Problematic rural broadband connection

Discussion in 'Broadband' started by JohnDavidson, Mar 4, 2015.

  1. JohnDavidson

    JohnDavidson Guest

    A colleague lives out in the countryside and has a small home office with a
    business broadband connection & telephony service provided by a well-known
    two-letter acronym. The broadband has been very poor for a long time
    (speeds of ½-¾ Mbps and frequent drop-outs) which haven't been addressed by
    replacement routers: they have half a dozen in a cupboard, along with
    countless filters.

    The service provider is telling them that their area isn't due for an
    upgrade in the foreseeable future and hasn't offered any practical solution
    so far, but they're sending out someone next week to chat about installing a
    telephony upgrade and have promised that this person can talk to them about
    broadband as well.

    So, in advance of that meeting, what can I reasonably advise my colleague to

    Can he, for example, enquire whether the lines are aluminium, and if so ask
    for them to be replaced by copper (and will that make a significant
    difference)? Is it possible that there is DACS on the line, and can this be

    Any suggestions welcome!
    JohnDavidson, Mar 4, 2015
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  2. JohnDavidson

    Martin Brown Guest

    Some statistics from a half decent router or a log from Routerstats
    light would not go amiss. Particularly the speed and SNR over a 24-48
    hour period so that any diurnal variation or glitches can be seen.

    Sub 1Mbps is indicative of either an incredibly long cable run to the
    exchange, a dry joint or corroded aluminium joints in the signal path.

    Check the exchange on Sam knows and his number into the BT capabilities
    (which will probably say 2Mbps max).

    A neighbouring village has this problem and they are on dodgy aluminium.
    Are there any 3G mobile services available locally or any equivalent of
    Superfast North Yorkshire putting have-not villages onto microwave?

    Data charges on 3G sting a bit but he can't be using all that much if
    his speed is as low as you claim.
    DACS is impossible if ADSL works at all. It used to screw up dialup
    modems completely though. Just about all grannies in our village are
    DACSd (anyone without broadband) - there is no spare copper.
    What sort of speeds do his neighbours experience?

    Only other solution for a faster connection in the middle of nowhere is
    satellite but the latency is terrible and the price high. First thing is
    look to see if there is a local terrestrial microwave alternative
    service BT will move heaven and earth to kill off such competition so if
    there is something like that available that is a useful lever.
    (or a better alternative service depending on how wedded you are to BT)
    Martin Brown, Mar 4, 2015
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  3. JohnDavidson

    Graham J Guest

    This is a very common scenario.

    We need to know from the router the download parameters for sync speed,
    SNR margin, and loop attenuatuation, and any error counts that might be
    available. If the BT-supplied router does not provide this, then lend
    him a router that you are knowledgeable about.

    Could you also estimate the distance to the local exchange?

    In principle, even if the line is very long it should be possible to get
    a reliable connection. This means only losing the connection during a

    The first step will be to move away from BT to a professional ISP. If
    your colleage wants reliability to support his business then the only
    option is A&A (Andrews & Arnold -

    Once the broadband service is migrated, get A&A to live up to the
    promise on their website:

    "We'll fix your line even if you are with another ISP!

    If you are migrating your service to us, even though you know you have a
    problem with your line, we'll take on the fault. We'll tackle the
    problem and get it fixed within one month. If we don't then you can
    migrate away and owe us nothing for your migration to us and your
    service charges for that month"

    In reality this means that A&A will get a BT technician to work on the
    line. This technician will be able to identify whether their is
    aluminium anywhere in the connection, and ought to be able to resolve
    it. Nobody else will be able to do this, and probably they won't even
    have reliable information - it's not necessarily documented anywhere.

    Once the connection is made reliable, it may be evident that it is not
    fast enough. The options then are:

    1) Satellite - more expensive, potential problems with high latency

    2) FTTP via a leased fibre line - typical costs £1,000 per month plus
    £50,000 set up charge depending on site survey

    3) Move house.

    It may be possible to set up a point-to-point wireless link to a
    colleague who has a decent broadband connection. Line-of-sight is
    essential, and distances up to 50km may be possible. Serious costs.


    I am intrigued by the "telephony upgrade". I suspect this might be BT
    trying to sell a VoIP solution. This is laughable where the underlying
    broadband is ineffective!

    Your colleague should be very wary of this. It is likely the salesman
    will be very strong on the features, and have no knowledge whatever of
    the underlying technology. If at all possible you should attend the
    meeting to ask awkward technical questions. If you can't be there, it
    would be worth briefing an independent expert to help.

    Where is your colleague? Somebody here might be able to help ...
    Graham J, Mar 4, 2015
  4. JohnDavidson

    AnthonyL Guest

    There are ISP's who offer wireless eg

    About 15yrs ago before broadband was available in our rural location
    we were able to get on to Pipex wireless, 512k up and down. The later
    offerings are somewhat faster and not much more expensive that a
    quality fixed line ISP. Line of sight is needed though I had my own
    home wireless running over 400m quite reliably for many (~10 yrs).
    All requiring line of sight of course.

    Any business should be with a quality ISP such as A&A or Zen who have
    technical staff who can understand and access relevant data. With
    Zen's help I got my speeds up from a flaky 750kbits to a fairly solid
    1.5Mbits (yes we are a long way from the exchange and no-one in the
    village that I know of is bettering that).
    AnthonyL, Mar 4, 2015
  5. JohnDavidson

    Davey Guest

    On Wed, 04 Mar 2015 12:49:15 GMT
    I concur about Zen, very good people, willing to spend however long it
    takes to sort out a problem. Speaking English (well, Lancashire) is
    helpful, too.
    Davey, Mar 4, 2015
  6. JohnDavidson

    Martin Brown Guest

    Yes. The sales droids often have no clue at all.
    They tried to DACS my dedicated Redcare line once.
    Or at least telling him to sign no new contract and demand a working
    rural broadband connection with at least 1Mbps and stable before even
    contemplating giving them any more business.
    It might be worthwhile talking to your local or district council since
    each should have a broadband champion and some are knowledgeable - they
    may even know of schemes that are in the pipeline that might help.

