from my tv, sending to my dolby dig  5.1 reciever? Seems all the features we base our tv purchase on, are completly usless when our service providers give us hardware with missing software! Is this not the future….:)….Keep hitting those keys friend! Enjoy your reviews!

  • Allansa

    Hi,

    I have a few questions about this.

    Is the FIBE picture as good as the Express View picture?

    Can the FIBE setup show different shows (simulataneously) on the five or six terminals? 

    These are the most important questions for me.

  • Allansa

    Hi,

    I have a few questions about this.

    Is the FIBE picture as good as the Express View picture?

    Can the FIBE setup show different shows (simulataneously) on the five or six terminals? 

    These are the most important questions for me.

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  • Abu-ali

    thank you for your time

  • Sandy

    This was very helpful. The features that you like are ones that are important to me and the gaps that you don’t like are not important to me so Bell fiber is a good decision for me. Thank you.

  • Rohan

    Hi,
    I am from Montreal, west island, Planing to subscribe to fibe Tv. I have a question.,.
    I would like to know Fibe Tv PVR & regular receivers are connected wireless?
    Rohan

    • http://www.communityguy.ca Ben Lucier

      Hi Rohan,

      The PVRs and the consoles DO NOT support wireless. You can connect them using CAT5/6 (ethernet) cabling, or existing COAX in your house (called MoCA).

  • Lalonde Brent

    In regards to the cap. If you let Bell know you can add 40GBs to your cap for $5. This can be done up to 3 times per months for a total of 120 GB’s on top of your original cap. Not a bad deal for $15.

    • Nevermentioner23

      They changed it now, $5 for 25 gb extra bandwidth and $2.5 per 1 gb over use up to $80.

      Personally, if I were to pick out of the two monopoly evils, I would have to pick bell. Rogers are just information whores. They asked me for two pieces of ID to register with them. They suggested a choice between passport, social security number, birth certificate, credit card number, drivers license, etc. Why they do they even ask for passport, social security number, birth certificate? They are not the government and privacy Canada even says do not give out these number. These days it is so easy to get your identity stolen, different kinds of cards including passport made. Who says rogers agents are not selling peoples identity on the side and what prevents them from it. Or they can get their system hacked like sony, microsoft, google, etc. I am mad because I offered to go in store and show them my drivers license and credit card but they said we have to record it and do a soft credit check. No way, you are worried about your $50 monthly bill while I am concerned about my identity worth much much more.Even more, if i want to go with Teksavvy or other re sellers. Rogers intentionally make it very hard for the smooth connection and installation so their customer gets frustrated and leave them back to rogers or bell.In conclusion, to relate these to the bigger context (essay requirement lol), these companies are just one corporation among others in the capitalistic, greedy, non humanistic society. They structure and system needs to be changed at the top. So people go get more active in current affairs of your country (leave the popular media).Have you guys noticed since the targeted assassination of Jack Layton, they now targeted his wife. Read about left leaders all getting cancers, heart attacks, diseases compared to pro inequality leaders, pro royalists, and other evil people.

  • Mr_canadian

    Bell Fibe Tv is garbage. False advertised. There is no difference benifits to switch to Fibe.The distribution in your home is Coax. Not Fiber and chances of you replacing your in house wiring is slim to none.
    I will stick with my dish so i can continue to move my receivers to my cottage when needed.I dont plan to pay more for less any time soon.
    BTS is garbage. If you want to have a 4 hour installation and get two truckrolls done a day per tech keep it up.
    Recently sold all my share holdings in Bell I smell a crash and burn comming very soon

  • DP

    I recently switched from Rogers to Bell Fibe Internet and Cable  I am extremely disappointed with the HD Cable picture. It is noticeably lower quality than Rogers.  It is obvious that there is not enough data being passed through ,as some channels you can clearly see grainy results (such as the Golf HD channel). Has anyone had a similar experience

  • Daniella11

    I was a client of Fibe TV and Fibe internet.. Everything was running perfectly up until I moved. In my new apartment, the internet kept crashing, so my Fibe tv crashed too.. In one week I called tech support 5 times. It took a threatening phone call of a future disconnection for them to send a technician to my house which by then I had completely run out of patience and switched to Videotron. Havent had a single glitch with videotron yet..

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  • Achalemoipas

    I just want to warn people as best as I can: DO NOT SWITCH TO BELL. All of the nice promises are nothing but lies. I’ve had every problem imaginable from day one and no amount of calls will resolve anything. They’ll even tell you they correct billing mistakes (all charges not as advertised for three bills), and when you receive the bill, you realize they didn’t do anything. Their advertising is dishonest, their sales reps are dishonest and their support reps are dishonest.

    Even getting rid of them is one heck of a job. Took a full weekend. Every single service is completely separated.

  • britlou

    I will not promote FibeTV and internet. Dependable it is NOT !!!!!!
    4 months in and two outages for myself and one for my mother. Mother lost Tv and internet, scheduled a tech visit. Called to say issue resolved so wouldn’t need visit. Wasnt fixed. Rescheduled visit. 3 days no TV or internet.
    1st time mine crashes, fixed over the phone with myself doing this and that. ok, I can live with that.
    Next, its just gone. No Tv or internet again. This time no over the phone fix, they need to come in. Mind you this will be 24 hours with lost service. NOT acceptable service at all.
    Tv is my entertainment. Internet is necessary for daughters schooling research.
    The one guy on the phone told me, no explanation….. it’s like your car…… one day it starts and the next day it doesn’t. Excuse me????? ( my car gives me a warning when there is going to be trouble )
    FIBE just stops for absolutely NO REASON!!!!!!!!!!!!

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