The story began in June 2019, when my uncle called me and told me about an offer to get a super modern fibre-to-the-home line into his house operated by German Telekom at a very reasonable price. In the age of 82 years he’s certainly not the power user who would need such an access to the internet, but being a home owner it would certainly make sense to look at it as an investment into the house. But since he still had a contract with another operator until May 25th, 2020 there was enough time left to set it up.

In Feb 2020, a first gang of workers arrived, drilled holes into the wall and installed the fibre line from the street into his basement Soon after, a second group of workers arrived and setup the fibre connection into my uncle’s office. Here’s what this looks like:

Fibre (green) running into the house
Wall box in the basement with fibre link (bottom) and connection to office (top)
The prepared access in the office.

Once the necessary equipment was installed, we waited for the end of May to arrive. Still, the fibre modem was missing and we expected a technician to install it on the day of the switch-over. And guess what, a week ahead the access credentials arrived and I configured the new AVM router over the phone with my uncle so that he was prepared to connect it to the fibre modem.

So May 25th was there and my uncle was waiting for the technician. But a technician never showed up and so he called customer support asking what is going on. The support rep told him that everything was installed and that he could see his router (the old Vodafone DSL router) and that there is no problem. So my uncle called me for assistance. I was astonished that everything should be up and running. How could that be? My uncle told me something about VDSL which could not have been because a fibre line was ordered. I contacted customer support myself and they told me the same story. Having a profound background in the various access technologies, I challenged the support guy and he was astonished himself when I was talking about FTTH but he did not know what to do next. He transferred me to some other support person who wanted to get rid of me by telling me that in his system there is a VDSL line which was operating. When I told him, that we were waiting for a fibre line and not a copper based VDSL connection, he told me that the fibre is only attached to the box at the curb and not the home. The last mile would still be copper. So I explained him, that I did not talk about FTTC and VDSL but FTTH. He told me, that there is no fibre at the address of my uncle (in fact, the address is hand written on the wall box in the basement).

Now it became really interesting. I told him, that we have a difference between him looking at a computer system and seeing only a VDSL copper line and me looking at a wall and seeing a fibre optic cable. He responded that he could not help when a utility company installed the fibre line. After asking him which utility company uses a magenta T in their letter head (note: the magenta T is the logo of German Telekom) he became very, very quiet. After some research he gave me with yet another phone number to contact.

After a waiting period of about 25 minutes I was connected to a support lady. I told her the story what happened and she started a little research through the systems. After a while she reported, that she knew what has happened: in November 2019 a German Telekom employee was working on the task to port the phone number from Vodafone to German Telekom. At that time, the fibre line was not installed and it seemed that the employee simply switched the order to VDSL just to finish the job and get rid of it. She confirmed, that the cause of the error was with German Telekom and not us and wanted to solve the problem during the next few days.

Not hearing from her – how could I expect that – I called them again. Now, it was a problem with the tariff, because the contract already started (as VDSL) and could not be changed from VDSL to fibre based on the same conditions (bandwidth) before the minimum contract duration elapsed (24 months). Some department manager must approve that before it could be handled earlier. OK, a few more days to wait until the manager was available, but at least it seems to go on. The next call a few days later revealed, that everything seemed to be OK and a date for the technician was confirmed for July 9th. OK, more waiting ahead but at least light at the end of the tunnel. Looks like they don’t have enough technicians being capable of handling fibre optics.

On July 9th, my uncle got a call saying, that the originally selected tariff does not work and that the switch can only be performed, when he orders the next higher bitrate available – of course at a higher monthly price. That’s what they call up-selling. He did not know what to do, so he called me again. Getting the phone going, I called the last support number again and talked to a nice lady. She told me, that she can’t really help me and after telling her, that I just want a solution, she instructed me, to call the general hotline and ask for a specific service during the service selection which is not announced. This should get me in touch with their complaints office. Oh cool, a hidden feature in the IVR (Interactive Voice Recognition) system and I am still struggling with myself to provide details about it here. I did as instructed and repeated the whole story. (For the German readers: I felt like Buchbinder Wanninger) The guy I talked to wanted to take care of it and call back (of course, he did not).

So after the following weekend, I used this backdoor again to follow-up on my complaint and reached another lady. I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but I got a bit angry as the whole discussion with her did not get forward. After exchanging a few arguments I told her in a polite but determined way, that if I order product A from my provider and he – for whatever reason – delivers product B, I expect him to do whatever necessary to fix the problem, so that I end up with product A being a satisfied customer. Since it was the providers fault from the beginning, I don’t know what I could do other than complaining when the solution to the problem is not provided within a timely manner and expect action on her end. After all, we were talking about 6 weeks delay already with no solution in sight. End of the discussion: she transferred me yet to another person (apparently someone equipped with more powers).

To make the long story short, I introduced myself to the lady and told her, that I will give her a few minutes to read through the ticket’s history to get an idea of what has happened in this case and waited. I heard her mumbling a few words here and there before she came back to me, letting me know that this whole thing looks strange. I then told her my view of the story and she confirmed, that this matches what she just read. Then she took the time to make the necessary corrections in a few places. This alone took some time as the systems seemed rather slow that day. Then it was time to find another appointment with the technician. Since I knew, that my uncle would not be at home for a few weeks, I setup a three-way-conference with him and we got things straightened out together. So the next try is now scheduled for August 19th. We are now all very excited. She even setup herself a reminder to check back if things work out. I keep my fingers crossed.

The weird part

As of May 25th, the 2-wire copper line (TAL – TeilnehmerAnschlussLeitung) was disconnected from Vodafone and attached to Telekom. We never disconnected the old Vodafone EasyBox in my uncle’s house nor did we exchange the Vodafone access credentials with the new Telekom ones. To our surprise, this still provides my uncle with a working internet access until today. Just the fixed phone line is not working as the Vodafone box does not know anything about VoIP in the German Telekom network.

The end

So August 19th arrived and so did the technician at my uncle’s house. The installation was a no-brainer. The prepared router which was sitting there idle since end of May worked immediately. So it was just a matter to configure the VoIP access and my uncle was back in business. Since the internet access was working, I could do that from remote (~900km away).

And a few days later I got a call from that nice lady we talked to on July 9th for about an hour. She wanted to know if our problem had been solved and everything was working. After another nice phone conversation I can assure her, that this is what we call customer support. She did a really great job.

Pictures on this page: (C) by my uncle

Getting fibre to your home may be a complex job, not technically though