Need faster internet!
February 12, 2007 6:39 AM   Subscribe

How do I find out the maximum ADSL broadband speed supported by my telephone line, and how can I get this?

So I recently signed up with Tiscali broadband here in the UK. During the connection process I was told that our phone line can only support 512KB download speeds, so that is what we have (on the 'up to 2MB' package). Which is a bit rubbish, really. I live near the centre of a medium-sized city, so I assume I am not far from an exchange.

When I go to the Tiscali website and try to do a 'dummy' upgrade to (for example) the 8MB package, I get a message saying 'We estimate the maximum speed your line can support is 5.5Mb'.

If I go to the BT broadband website and click on 'see how fast you can go', I am told:

"Our initial test on your postcode indicates that you should be able to have BT Total Broadband with a likely maximum speed of up to 6Mb (Megabits per second).

Please note that this speed is only an estimate based on information available to us about the length of your phone line. Your actual speed will additionally depend on factors within your home, principally the length and quality of any internal phone wiring, and the speed of your computer and modem or router."

So my questions are: assuming I would like a blazing fast broadband connection, what should I do? contact BT and ask them to upgrade my line? (as BT provides my phone line but is not my broadband provider, would this be a problem?) is it some problem with my equipment? If so, what can I do to get the best speed possible?
posted by altolinguistic to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
Umm, no matter what the estimates on your site may tell you, there could be issues with your specific line (shit wires going into the house, shit wires from the exchange to your house, etc) that mean you really *can* only get 512 kbit. You could try to get the BT techs out to do a line test in your house, I suppose, but it really does seem to be a fickle mistress. Or you could try dealing with Tiscali as well to get them to do a line test. One would think that if you tell them you want to give them as much money as you can (in order to get the fastest broadband connection that you can), they would be motivated to help you out. If BT owns the lines, I guess BT is the one that has to upgrade them if you can't go any faster than 512... but I'm not sure how likely they are to get a team out there unless you're willing to cough up the big bucks.
posted by antifuse at 7:30 AM on February 12, 2007

I don't know if it applies in the UK but here in the States you can have the phone company come out and do what is called a "home run". This test will tell you what speeds the line can support.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:39 AM on February 12, 2007

Your modem should have a status page available that shows what speed it's actually connected at. Unless they've deliberately throttled it back to 512K (or 2M), it should be a very accurate indication of the capabilities of your line.

btw, what did they do to establish your line is limited to 512K?
posted by cillit bang at 7:58 AM on February 12, 2007

cillit bang - they didn't say what they did, exactly, and their customer service has been extremely bad, with no-one quite knowing what was going on. Max download speeds when downloading files at any time of day have been 64KB.

We've got a wireless network using a Linksys WAG54G ADSL gateway, so I've put away the modem they supplied. I don't know how to find out the speed of the ADSL coming into the gateway.

antifuse - I'm not saying "OMFG they say I can get it fast and I can't OMG what's going on!!" I'm just wondering how I can narrow down my options to find out where the bottleneck is.

I've reported it as a fault with BT, so we'll see what comes of that. I guess if it's outdated internal wiring, that'll cost me.
posted by altolinguistic at 8:11 AM on February 12, 2007

Sorry, I didn't mean to come across as though you were saying "OMFG" :) Just that the estimates on the sites are probably based on one person being able to get those speeds in your area. I'm guessing that Tiscali does have you throttled to 512k, since that's the service that they're providing, so seeing what your modem is connected at probably won't be all that useful. My guess is that it will say "512k" :) That sucks that Tiscali's service has been so shite... you could always call up one of the other broadband services and ask them how to find out what the max speed available is at your place.
posted by antifuse at 8:54 AM on February 12, 2007

If you can get to the management console on your adsl router, it will probably tell you the maximum supported data rate it has negotiated with the kit at the other end of the phone line. Some routers report this information in the web management interface, some don't.

Ideally you want to have your ADSL router plugged into the BT wall socket directly, so as to eliminate any issues due to internal wiring. Not that this made any difference at all to the data rate reported when I tried it though.
posted by pharm at 8:56 AM on February 12, 2007

Go to the admin page on the router and select Status > DSL Connection. I imagine it will say 512K downstream, but it's worth a look. If it says 2048K, it means your line might support higher rates.
posted by cillit bang at 9:04 AM on February 12, 2007

cillit bang and pharm - thanks! I did that, and it says 576 Kbps.
posted by altolinguistic at 9:32 AM on February 12, 2007

Does it change at all if you reload the page?

I'd suggest talking to Tiscali about whether they're capping it or whether they're letting the modem find the best rate. If they are capping, ask them about raising it.
posted by cillit bang at 9:37 AM on February 12, 2007

Refreshed a few times, it stays at 576. I'll talk to Tiscali - mentioning the fact that I would like to spend as much money as possible with them! - and await a reply from BT.
posted by altolinguistic at 9:41 AM on February 12, 2007

If your copper is crap (tested at install time, hence the 512k estimate) the net result is a poorer signal to noise ratio, which means more bit errors. As you increase the data rate, the bit errors become unacceptably high, the modem cannot maintain its link, drops off and resets. Disconnects suck.

So the supported rate is a tradeoff against noise: set the rate too high, get errors, get booted. Set it low, get a reliable connection. When it was installed, they probably set the rate at the DSLAM (the adsl modem in the exchange) to be 576kbps and that is what will define the connection speed you get. Nothing technical you can do at your end will change it.

The 5.5-6Mbps estimates are based on line length. As others have said, there are other causes for signal degradation than mere distance.
posted by polyglot at 4:31 PM on February 12, 2007

I don't imagine anyone is reading this now, but BT phoned me back this morning and said I had to talk to Tiscali about this - which is what I shall do. Just hope that Tiscali don't ask me to talk to BT...

Thanks, all.
posted by altolinguistic at 3:01 AM on February 13, 2007

nb. You'll probably get better bandwidth out of any of the ADSL Max based services (which dynamically adjust to line noise levels) than the old 'standard' ADSL service which had fixed bandwidth & used very conservative settings to ensure that these could always be achieved. Most of the 'up to 8Mb' services are ADSL Max underneath: get Tiscali to switch you to their equivalent (which is 'broadband max' I think).
posted by pharm at 7:37 AM on February 14, 2007

not that anyone's reading, but in case it comes up in searches - I got a letter recently from Tiscali saying that unspecified work was to be done on the telephone lines in our street. I asked Tiscali whether this would improve our available broadband speed, but received no reply, so decided to take a chance and try upgrading to their 'Max' package, now that the work has been done on our lines. We now get speeds of up to 5Mb/sec, and so far the connection has been much more stable, which is a bonus.

So thanks to all who helped out - I have referred to this thread while pondering what to do...
posted by altolinguistic at 5:47 AM on July 18, 2007

« Older No, I didn't know the Strazinsky's had a tartan...   |   How do you pronounce Vafai? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.