Afrihost: Please supply better "free" routers

Foxhound5366

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This is an open letter to Afrihost: I think you're maybe shooting yourselves in the foot by supplying crappy free routers to your new fibre clients. The big disclaimer on this is that everything below isn't necessarily the objective truth (heck, maybe I missed some small print on your website somewhere), but it's my personal truth as an 'average consumer' with just enough technical experience to ask whether the box with the shiny lights is as good as it can be.

Right out of the gate I want to be clear: I actually consider myself an Afrihost supporter. I've never had a problem with my ISP before (whether Telkom or Web Africa), but I've found that Afrihost has made the most effort: the mobile app is slick, the online ordering process is detailed, and you put in the extra effort (like offering new clients the option to purchase a UPS with their free router). You even offer to pre-configure your client's router with their chosen network name and password before delivery ... which is awesome in theory! In practise this last part didn't work (my router had my details printed onto a little card in the box - but the router itself had some Afrihost default network name and I had to do a hard reset to set it up myself). A for Effort though.

Maybe the last thing to say is yeah, I'm not missing that it's a "free" router (that you pay R250 to have delivered but nonetheless). So I'm not looking the gift horse in the mouth as much as just gently pointing out that you'd definitely have happier customers if you at least gave them the option to purchase an upgraded router upfront (I spent R800 on my UPS - I'd have thrown some money at a better router if you gave me the option).

So what was delivered? It was a big mystery: it's not mentioned on the Afrihost website when you purchase it, or on the invoice you get. I literally only discovered what it was when I opened the courier packet (so maybe that's a problem too - let people know what they'll get, then they can read the reviews upfront and maybe decide it's not worth it). Not knowing what it would be, I'd hoped Afrihost would be giving its fibre clients something decent ... and yeah, not so much.

I got a Huawei WS5200 router, which seems pretty enough on the box and has key phrases like "dual-core 800MHz CPU for High Performance" and "Four 5dBi High Performance Antennas for Better Coverage" and "Wi-Fi AC1200 Dual-band Auto-selection". I found this review on it, however, which wasn't too glowing: "The Huawei WS5200 V2 definitely doesn't offer much performance for its tiny price tag."

The four antennas were the most promising for me, because more antennas must equal better, I hoped. My previous router (a free Telkom-issued D-Link DSL-G225) only had two antennas and didn't impress me with its coverage (my old apartment apparently had walls like a bunker because I'd lose the signal from the kitchen to the bedroom). It's also on the older 802.11n standard, but it has 4x LAN ports and a 3G failover port, compared to the Huawei's 3 LAN ports and no 3G failover.

The next real warning that not everything would be hunky dory was when I turned on the new Huawei router, and it only had one pokey status LED on the front (I was used to the D-Links being covered with flashing status lights). The third warning came after I finally got it connected (after resetting my router I had to also reset my Afrihost password - top tip): my iPad warned that its WiFi network wasn't secure (I think it warned simply about WEP/TKIP authentication being used), which is not something I'd ever gotten from the D-Link.

But here's the kicker, and why I think Afrihost should really care: it's about the speed. On a 200Mbps down/100Mbps up fibre line, around 10m away from the Huawei router in a different room, I was getting 39.9 Mbps down / 36.6 Mbps up on my S20 (so it's not a receiving device issue). My iPad Pro was doing better: from the same location, it could get 58.1 Mbps down / 41.9 Mbps up (I figure it has a bigger antenna in it so just better reception).

I then go switch out the routers, back to the D-Link DSL-G225, and go run the speed tests again with both same devices from the exact same locations (only about 30 minutes later - so it's not like congestion suddenly dropped off or anything). The S20 had now improved to 45.1 Mbps down / 58.4 Mbps up. The iPad Pro locked onto the D-Link's dedicated 5GHz network and got 121Mbps down / 51.4 Mbps up.

So, net result: I now have a totally useless "free" Afrihost router. I'll stick with ye olde Telkom router: it's older tech, but it delivers a proper dual WiFi network (always-on 2.4GHz and 5Ghz networks compared to the Huawei's single network that switches between the two automatically), its WiFi uses more secure encryption, the speeds are faster (on my iPad dramatically so) and the network signal is stronger further out from the router.

Which circles back to the point at my intro: surely if I'm paying over R1 000/month to Afrihost for the pleasure of a fast fibre connection, it's in their interests to ensure that they give me the best possible internet experience right up to my devices? The above figures were delivered on the same client devices, interfacing with the same Afrihost fibre network ... the only difference was the routers. It appears that Telkom delivered a better free device than Afrihost, and I have to ask why? Why did Afrihost drop the ball on this, if they've invested so much effort into so many other touch points that are significantly better than Telkom and others?

