OK, so Linoman and Optimist have triggered me into posting some research and advice on the subject of general internet and wired network performance and WiFi quality. I will then relate the effects of such quality to the performance of connected services on the Explora STBs.
This will take a bit of time and will spread over a number of posts with screenshots where appropriate.
Please feel free to contribute as we go; but I'd respectfully ask that it should initially be by way of adding to the overall knowledge base and/or asking us to clarify or to add to any aspects; NOT please about asking us to solve your specific issues at this point.
I have seen many complaints on the Forum about issues with connected services (Showmax, Catch-up+) on the Explora. Some of these issues are certainly due to the Explora STB and MC's Media Servers (and the paths to get to them); however I have it on personal experience that the many (if not most) of the issues reported are due to a poor internet service arriving at the Explora itself.
All the Speedtest results shown in this post were performed on my home network this morning, specifically for this post
So how do we go about checking out our networks?
First, we should perform a speed-test at the home router itself, using a wired Ethernet connection, by way of a "benchmark test" .
So, connect a Windows PC to your home router using an Ethernet cable between the Ethernet socket on the PC and any one of the typically 4-ports on the back of the router. Be sure to turn OFF the WiFi on the PC.
The PC should then be connected to the internet with a wired connection. Windows may ask you whether this is a Home, Work, or public connection. It will typically be "home"
Make sure that there are NO other application running in the home that are using lots of internet bandwidth. (folks watching video or downloading files)
Open a browser and launch http://www.speedtest.net/
and start the test. Dont be fooled into clicking on any of the adverts on the page. Just "start" the Test.
You should see a screen similar to the one shown in attachment "Benchmark Speedtest wired at router"
This result is the best you can expect anywhere in your home. It should be close to the connection you are paying for with your ISP. I am fortunate to live very close to the Telkom switch, so I get close to the up-to 20 Mbps that I'm paying for with Mweb.
As important to note as the maximum download speed, is the consistency of the connection.
You can see from the yellow highlighted graph that my connection is almost as flat as a billiard table (even though there is other stuff connected in the home and using some bandwidth). If your graph goes up and down like a roller coaster then there are problems to resolve even before we attempt to connect your Explora.
So as a very first step, satisfy yourself that your primary internet connection is what you expect it to be.
Assuming you are happy with the test results, you can disconnect the test PC now if it is not part of your regular set-up. If you are not happy with the test results you will need to take that issue up with your ISP as it is beyond the scope of this forum.
Modern dwellings use a lot of concrete and steel so a WiFi signal can get attenuated very easily around the home. This results in poor WiFi internet connections, depending on where you physically are, in relation to the wireless router; also relating to the quality of, and set-up of the wireless router itself.
Attached are two examples of Speedtest results on PCs in our apartment using two different WiFi Networks that I've set up.
See attachment "very good WiFi Speedtest" which is from a PC connected to a top-of-the-line LinkSys wireless Router placed centrally in the apartment. You should be aiming for similar results which are not substantially reduced from the benchmark tests and IMPORTANTLY are very consistent. See the very slight undulation on the ringed graph.
See attachment "Poor WiFi Speedtest" (This is what triggered me to set up the Linksys router as my primary WiFi network). The attachment shows the Speedtest results of a PC on my balcony when connected to the original router in my study (where I performed the wired benchmark test).
You can see that the results are at-best around half a good as the benchmark test. I found that the PC would sometimes drop off line with this level of connection.
With the Linksys router centrally placed, I get a lightning quick connection throughout the apartment; both on the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz WiFi services. This was not a cheap solution, so I suspect most folks will shun it.
OK so how does all this relate back to the performance of my Explora?
For this test, I have paired a DSTV WiFi Connector to my original network in my study, instead of connecting it to an Explora, I have simply used the the same Ethernet cable to connect to a PC. I then turn off WiFi on the PC and run a Speedtest using the DSTV WiFi Connector as my internet connection. This connection is exactly what the Explora would see.
See " Terrible DSTV WiFi Connector Speedtest".
You can see that the results are terrible! At best the download speed is around 20% of the benchmark test. Plus, (looking again at the ringed graph) the results are very variable, at times close to zero. Most folks will not have a 20 Mbps connection to start with so, would be getting around 20% of a much lower benchmark with this example.
There is no way that the connected services on the Explora would work as required; though you would still see 2 green ticks on the connectivity test!
You would typically get buffering of the content being played out (watch now) out from Showmax or Catch up Plus. You would typically see a pop up top right of TV screen saying " disconnected" Downloads would take forever if they ever finished and HD content would be iffy at best.
NOTE: None of this poor service is the fault if the DSTV connector itself or, of MC!
It is all due to a poor WiFi signal from the router arriving at the the DSTV connector. It is totally within your control and not the responsibility of MC.
How can the problem be fixed?
You can try to physically move the DSTV Connector a metre or so up-down, left right also NOT to place it on or near equipment or metal surfaces; all of which may attenuate the signal. If you have flexibility regarding the placement of your router, you could move it.
If this does not resolve the problem you may need to go for a direct wired Ethernet connection between a port on your router and the Explora.
Alternatively you can go for a fairly inexpensive and trivial to set-up solution. Ethernet over Power. I am using the TP Link units in the attached Picture. They are under 25 quid on Amazon and are available with a 2-pin plug (instead of a UK plug) if you hunt around on the website.
Despite having a terrific WiFi service from the centrally-placed Linksys router, I still prefer to use a direct cable connection in my lounge ('cos I can); and Ethernet over Power *
in the bedroom.
My apartment simply has too much concrete and steel for the DSTV Connector to work well with the original router, because of the router's location in the study relative to the position of the Explorae. It's a decent new D-Link VDSL router branded as Telkom. It's simply badly placed to get a WiFi signal around the apartment.
I hope this mini tutorial is of assistance and gives some food-for-thought. If so I'll continue in the week with some more tips and tricks, in a new post! Please let me know if you see some value?
PS * Ethernet over power devices do not work on different phases of a 3-phase mains supply. Only on the same phase. k