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Improving Your Broadband Speed & Performance - Part 1

Broadband speed

We all appreciate having good broadband Internet connectivity & often overlook some of the basic technical details that ensure optimum performance, the truth of the matter is that in most cases we don't have to because things generally just work.

So what do we need to consider as consumers when things don't work the way they should, no connection, an intermittent connection or a very slow speed connection. This article will focus on the principle points that revolve around standard (ADSL) broadband connectivity and performance, however some consideration will be given to fast (FTTC / fibre Infinity) broadband connectivity.

Understanding the main factors that we can control or comment on, will help when it comes to getting the best out of our broadband services and or a speedy repair from our service providers.

In the case of standard (ADSL) type broadband services, which arrives at our properties on the same pair of wires as our telephone service all the way from the exchange. We are able to carry out some basic tests with very little effort. Because the broadband service uses the same wires routed from the telephone exchange, the first set of tests should be with the telephone service itself. Dial tone should be present & it should be possible to make & receive clear voice quality calls. Crackling or interference on the line will in almost all cases cause broadband performance issues, this will need to be dealt with first.

The key is to identify the source of the interference, generally this would be defined as either supplier network or consumer side. In both cases wiring and equipment will need to be addressed, for the consumer / customer side all equipment & wiring that are attached after the official demarcation point recognised by our service suppliers will need to be correctly configured and in good working order. Micro-filters do go faulty so it would be advisable to ensure that this is not the source cause of the fault.

Telephone Engineer Master SocketMost service providers consider an NTE5 master telephone socket to be the official demarcation point for a properties telephone line based services,  as such many of there troubleshooting guide lines & call centre based support will focus on testing procedures requiring that you have an NTE5 master telephone socket installed. One of the main reasons for this is that with one installed it becomes relatively easy to clearly identify the origin of a fault, i.e. supplier side or customer side. This is achieved via the physical make up of an NTE5 in the form of an easily detachable plate for customer owned wiring to be connected, on removal of the plate a supplier side test socket is revealed.

Officially as a paying customers all we need to consider is either we do or do not have full service at the test socket. There are however a few other points that make it worth understanding a little bit more about the immediate service side. In the UK almost all of the network infrastructure beyond the demarcation point is owned and maintained by BT Openreach, in the event of damage or mis-configuration not caused by the BT Openreach supply network BT Openreach will charge for any required / requested repair work. It is especially worth noting, if you are in the process of having building  work carried out or any other work such as tree or shrub pruning. In the event that your builder, electrician, handyman, gardener etc.  makes connections or damages the network supply side, faults  may not become apparent until you try to use your service. On inspecting your local set up you may not notice or be aware of any issues, however if a BT Openreach engineer is called out and identifies incorrect wiring you would most likely be charged for the call out and any time spent on corrective wiring to resolve your issues.

Basic points worth considering before calling your service providers

Check that you are not suffering from noise on the voice part of the line, for this you may need to review some or all of the following:

  • Any equipment connected to the line such as filters, telephones, fax machines, answer machines, sky boxes, alarm systems, loud bell ringers, modems.
     
  • You may need to remove or swap items of equipment in order to rule them out of the equation. In addition to this process you may have some simple automated line testing facilities available to you such as the 17070 facility, this may allow you to do a quiet line test. This should really be carried out in the test socket, on following the automated  instructions you will be clearly able to decide if the line is suffering from interference.

Check the integrity of all your cabling & connections, here you will be looking for:   

  • Signs of physical damage, you may also need to consider places where cables are directly under foot traffic or under other forms of physical pressure.
     
  • Look at any cable that may run on the out side of your property, that form part of your customer owned wiring. It is very common to find that internal grade cable has been used, this becomes clearly obvious when the cable jacket becomes brittle and starts to crack.
     
  • Where possible check for good quality connections at all junctions including the actual sockets where equipment can be plugged in.
     
  • Check that the service supply side wiring has not been tapped into prior to the demarcation point of the NTE5 master telephone socket extension faceplate, this could be indicated by more than one cable coming from a supply side junction box on the service side of your supply.
     
  • Where possible look at the type of connections used at any outside junction or any internal area that may suffer from high levels of moisture. Moisture or water proof connections should be used instead of screw terminals. 

Ensure that you only have one master socket on your line, having more that one socket with master components in will cause performance issues over time.

Where IDC (insulation displacements connector) terminals are used ensure that no more than two wire are placed at each terminal point. This is a design specification of this type of terminal to minimise connection related failures.

In cased of BT infinity type services, where there has not been an engineer visit for the installation, look at your internal configuration. If it is not like the diagram below you may benefit from contacting an independent broadband / telephone engineer to make the required changes. Using the correct equipment & configuration on this type of broadband service can mean the difference of tens of megabits per second.

Telephone network summary

Point A should be routed to an NTE5 master socket, that has a special faceplate fitted. The router / modem should be plugged into the top socket & if required all extensions should be run from the lower detachable half of the front faceplate. The special faceplate also functions as a central filter, this will have a positive effect on the overall performance of your broadband service & negate the requirement of filters at any extension socket points. This configuration is also backward compatible with standard ADSL type broadband and will provide worth while stability / performance benefits.


The above points do not take into account the computers used to connect to the internet as such it is important that you are sure there are no issues present that may effect your broadband activities. Ensuring that all equipment is correctly configured & free from viruses is your responsibility and can generally be done at a very low cost.

Points to note, if only one of your services is working, i.e. broadband with no dial tone or dial tone with no broadband, it is very important that you mention this when you contact your independent telephone & broadband engineer or service provider. As this is a clear indication that all or part of the physical line from the exchange to your property is intact, this will have implications on the actions required to repair your service fault. In the event that you wish to change service providers, it really will be best to resolve any supply side line faults first as this line will automatically be used by your new service provider.

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