More on Broadband performance – the Ring Wire

I have been doing some work recently to try to resolve poor broadband performance.  I though it would be worth recording my experience and the eventual outcome – if you are interested – read on!

Initial problem
In the village where I life it is possible to achieve a broadband speed in the region of about 14 – 17 Mbps download and about 1Mbps upload.  The service I was working with was consistently running at .46 Mbps download and about .95 upload.  Slower on upload than on download!  Something was clearly not right.  Also apparently when there was a telephone call active the broadband service would go down.  This later issue was easy to fix – there was no ADSL filter on the secondary socket where a wireless phone base station was plugged in!!!  Fitting a filter to the secondary socket fixed that problem 😉  But the speed performance remained poor.

The diagnosis
I did a reboot of the ADSL router which was an old Netgear one.  Same effect.  Having been through this sort of situation before I removed the faceplate on the BT main telephone socket and plugged in to the main socket – thus connecting directly to the incoming telephone circuit.  I expected that if there might be a problem with the internal telephone wiring that this would over come this and better speed would be possible.  This made no difference.  I examined the router management system and could see that the basic connection which was being made was 1.5 Mbps download and 1Mbps upload.  I understood that this would mean that there was not way that the ADSL speed could be improved.

Diagnosis phase 2 – phone BT Business Broadband helpline
I dialed 151 armed with all the results of my tests so far!  The operator went through the standard script that they follow and eventually conducted a line test.  First when I was plugged into the line with with the faceplate in place and then with the faceplate removed.  This revealed that there was interference on the line which was coming from the internal wiring.  This needed to be fixed before things can improve.  BT will attend but there will be a charge for the call out…….  I wanted to avoid any unnecessary costs!!!  The technician did a reset on the line and the speed went much higher when connected with the face plate removed but on replacing the face plate the speed deteriorated.  We did notice that with wireless phone connected things were at their worst.

Diagnosis phase 3 – google for help!!!!
Learned a lot – check out these posts  and  just a couple many good sources I found!  Bottom line is that it is suggested that on internal telephone wiring there are three wires normally connected 2, 5 , and 3 where 2 and 5 are the two blue/white wires (essential for the phone system to operate ) and 3 is the orange wire – 3 is sometimes referred to as the bell or ring wire.  The orange wire is historical and would be needed unless you have very old telephone in your house!!  Most people do not so this wire is not needed.   Also it acts like an Ariel and can introduce noise in to your system which may not be noticeable when  making voice calls – but can affect your broadband performance.  Solution is to simply remove the orange wire from all sockets in the setup.

I did this and the contract BT to get them to reset the ADSL line again – result is that the broadband is now consistently connecting at much higher speeds with speed tests now demonstrating fairly consistently at around 14Mbps download and 1Mbps upload.  This is a good result.

Note – Important of getting BT to do a reset
The line speed reset is a very important part of this process.  It seems that when an ADSL service is first installed the exchange will adjust the line speed to achieve the most stable and reliable performance it does this be checking the statistics on the link performance lowering the speed until stable operation is achieved.  When it gets to its optimum speed the link parameters are fixed.  Interestingly even if the line quality improves the speed will never increase unless BT reset the line again.  This reset process takes place over a period of 10 days and cannot be started again during this period.  So it is important to get this reset done after all issues/faults on the wiring system have been removed.  The above process took about 12 days to complete because of the 10 days needed to complete the line reset.

Interestingly the BT Broadband helpline did not recommend the removal of the bell wire this – their only offer was to send out an engineer at some cost – which I suppose makes some sense from their point of view as this will generate them some revenue 😉

The Global Growth of Broadband

It seems that Africa is now connected to the Global Broadband network via a sub sea fibre optic cable – this lead to the BBC publishing a model which makes interesting viewing. It shows how the Internet had evolved since 1999. You can see how the density of broadband subscribers has increased over time and also how the international interconnect circuits have improved. According to the model West Africa has been connected since 2004 with the West coast being connected this year.

This caused me to reflect on my own trips to Botswana in the late 90’s when I setup an email system there which connected to the UK via initially a modem ( dial-up ) link and and subsequently via the government network and a satellite link. The former was 9.6 bps on a good day and the latter over a shared 256kbps which was of course much better.

The following article provide some additional background to the linking of Africa by means of this new sub sea link.

And a blog post about the experience of using the new infrastructure to do live video broadcast!

