Broadband pricing has been tumbling and speeds increasing, but almost one constant is the popular questions asked on our forums. The focus is clearly on speed and questions about the broadband hardware people have at home with the most common question, to which there is no real answer, is 'who is the best broadband provider?' Even if there was an answer, it would not hold for long as the influx of customers will mean they start to experience congestion and fall from grace.
|Are these the speeds I should be getting?|
It is all too common that consumers are unaware of what speeds to expect from their broadband connection. For ADSL and ADSL2+ services the largest factor is the length of the telephone line from the exchange to the home. This means while you are signed up to an up to 8Meg service you may only receive 3.2Meg if your telephone line is around 5km (3 miles) long. (This is referring to the distance of the cable as it wiggles down the road from the exchange to your home). It is expected that 93 per cent of telephone lines will connect at 2Meg or faster.
Other factors such as the state of the telephone wiring in the home, congestion and configuration of the computer are all further factors that can reduce the speed you actually get. Another common issue is confusion over units. Broadband is sold in Mega bits per second, but computers often report downloads in KB/sec which stands for Kilo Bytes per second. One Byte comprises of eight bits and 1 megabyte is 1000 kilobytes, so 2Mbps becomes 0.25MB/sec which is 250KB/sec.
Virgin Media cable broadband connections are of course not affected by line length issues, but this does not mean that downloads and uploads will always be at the connection speed, factors like how fast your local wireless network is, computer setup and how much others are using their connection in your town will have an impact on speeds experienced.
One further area that can cause confusion is traffic management, which can result in downloads from websites being fast, while a download via a peer to peer application may not.
|Why does my modem say 6Meg but I only see 1Meg downloads at night?|
First thing to do is check what speed your modem is saying it is connected at. If it connects at around 6Meg during the day and at night, then the most likely cause is congestion. This can happen at any point once your data has entered the providers own network and beyond. If speeds improve after midnight and fall off from around 2pm each day then congestion is also likely.
If slow speeds at night coincide with the modem connecting at a slow speed, it is advisable to check what speed the modem connects at when using the test socket at the BT Master socket. Fitting an I-Plate if you have extension wiring, will often alleviate some of this speed reduction.
|Do I have to leave my router on all the time?|
If no-one is at home for more than eight hours then it probably is worth switching off your broadband router. So switching on to check mail before leaving for work in the morning at 7:30am, and then switching off until the kids come home at 4pm, before switching off again at 11:30pm is fine. Switching off more often than this carries a risk that some automatic monitoring systems will think your line is unstable and may slow your service down.
Some contest that switching electronics off and on too often can wear them out, and this may be true if you do this multiple times every day, but with kit switched off it is also less likely to be damaged by power surges.
If there is an electrical storm unplugging and turning off ADSL kit is recommended, as the lightning creates RF noise that affects ADSL. If the storm is overhead though it is best to err on the side of caution and not use telephones or touch anything plugged into the phone line.
If you have any questions or need further help on these questions, then our broadband forums are a great resource where you will find people often asking the same question and can see how they figured out what to do, or simply ask a new question and people will direct you to the resources allowing you to help yourself.