We all like a moan, but is some of it our own fault…
Sometimes I really wonder whether I have been given some super copper cable for my phone lines. The reason being that in my area I am some 2.5km from the exchange (approximate cable length), but manage 4.5Meg on ADSL and 6Meg on ADSL2+ in actual speed tests on two lines into my house, yet when I look at the results for others in the area, everyone else appears to be slower.
This disparity is so bad that it cannot be explained solely by unusual telephone cable routing, there are lines within 500m getting under 1Meg still. Now some of these will be providers keeping users on fixed speed products, but given the extra cost of these legacy products, one would expect the user to have been migrated onto an up to 8Mbps service. ADSL2+ has only just arrived from one supplier, a surprise for a 2,500 line exchange.
From the experience of the number of times people post on our forums complaining about slow speeds, or unreliable lines, and the regular posters help by pointing them to numerous guides and explaining the terminology, it seems clear that a lot of the UK speed problems could probably be solved with 10 to 15 minutes effort by someone with an understanding of ADSL and telephone wiring.
Back in the day when ADSL was new and it was all engineer installed, this was less of an issue, and line speed/line length limits were such that noise was hardly a problem. Roll-on 2006, and cheap broadband with rate adaption pushing lines to their limit combined with self-installs and we are left with the mess we have today. Those with the knowledge can get their line running faster, those without, can’t.
So to all those moaning about slow speeds from their ISP, some time spent removing unneeded telephone extensions, removing the ring wire (please don’t cut it), or fitting an ADSL faceplate can bring benefits. Of course if your line was unstable it may need some further tweaking as automated systems slowed your line down, in an attempt to make it stable, and may not spot the improvement for some time.
BT Retail did at one time offer a tune-up service, where if no improvement was seen, no fee was charged. Perhaps something that is more provider agnostic needs to be trialled to assess how much of a difference can be made. Even if the improvements are just taking a user from a 0.6Mbps speed test result to a 1.4Mbps result, this increase makes the multi-media web much more usable.
What are the things you can do to improve speeds?
- Remove all those unused telephone extensions.
- Move the ADSL modem to the master socket.
- Fit an I-Plate, or an ADSL faceplate
- Check it’s not the telephones causing problems, sometimes you need to double filter the telephone (cheap DECT handsets suffer most from this)
- Check that any phone extension wiring is using twisted pair cable.
- If using a wireless network, check that there are not many other networks on the same channel as this can cause congestion and speed problems
- Ask for advice on places like forums.thinkbroadband.com
- When seeking advice, take photos of the wiring – descriptions are good, but very easy to confuse people.
While the state of the telephone wiring in our homes is very often of our own doing, professions such as electricians do not help, with split pairs sometimes being used for extension wiring and tales of bell wire, rather than proper phone cable being installed. Add to this the prevalence of cheap untwisted pair extension kits in the shops and you can see how this leads to a recipe for disaster.
The broadband providers are not blameless however. BT Wholesale based providers often hide behind the checker that updates periodically to reflect the line state, so a line check that showed 5Mbps before the line had ADSL, might drop to 1Mbps after a week or two, once enabled (if the internal wiring is very bad). Alas, the support staff simply then state that 1Mbps is the best the line can manage – never bothering to look at the attenuation reported by the ADSL modem (which providers can see via BT Wholesale systems), which would show the line is under performing.
So while we love a moan in the UK, with broadband there is a good chance you can do something about it, and for those reading this who know what they are doing, maybe next time your neighbour moans about their Internet offer to help them out!