Eir (formerly known as eircom) is the largest internet provider in Ireland. Depending on the location it offers various services that have major differences between them. On the eir's website the only information published is the package name that states "up to" speeds that are offered. But what does that actually mean? Being an eir customer for years I prepared the answers to some of the more technical questions.

What is "up to" speed?

Eir advertises their Internet services as packages with "up to" speeds. Unfortunately because of the lack of regulations around ISP marketing in Ireland it is legal to mislead customers by advertising unachievable speeds for Internet packages. There is however technology behind each of the eir's offerings that provides information that can be used in the decision making process about the best offer available in any given area.

From the pricing document:

The Up To Bandwidth speeds are the best available for a specific line and will be notified following line qualification test. Accordingly speeds cannot be guaranteed and may depend on additional factors such as the distance of the Customer premises from the exchange or cabinet to which the customer’s line is connected.

eir broadband - Up to 24Mb/s - ADSL connection

The "up to 24Mb/s" is the most basic internet offer from eir. From the technical point of view it is an ADSL service with maximum speeds of 24Mb/s downstream and 768kb/s upstream. The real speeds depend on the location and eir's availability checker sometimes correctly identifies maximum speeds for the given address. Unfortunately, as with all eir offers, the price doesn't depend on the actual service speed, which can be as low as 1Mb/s downstream.

eir Fibre - Up to 100Mb/s - VDSL connection

The next offering by eir is "up to 100Mb/s" which is a marketing name for their VDSL connection offer. It is also called the "Fibre" connection or FTTC (Fiber to the Cabinet). Link from the exchange cabinet to the customer premises uses VDSL over the telephone line. The real speeds are dependent on the distance from the cabinet, how many customers are connected in the area, and the quality of the line. Even for very short lines with good SNR and attenuation values the connection speed is capped at 100Mb/s and for the longer lines it can be as low as 40Mb/s. The upload speed is assessed independently and can be as high as 20Mb/s.

As with the previous "up to 24Mb/s" package the price is the same regardless of the real connection speed provided.

eir Fibre Extreme - the real optical fiber connection

The marketing misleading gets a little bit less confusing for the offerings above 100Mb/s. The real download speed delivered is exactly as advertised (minus the network congestion that might happen at times). The connection is delivered to the premises using optical fibre and a termination point in the house converts it to the ethernet standard that can be used with any router supporting VLAN tagging on the WAN port. For the homelab users it could be interesting if the media converter supplied by eir can be bypassed and if the incoming cable can be installed directly into the SFP-enabled router. Unfortunately I couldn't find the answer to that question.

The upload speeds for each package are available in the pricing document.

Name Download Upload
eir Fibre Extreme 150MB 153600kbps 30720kbps
eir Fibre Extreme 300MB 307200kbps 51200kbps
eir Fibre Extreme 1000MB 1024000kbps 102400kbps

The "Unlimited" service

The terms and conditions state clearly that since July 2018 eir no longer misleads its customers by imposing 1TB limit on services marketed as "Unlimited".

For those customers who signed up prior to 25th July 2018, eir Fibre packages with unlimited usage are subject to a Fair Usage policy of 1TB per month; usage in excess of 1TB will be charged at €2.50 (inc. VAT) for every 10 GB up to maximum of €100 (inc. VAT) per month. This is not applicable to customers who sign up on or after 25th July 2018.

However, excessive usage (as (un)defined by eir) can still be penalized.

eir reserves the right to impose limits without notice on a customer’s service, up to and including suspension, if eir believes, in its reasonably based opinion, that a customer is using the service, including but not limited to excessive downloading unfairly impinges on the ability of other customers to avail of eir’s services.

What advanced features can I expect from eir?

Fortunately eir's network engineers do a really good job in comparison to their marketing department. From the customer's perspective the network design seems to be well made and advanced users can leverage it in their HomeLab deployments.

Static IPv4

One of the first services advanced users would like their ISP to offer is ability to provide a publicly routable static IPv4 address. It is important that HomeLab deployments can be reachable from the Internet at all times and static IP address doesn't force administrators to use dynamic dns services to accomplish that.

Also the uptake of CGNAT and public IPv4 re-use by ISPs around the world can ruin the HomeLab experience and providers utilizing that should be avoided.

By default, eir supplies each customer with a single, publicly routable IPv4 address that changes every time connection is established. It is possible to have the static IPv4 address assigned for €50 one time fee for all Internet packages offered by eir. The address is not tied to the MAC of the edge device, which makes swapping routers much more convenient.

IPv6 support

As the adoption rates increase around the world it becomes more important that ISPs fully support IPv6 for all customers. Unlike with IPv4 the way the new protocol is implemented on the ISP side directly impacts customer ability to use and experiment with various deployment scenarios in more advanced settings.

On both FTTH (eir Fibre extreme) and VDSL (eir Fibre) packages eir supports IPv6 out of the box issuing semi-static /56 IPv6 prefix for all customers. The issued prefix will only change if the scheduled renewal fails. It can happen when the modem is disconnected or there is a power outage. There is no IPv6 support for ADSL connections.

I have used the semi-static IPv6 prefix for years and it has some limitations. Not every enterprise grade device and software can be configured with the expectation that IPv6 prefix may change at any time.

Fortunately recently it has become possible to request static IPv6 prefix from eir. I have asked for it on Twitter and I haven't been charged €50 fee when I was issued a /48 prefix which is in line with industry standard best practices for customer addressing. Such a large prefix is perfectly suitable for the HomeLab and allows for an unlimited experimentation with IPv6 enterprise class deployments.

Is eir the best ISP for advanced users?

I would recommend eir as a good provider for the HomeLab environment. It allows use of customers' own equipment and provides proper static addressation for both IPv4 and IPv6. The marketing practices they use are questionable, but the service itself is very good for the advanced users.

Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions. Do you know any other Irish service providers that offer a good experience for advanced users?

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