This is the second time I have visited Longleat Center Parcs during 2015 (having never visited before). I dreaded visiting the first time but it was wonderful (but costly). I am happy to have returned again and enjoyed discovering and trying new activities.
However… several things let Longleat down. First, the food outlets are pretty bad. Additionally and more importantly….
The Wi-Fi is atrocious.
In crowded or busy communal areas like the Plaza or the Sports Centre.. forget it. You get good reception wifi signal but can’t load any pages.
In your accommodation you can just about get reception depending where you sit. Downstream speeds, when not stalling, seem to be limited to around 2mbps (250KB/sec). Upload speeds seem to vary between 120KB/sec and 15KB/sec.
Ping times vary depending on the time of day. Sometimes less than 50ms.. sometimes in the thousands of milliseconds (ie, 3+ seconds!)..
There is no chance of internet based gaming and little prospect of remote desktop working.
Packet loss is the killer. There are regular intervals of no traffic at all (not even a ping to the gateway) for several minutes at a time. When it is working there is still anywhere between 3 to 50% packet loss. Their WAN IP responds to ICMP ping and I’ve been monitoring it for a while. There is little sign of congestion and no packet loss. This would suggest that the issue isn’t the link into the complex but rather the wifi distribution or capacity to distribute the internet to the wifi points around the site.
On our first visit, while trying to see if I could improve wifi signal values, I snooped around the cupboards in the villa to try and locate the device that provides wifi. I came across a disappointing power socket:
Sadly.. empty power sockets don’t provide wifi. I also couldn’t work out how or where wifi was distributed. It remains a mystery.
Fast forward 3 months and I discover the following in the cupboard:
This is a fantastic start. These power sockets lead to a Cable modem and a Ruckus wifi point!
Very interesting.. I didn’t expect them to be using Cable TV / DOCSIS distribution around the site! But clever. Saves them re-laying ethernet or fibre everywhere. They probably just spur off the existing internal TV distribution network.
But wait – note the positions of the on/off switches on the power sockets. The devices are off. Maybe this is why my reception sucks. Some idiot must have turned them off or (see recent PAT test sticker) the PAT testers (as they often do) forgot to turn them back on after testing.
I turn them on.. At first I thought that, maybe, the cable network must have a fault in our villa because it just had the power light on and the “squiggle” light and nothing else. (The squiggle light is ethernet). After about 5, maybe 10 minutes I walked back into the cupboard to find that it had actually done something…
Still no wifi… the Ruckus access point was just flashing it’s DIR light. (I believe it means ZoneDirector).
I left it longer.. the next time I went back in the lights on the cable modem had changed..
However, still, a few minutes later the DIR light on the Access Point was still flashing.
Fine.. this clearly calls for further entertaining investigation.
I bring my laptop into the cupboard, nick the ethernet lead from the access point and plug it into my laptop.
Still nothing. My laptop doesn’t get an IP.. ok – maybe all the access points are on a VLAN and have a static IP.
I fire up wireshark…. this is where it gets entertaining!
In the 61 seconds that I captured I can see 239 devices DHCP Discovering. I also see one other device, Casa Systems Inc.
Casa Systems seem to make 3G/LTE equipment and CMTS (Cable Modem Termination System) equipment. So likely to be the head-end for the cable broadband network around the village.
Other than the DHCP requests – the only traffic was a few ARP requests from 10.12.48.1
Setting my default gateway to this IP did not result in internet access :(
I would love to setup a DHCP server and somehow activate the access points just for fun… but given that Ruckus need a physical bit of hardware called a “ZoneDirector” I couldn’t progress my investigations further. I also expect that if I had “adopted” all the access points onto my own ZoneDirector I would have caused a massive headache for CenterParcs when they came to deploy their ZoneDirector.
It is my opinion, given all the above, that the broadband at Center Parks Longleat is likely to improve within the next few months. I believe that the equipment I found is a new installation and brand new cable (DOCSIS) distribution network to access points within each (or every other) villa.
It also strikes me that you could walk out of the villa along with some pretty expensive wifi equipment! Although if they keep on top of the ZoneDirector logs they would be able to pinpoint exactly who was staying in the villa when the access point was disconnected.
The wifi can’t get much worse. So here is hoping. Isn’t I.T. fun sometimes.