Friday, 10 April 2009

Things That Can Affect Your Broadband Speed

There are several things that can affect the speed (bandwidth) and quality of your broadband connection. Some of them you can do something about. For others, about the only thing you can do is to move house, or wait in the hope that BT or another infrastructure provider will improve the network.

The key factors are:

* The length, and quality, of line between your house and the exchange. Although many last mile and middle mile cables are copper, some of those installed in the 1960s and 1970s are aluminium which suffers much more attenuation than copper and results in slower speeds per unit distance from the exchange. If the cable has been repaired many times, or has lots of joints, or has different sections of cable of different thickness, or material, this can all increase attenuation and reduce speeds. Cables and drop wires (the last bits of wire from the telegraph pole to your house) can get damaged by trees rubbing against them, or just general degradation with time.

* The weather. Wet weather in particular can reduce connection speeds. Damp gets into cable joints and increases attenuation. Thunder storms can introduce radio frequency (RF) noise into the telephone lines and this can be enough to cause your router to lose sync with the exchange. Always turn of your computer and router at the first sign of a thunderstorm - and keep them off until the storm has passed. If you can hear crackling on a radio, it is still too soon to restart your broadband network - a distant storm may not be enough to damage your equipment, but it could cause enough resyncs in a short space of time to get your IP profile reduced and so your speed will be reduced

* The quality of wiring, electrical equipment and phone extension wiring inside your house. The most likely cause of RF interference to your broadband lie within the house. Poor switches, pumps, motors, Sky Satellite boxes, etc, etc., can all mess up your connection. Try running your broadband from the BT test socket - if this improves things, you need to start by checking your BT socket to see if the orange bell-wire is still connected (if it is, go to Jarviser's site on the left of this page for tips on how to remove it). If this doesn't improve things, turn off all the electrical devices in the house, then turn them back on, one at a time, until the faulty device is found.

* The quality of wiring, electrical equipment and phone extension wiring inside your neighbours houses. Once you have eliminated all your own sources of interference, you may have to go and talk to the neighbours. If they have broadband, they may have noticed a similar problem and be prepared to help find the source.

* The time of day; peak times, especially once the kids get home from school, can result in slower speeds, especially if your provider has a lot of users locally. There isn't much you can do about this, other than complain to your ISP if things get too bad.

* The speed of your PC or laptop; a slow running machine can affect performance. Download and run a free application called CCleaner to remove all the clutter you can from your PC. Run your virus and spyware checker (You have these - don't you!). Defragment your hard drive. These may be sufficient to give you a small increase in speed. Failing that, try adding some RAM. Of course, you may decide a new PC is what is needed. It all depends how badly you want or need more speed.

* Traffic 'shaping', or management; when a provider like BT slows your connection because it prefers one kind of traffic over another (for example, BT Vision over Peer-to-Peer file sharing, downloading, etc). About the only thing you can do is to try and find another ISP that does no traffic shaping or less traffic shaping.

1 comment:

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Having had some major problems with my own broadband service, I understand how others struggle to get help from BT.

There is a lot of good information out there, but it can be hard to find. So this blog is an attempt to pull some of it together, in one place.

It's a blog that really shouldn't be needed - if only BT and possibly other ISP's in the UK, provided useful customer support.