Over to you @AfriFella and @Afrihost-Gian ... what do you think? Could you do better in this one area, by at least offering the end-user other options (assuming you can't throw another cent at it yourselves)? And do you have any suggestions about what I can do with this free router now? It's not heavy enough for a paperweight, lol.
 

AfriNatic

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Morning,

Thank your for the message. Let me give you a rundown of how we decided to go with the Huawei router.

As you might know we have offered the D-link DIR825. It's a good router and we have sent so many of them out over the time. They have proven to not be that reliable as we wanted and the failure rate was quite high causing some strain on returns. We looked at a cost effective alternative and that was the Huawei WS5200. It might not be as feature rich as the D-link but already we have seen that failure rate is very low on this router.

It also outperforms the D-Link especially on the 200Mbps+ lines with multiple open connections the Huawei WS5200 keeps up pretty well.

We had to weigh up our options on what router we can supply that is cost effective and performs pretty good and that was the Huawei WS5200. Remember we give you the router for free. It's not a "free to use" or rented router it's yours. Once delivered to you and you activate a fibre package with us you keep it even if you cancel later on.

If clients need a more beefy router with more advanced features they can invest in one but we provide a basic router that should give you good all round performance. We also want to keep it simple to minimize support requests.

I hope this makes sense. :)
 

Foxhound5366

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Thanks for the response, @AfriNatic. I wasn't aware of the DIR825 because the first and only Afrihost router I've received to date is this Huawei unit.

I get that you want to have fewer client support queries and deliver something for free. That's admirable. However, my point is that it seems clear that the Huawei WS5200 doesn't deliver the same performance as the D-Link routers (and I was just comparing it to an older two-antenna D-Link and not one of the newer four-antenna ones). My figures above seem to show quite a significant difference in signal strength and speed, and my guess is that these same differences would only become more noticeable in more challenging environments (more walls or more distance). That it uses an older insecure form of WiFi authentication also seems pretty inexcusable for a modern router.

My conclusion was that Afrihost should at least try offering a paid-for upgrade as part of the application process, because it would deliver the best value for your consumers. They'd get a discount off the better router (compared to what we can find in the retail environment), and so everybody wins. I'm not even saying D-Link is the best bet - your technical team could probably put twenty routers in a room and spend a day doing some proper testing to uncover some real heroes that would work for you and your clients.

Keep up the good work!
 
Last edited:

CharlieSmith

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If I sign up for a new 25/25Mbps fibre connection this month with a free router, will I receive the Huawei WS5200 router ?

No other router options ?
 

MavChat

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Thanks for the response, @AfriNatic. I wasn't aware of the DIR825 because the first and only Afrihost router I've received to date is this Huawei unit.

I get that you want to have fewer client support queries and deliver something for free. That's admirable. However, my point is that it seems clear that the Huawei WS5200 doesn't deliver the same performance as the D-Link routers (and I was just comparing it to an older two-antenna D-Link and not one of the newer four-antenna ones). My figures above seem to show quite a significant difference in signal strength and speed, and my guess is that these same differences would only become more noticeable in more challenging environments (more walls or more distance). That it uses an older insecure form of WiFi authentication also seems pretty inexcusable for a modern router.

My conclusion was that Afrihost should at least try offering a paid-for upgrade as part of the application process, because it would deliver the best value for your consumers. They'd get a discount off the better router (compared to what we can find in the retail environment), and so everybody wins. I'm not even saying D-Link is the best bet - your technical team could probably put twenty routers in a room and spend a day doing some proper testing to uncover some real heroes that would work for you and your clients.

Keep up the good work!
Check in the Wi-Fi settings if you can separate the 2.4 and 5ghz networks instead of them being joined. I found that it will prioritize the 5Ghz and that drops the Wi-Fi broadcast rate significantly.
 

AfriNatic

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If I sign up for a new 25/25Mbps fibre connection this month with a free router, will I receive the Huawei WS5200 router ?

No other router options ?

Hi,

Yes you will get a Huawei WS5200 if you choose to take the free router. We no longer supply the D-Link router.
 

MavChat

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If I sign up for a new 25/25Mbps fibre connection this month with a free router, will I receive the Huawei WS5200 router ?

No other router options ?
Unfortunately the Huawei router is the only router that is provided.
 

SlinkyMike

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Jan 23, 2006
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Must agree, my WS5200 has utterly paltry range. Disappoint.
If clients need a more beefy router with more advanced features they can invest in one but we provide a basic router that should give you good all round performance. We also want to keep it simple to minimize support requests.

I hope this makes sense. :)

...it makes sense but you might consider that the router determines your customers experience on your product.

I would guess that relatively few of your customers would differentiate between poor router performance and "slow internet" so it would be in your best interests to at least offer an alternative. Example: I would have happily paid a small premium for a router that my phone can remain connected to if I leave the room. The WS5200 does not.

