Improve your broadband speed in Horningsea

Recently I’ve spent some time trying to improve our home Broadband speed at home with quite a bit of success. I thought that others in Horningsea might also like to benefit from what I learned in the process. Just for information we were on standard BT Broadband with a regular domestic line and package and we were getting 512Kbps initially. This was on the BT ‘Up to 8Mbps’ contract. Not being happy with 512Kbps I upgraded to O2 ‘Up to 20Mbps’. This increased bandwidth to approximately 2.5Mbps. A five time increase. Not bad. Still not satisfied I set out to improve even further. The text below explains how I finally got the bandwidth up to 3.7Mbps. Not bad from a 512Kbps start.

Part of the problem is that Horningsea is a long way from its telephone exchange in Waterbeach, some 5 miles from Horningsea. This means that the telephone signal and therefore the internet signal degrades quite a bit over that distance. The copper wires simply aren’t able to carry the same strength signal for miles. Many people in the UK struggle to get a decent amount of bandwidth for their connection. Learn more about this topic.

There are some things that you can do to improve your situation. I will explain what I did to improve my own broadband speeds.

Change ISPs

The first thing I did was to switch from ‘Up to 8Mbps’ on BT to a different provider. I switched to ‘Up to 20Mbps’ with O2. Because the Waterbeach exchange offers LLU (Local Loop Unbundled) O2 are able to offer their own service. This has two advantages.

  1. You have the freedom to choose which ISP you use. O2 have their own hardware in the exchange. I chose O2 for my connection.
  2. You are not bound by BT’s DLM (Digital Line Management). DLM sometimes sacrifices performance for reliability. This could mean that even though your connection might support higher speeds, BT choose to give you a more stable connection so they ‘cap’ your bandwidth. Of course the balance is delicate. You do not want to be disconnected all the time but you also want some decent performance.

Line reset

If you are with BT on an ADSL2+ connection, you will probably have DLM on your connection. If your SNR (signal to noise ratio) on the connection is very high, it could be that DLM has detected this and made the bandwidth speeds go down in favour of reliability. This could be caused by something as simple as regularly turning your router off, or restarting it frequently. Always leave your router switched on. For example: Switching off the router overnight will trick DLM into thinking that you have a bad connection and it will adjust bandwidth accordingly. If this has been the case, it might be worth asking BT for a line reset but only after you have checked if you need to make any further changes that I’m about to outline. Basically the bit you control between the BT master socket and your home router needs to be the best that you can make it before you request a line reset.

Filtered faceplate

The second most effective thing I have done (after changing ISPs) was to buy a filtered faceplate for my BT master socket. In order to use this faceplate the master socket has to be an NTE5. If you don’t have that BT can install it. You then buy the filter faceplate for your socket, as explained very well here.

That change alone gave me a 20% increase on my bandwidth. Your results may vary but for a £10 improvement that is not bad.

A new router

I then bought a router with a better modem. One that had the ability to set the SNR margin. I chose the Billion BiPac 7800N that was also suggested on this website. I believe that the Draytek Vigor 2830 is also a good choice. I think it also uses the Broadcom modem chip with PhyR.

That gave me another 15% increase.

Cable routing

Another thing I did that was entirely free was to manage the cables to the router as best as possible. Separating the phone wire from and power wires thus reducing interference. That had surprisingly goods results. (Another 200Kbps I think).

If you have ever rewired your own master socket (I will turn a blind eye here, BT definitely don’t approve of that) then you might like to check that the connection is soldered and not just twisted together. This should be good for another few Kbps.

No promises but worth a try

Please be aware that your results may vary. These steps worked well for me and I got my bandwidth significantly improved.

Future improvement

I am eagerly awaiting the improvements that the county is putting forward. The ‘Connecting Cambridgeshire’ programme allows for us to register interest in better connectivity. Head over to http://www.horningsea.net/archives/719 to read more about it. Everybody needs to register!

Sources of information

http://www.increasebroadbandspeed.co.uk (Advice on improving your connection)
http://www.samknows.com/broadband/broadband_availability (Check broadband availibility in your area)
http://www.speedtest.net (Test your broadband speed)
http://www.ispreview.co.uk
http://www.thinkbroadband.com

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