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Upgrading your Broadband - A Cautionary Tale


Ian Macmillan
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I may be about to reveal a certain naivety, but I suspect there may be things for others to learn from my recent experience in upgrading our Broadband connection. The case in point concerned moving to BT Infinity from BT Total Broadband, but I would not be surprised to find that similar issues could arise with other providers.

 

The first thing to say is that the line speed increased quickly from just under 4 Mbps to circa 25 Mbps, which was a little better than estimated for this address when I signed-up, so no problems on that score. The problems that I discovered arose from the fact that the new Modem required by this upgrade (and supplied with it) can only be fitted to the house's main telephone entry point, and not to any extension point, as I had been using previously. Despite going through all the stuff on the BT website before signing-up, I had either missed this, or misunderstood something, and it came as a surprise when the installation engineer said that's how it would have to be. However, I was convinced to proceed by his saying that a new router, the BT Home Hub 3, that also came with the upgrade to be linked to the Modem, would fill the house (a single storey bungalow) with signal - so, no problem. And so it seemed for the first hour or so, with my computer sitting in my study, as always.

 

By a couple of hours later, and with the engineer long gone, it became clear that all was not well and, by the next day, matters were dire - poor to no signal in my study corner. By lugging my iMac to the other end of the house and hijacking the kitchen table, I was able to see that the wireless signal there was excellent. I pass over the several, lengthy conversations with BT's patient and trying-to be-helpful Help Desk personnel as we sat out the 10 days that is apparently required for the line signal to stabilise. And at the end of that period that it was accepted - as I had been saying - that the line speed was just fine, and the issue was that the Hub was not getting its signal to where I needed it. And at that point, it emerged, if not in so many words, that BT had done its bit in increasing the line speed, and that what happened inside the house was my problem.

 

Thanks to my Links colleague, John Mallinson, and to a bit of exploration around a BT community forum, it had become clear that my experience was far from being rare. The matter of the phone entry point's location, relative to where folk want to use their computers, is really very significant, it turns out. The answer has proved to be the acquisition of a pair of powerline adapters (circa £35, others are available). These work by transmitting data signals to the computer, using the domestic power circuit wiring. One adapter goes into a wall power point and is connected to the Hub/router (and NOT to the Modem, as I wrongly did to start) by an ethernet wire; the other goes into a power point adjacent to the computer, and connects to it using another ethernet wire. With that, I now average 22.5 Mbps where I need it - and the kitchen is back to normal..... just in time for Mrs M's return from her examining tour!

 

Our phone entry point is at one end of the relatively narrow central hallway of the house, with the computer in the far corner of a room at the other end, and I can only assume that the angles and mass of intervening brickwork is what is obstructing the progress of the wave pattern from the Hub. So I can readily imagine that upstairs/downstairs mixes could prove similarly problematic - and there's enough out on the net to suggest that's very much the case.

 

So, in summary, after some 2 weeks or so, I have a much faster download speed than hitherto - but have only been able to get it to where I want and need it by buying and using a pair of additional adapters, owing to the limitation placed on where the critical Modem could be fitted .... the bit of information I didn't have when starting on the upgrade.

 

(PS: the adapters have to be 'paired.' Passing on a tip I found online, this is most easily done by fitting them to two easily accessible, adjacent power points before putting them in their operational locations, something that Sod's law dictates may involve bumped heads in awkward spaces!)

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Ian, what a terrible and frustrating experience for you. I hate it when I have technical problems - currently having weekly visits from the boiler man.

 

I have to say we were lucky with our Infinity upgrade as the engineer put a new phone point in our study next to the computer and we connected it to our desk top with an Ethernet. On wifi, the signal is OK but does start to tail off at the bottom of our 70 ft long garden :) sympathy ......

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Fortunately, my existing home hub is connected to the main entry point of my phone line. Unfortunately, although my local exchange is already set up for BT Infinity I am not yet able to get this service in my street. No clear reason was given why when I applied for an upgrade, but I suspect it may be something to do with the cabling in the area.

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Thanks to one and all for your kind words, but another wrinkle emerged today: the scan function on my printer was showing "No printer connected" when one was, and with the basic print function OK. I think all the recent disconnections and reconnections had left it in a state of acute dismay - but after an Uninstall/Reinstall session, all is OK on that again.

 

Ribbons: I'm impressed that your engineer put in a new main entry point - not an option offered to me, I fear.

 

Wulff: When BT can give you Infinity, be assured that they'll tell you, with monthly reminder letters thereafter until you succumb!

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Just to say that we also have BT Infinity, get incredible speeds (depending of course on time of day) of over 65Mbps download and 13Mbps upload. The only problem we had was a faulty router, and we had that replaced very quickly.

 

The engineer did replace the box at the entry point, then plugged in the extension lead and hey presto, through the ethernet cable we already had to the study, the modem and homehub were on and working . (I don't work for BT by the way)

 

I suppose the analogy is that if you replaced your engine in the car with a more powerful unit, then brakes, suspension etc would need replacing. Although it is unlikely that the internet issues would affect the printer.

 

finally, the main issue we have is that we had to upgrade our service to unlimited broadband, as it is now so easy to have BBC iplayer and such like downloading in various rooms in the house!

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Ribbons: I'm impressed that your engineer put in a new main entry point - not an option offered to me, I fear.

 

 

I don't think it's possible to have more than one main entry point. I think whether or not they insist on using the main entry point depends on the engineer you get. When we signed up to Infinity, I assumed we'd have to have the router connected to our main point which is downstairs in our kitchen. My difficulty was that the computer is in an upstairs study.

 

I called BT and asked how this would work and was told that the engineer would have to install the router at the main point and then provide a cable from there to the computer. This would have involved a cable coming up the stairs and going behind floor to ceiling bookcases in the study. I spent several days reorganising the study to allow for this. When the engineer turned up he said that none of this had been necessary and that he could plug the router into the extension point next to our computer! He was in and out in less than 20 minutes and our connection has so far been fine - around 27 Mbps.

Edited by Bluebird
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I don't think it's possible to have more than one main entry point.

 

We haven't got more than one entry point. I think he moved the entry point to the study because previously it was in the living room and now we only have one in the study. However, I am not the most technical person in the world so may have completely misunderstood what he said. :wacko:

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Well I should eat my words - we have just had a week-end of the worst wifi service ever. The main computer is OK on the ethernet but the wifi to our mobile devices has been awful - speeds of 3 to 4 Mbps and that's been intermittent. We are into our 4th day of poor service so bracing myself to ring BT but I really can't face it today. I should say we have had our upgrade for about 6 weeks now, so well past the settling in period. :(

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