Imagine if BMW said: "We put Chaoyang tyres on your new BMW because it saves us money. If you want a better experience then invest in proper tyres."

Look, you do you but you should know it looks bad. Very good ISP and good service despite this issue IMO.
 

Rocket-Boy

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I dont think any of the consumer grade routers are all that great.
To me the most reliable(and feature rich) experience is from a Mikrotik with wifi handled by Ubiquiti Unifi's. Anything less than that on a faster connection is going to be sub-par.
As an ISP though you have to weigh up your average client and their connectivity needs, for most people the Huawei will be more than enough.
 

AfriNatic

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Must agree, my WS5200 has utterly paltry range. Disappoint.


...it makes sense but you might consider that the router determines your customers experience on your product.

I would guess that relatively few of your customers would differentiate between poor router performance and "slow internet" so it would be in your best interests to at least offer an alternative. Example: I would have happily paid a small premium for a router that my phone can remain connected to if I leave the room. The WS5200 does not.

Imagine if BMW said: "We put Chaoyang tyres on your new BMW because it saves us money. If you want a better experience then invest in proper tyres."

Look, you do you but you should know it looks bad. Very good ISP and good service despite this issue IMO.

Thank you for your response.

We switched from the D-link to the Huawei as the Huawei proved to be more reliable overall than the D-link. We supply a basic router for free. We do not charge clients for it and we do not ask for the router back if clients do cancel their service with us. We needed to find a balance between a cost effective router that also has reasonably good performance and we think the Huawei WS5200 is that device.

It's a basic router with1Gbps network ports that is affordable for us to give the routers to clients and not give it on a "free to use" basis.
 

Foxhound5366

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Afrihost do give another option: Don't pay for delivery of the free router and buy one of your choice elsewhere.

The entitlement in this thread is real.
As the OP, I wasn't entitled. I suggested to Afrihost that they could offer premium routers for an additional pay-in (they already offer a UPS as a paid-for additional), which they could secure at cheaper bulk rates not available to private customers buying from retailers like Takealot or Matrix. Everybody wins: the clients who know what they're talking about get a better router, and Afrihost delivers a better user experience for clients (who aren't struggling with weaker free routers that create a negative experience - as somebody else echoed above).
 

mr_norris

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As the OP, I wasn't entitled. I suggested to Afrihost that they could offer premium routers for an additional pay-in (they already offer a UPS as a paid-for additional), which they could secure at cheaper bulk rates not available to private customers buying from retailers like Takealot or Matrix. Everybody wins: the clients who know what they're talking about get a better router, and Afrihost delivers a better user experience for clients (who aren't struggling with weaker free routers that create a negative experience - as somebody else echoed above).
I agree, it was more aimed at who I quoted. But expectations need to be managed, and not everyone can be pleased.
 

Speedster

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I received a D-link DSL-G2562DG with my Openserve install last week that I'd be willing to part with.
 

KinsZA

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The problem with offering the better router option at a cost is just where do you draw the line at what's good enough ?

Router placement, device location, how good the devices WiFi antenna is, how many people in the household.

TCP/IP is two way communications, if a persons trying to get better performance using a better router when their router is upstairs while they downstairs in the kitchen microwaving dinner it's really not going to make much of a difference.

Just how many options do you offer ?
 

Foxhound5366

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The problem with offering the better router option at a cost is just where do you draw the line at what's good enough ?

Router placement, device location, how good the devices WiFi antenna is, how many people in the household.

TCP/IP is two way communications, if a persons trying to get better performance using a better router when their router is upstairs while they downstairs in the kitchen microwaving dinner it's really not going to make much of a difference.

Just how many options do you offer ?
Well the sky is the limit isn't it. If Afrihost is stocking and selling them, there is no harm offering five different devices at vastly different price points. Just giving everyone one dinky toy one, regardless of their line speed, seems pointless. Surely somebody who's investing in 200 Mbps fibre is not the same kind of user as a 10 Mbps user?
 

deweyzeph

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If you want a decent all-in-one router then I've got bad news for you, there's no such thing.

I've got a Mikrotik RB750GR3 with 2 dedicated TP-LINK EAP245 business-grade access points spread across my house. Personally I've been around the block long enough to know that most, if not all, do-it-all routers are just crap, especially when you're talking about fibre-grade speeds such as 100Mbps or 200Mbps. If you want good performance you need dedicated units for the routing functionality, and dedicated units for the WIFI functionality. This is especially true when you've got a typical 4-person household where everyone typically has a laptop, tablet and cellphone, plus multiple media players, IOT devices, etc. Consumer-grade all-in-one routers just simply can't take that kind of punishment at 100Mbps+ speeds.
 
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