Wi-Fi whilst camping

I thought that I would publish a photo of the Wireless Access Point which we are communicating via this week. This is the second year that whilst camping we have been able to get online via the camping site wireless network system. The price is very reasonable assuming that you purhase a block of time – I purchased two weeks worth which cost £40 which I think is good value for money. This means that we have been able to do all sorts of interesting thing during the evenings like watch the highlights of last weekends Hungarian Grand Prix F1 and of course I can update my blog. I decided to do a daily post and so far I have managed to do this!!! I must confess that I never really expect to see a broadband wireless service made available on a campsite – but then I guess this will be a profit making and therefore self sustaining service. Well done to the Camping and Caravanning Club for taking teh initiative!! It also means that one could access ones work email – but I have been very good an have not tried this – and do not intent to!!!

Regarding teh performance – its seems to work quite well appart from mid evening when I think most people using the serivice might go online.


What Ofcom have to say about UK Broadband

Further to my last post and in the interests of clarity fairness, see here what Ofcom have to say about UK Broadband as of 26/09/07

Click here

Here are the highlights

In general the picture for broadband take-up in the UK is good:

  • over ninety-nine per cent of the UK is connected to a broadband enabled exchange;
  • over half of UK households have taken up broadband;
  • almost three quarters have a choice of at least two broadband (ADSL and/or cable) network providers;
  • the average headline speed has doubled in a year to reach 4.6mb/s and
  • broadband prices have fallen by 9% in the last twelve months.

Of course I would have to be sceptical about this against the back drop of my own experience.
I need to discover how these statistics were arrived at. Does the term ‘average headline speed’ mean the average of the best performance achievable?????

I was also interested to read the following in the same report

Bandwidth demands are rising

Operators of the current copper-based networks and technologies have already upgraded their technology to deliver faster broadband speeds.

Consumer demand continues for the applications and services supported by these upgrades. To date, the networks have been able to meet this demand and offer sustained improvements.

However, the development and consumption of high speed services means that current generation networks will at some point be unable to deliver the very high speed broadband service that may be demanded by customers.

In the UK operators are considering how best to respond to the continuing growth in demand for bandwidth and the commercial case for significant investment in these new technologies. Ofcom’s consultation highlights how the market and infrastructure conditions in the UK are very different to those countries where investment in fibre has already been strong. The reasons include the relatively mature pay TV market in the UK, the high speeds of current broadband enabled by shorter distances from exchanges and the comparatively high population densities in countries where fibre is advancing fastest.

While the exact nature and timing of demand for very high speed broadband is uncertain, as is the nature of the services that will drive this demand, there is growing agreement that these networks could have profound effects for UK citizens and consumers and the economy.

Seems to confirm my own view that the current generation infrastructure does need to be upgraded to facilitate the delivery of future broadband technology and services.

Broadband really does crawl in the UK

Thanks to Jack Davidson my colleague at Learning and Teaching Scotland for pointing out the following article which refers to the performance of Broadband Services compared to the rest of Europe.

To read the article click here.

The report to which the article refers is to be found here

The article does state that the average speed of Broadband in Finland is 21.7Mb/s whilst in the United Kingdom the average speed is 2.6Mbps. Also the report states that the average Subscribers per Household in the two are countries are .57 and .50 respectively so it would seem that in penetration terms the two countries are similar. Leaving Europe aside, Korea and Japan actually top the table on 45.6Mbps and 61Mbps with penetration figures of .9 and .52 SpH respectively.

The report by Robert D. Atkinson is actually concerned with “The Case for a National Broadband Policy” in an American context. But it does seems to raise some interesting issues in relation to the real drivers for further investment advanced broadband technologies. At the core of these policies should “focus on stimulating both the supply and the demand for high-speed broadband”. Robert then sets out a number of supply and demand side policies which are both needed to ensure that broadband provision can develop.

I attended a BT technology briefing event recently when I heard about BT’s plans for its 21st Century Network which features the deliver of a wide range of services over the Internet Protocol including voice and video. The interesting thing is that alongside this objective there was no indication of any plan to upgrade the basic network infrastructure over which this will be deliver. Seems to me that before the UK can move up the broadband ladder it needs to get some new policies in place which will stimulate both the Industry and Consumer to exploit the possibilities.

All of this of course is sat against the reality that I still regularly measure broadband download speeds of between 150 and 300 kbps when staying at my daughters house in Bishopbrigs in Glasgow. This is very frustrating performance and seems to be very consistent and is also made more so because of the fact that at 7am each day I can easily and consistently clock 6.5Mbps – clearly this is the effects of network contention.