    I may criticise SFNY from time to time but some of what they do for
    non-technical businesses looking to use the net is good...

    There should be something like this and a rollout map for superfast FTTC
    for your rural county too.
    Martin Brown, Mar 4, 2015
  7. JohnDavidson

    Graham. Guest

    I wonder what this telephony upgrade is?
    One option they may have is to try and find you a different pair of
    wires to the exchange and see if they fair any better.
    Perhaps that what they meant, but I have doubts.

    Are there any crackling or buzzing noises on the basic voice line?

    Has all unnecessary internal wiring been disconnected?
    ie extension sockets & external bells.
    You just want the incoming pair to terminate at a socket with an ADSL
    splitter>>router and phone.
    Graham., Mar 4, 2015
  8. The master socket should be as close to where the cable enters the
    building as possible. The router should be connected to the master
    socket using a filtered faceplate.

    With regard to the cable to the property, I would expect the best that
    can be done is to get Openreach to check, and if necessary remake any
    joints. I can't see them replacing any aluminium cable.

    A long term solution would be to start a Gigaclear project.
    Michael Chare, Mar 10, 2015
  9. JohnDavidson

    Martin Brown Guest

    Although that isn't a bad idea the difference that a few tens of metres
    of extra internal wiring makes compared to the *long* run back to the
    exchange makes little or no difference unless you route it parallel to
    your Ham radio transmission cable or mains trunking.

    I can't see the difference on the stats with or without 30m of high
    grade twisted pair between me and the master socket. I tried all
    permutations of filtered at the test socket, house wiring and high grade
    replacement wiring and the difference was less than 0.1dB which was the
    limit of measurement on the modem. No change in sync rate.

    I could see a huge difference by applying the bell wire hack to the old
    house wiring since we are close to a fairly powerful radio mast. This
    trick might be worth a try for the OP in a rural setting.
    They won't. Although they might try a bit harder if there is a local
    microwave service taking business off them. A neighbouring village with
    bad aluminium problems has been FTTC'd to chop the legs off a local
    entrepreneur's initiative to provide microwave high speed broadband.
    Given the OPs mates apparent lack of technical nous that is a complete
    non-starter. He might well be better off with satellite for business use
    in the middle of nowhere if there are no other alternatives.
    Martin Brown, Mar 11, 2015
  10. This point seems to come up every week or so now, and has already been
    covered many times. It's not just the few extra metres of cable length
    that need to be considered, but the fact that some of it may be of
    unknown provenance, particularly if it is an old house. DIY extension
    wiring may include branches that can act as RF stubs, bad joints that
    can act as rectifiers, and as you've pointed out, sections that can
    pick up indiced currents from other wiring.
    Neither can I, provided that's all it consists of, but can you always
    be sure? If you are a radio ham, you probably know more about RF
    wiring that most people, but in general the exact details of the
    internal phone wiring won't be known and there will be no point asking
    the householder, so it's best to play safe and keep the wiring simple.

    Roderick Stewart, Mar 11, 2015
  11. JohnDavidson

    Martin Brown Guest

    The incoming cable to the master socket is part of the BT installation.
    My installation fits the ideal espoused here with a mere 12" cable run
    inside the house from the point of entry but it is anything *BUT*
    convenient with the master socket conveniently located in the loft at
    the far end next to the cable entry point (makes sense for the alarm).
    Existing old house wiring can be extremely suspect and any testing
    should be done to the master socket with all other kit isolated if you
    are looking for a fault. That said on the other side of a filter it
    can't do all that much harm unless it is very badly installed.

    Putting unfiltered signal onto dodgy wiring is asking for trouble.
    No problem with keeping the wiring simple but there is nothing special
    about the BT cable entry point into the house - it does no great harm to
    put the master socket somewhere convenient.
    Martin Brown, Mar 11, 2015
  12. JohnDavidson

    Mark Guest

    It can do. It certainly did when I had ADSL.
    I had less than 30m of high grade cable and it made a considerable
    difference to the sync rate.

    Mark, Mar 11, 2015
  13. JohnDavidson

    Martin Brown Guest

    Do you use an arc welder or something?
    It shouldn't have done. Something was wrong - probably a bad connector
    somewhere partially rectifying the ADSL signal. That is the mechanism
    that makes aluminium wire connectors go bad. An oxidised contact or dry
    joint can play havoc with sync rate but with decent cable the extra
    length has to be 50m or possibly more to alter the noise margin.

    I didn't have enough 10m lengths lying around to drive my noise margin
    down by 0.1dB and could sync at the same speed on 1m or 30m provided
    that the cable was kink free and wasn't coiled up on a reel.
    Martin Brown, Mar 11, 2015
  14. JohnDavidson

    Phil W Lee Guest

    That is the reason why immediately after moving into this house, and
    before having the phone connected, I ran a good quality Cat5e cable
    from the "lozenge" just inside the front door to the place that I
    wanted the master socket to be installed (along with a number of other
    cables to run ethernet all round the house, that I preferred to
    install before decorating).
    When the BT engineer arrived, I pointed out where I wanted the master
    socket, and offered him free use of the cable, which he was perfectly
    happy to adopt. As a rule of thumb, the better the quality of the
    cable, the more resistant it will be to interference.
    It is worth making sure that any internal wiring does not pass close
    to anything which might be a major source of interference, or run
    close and parallel to a cable (such as mains) for any great distance.
    Given that many office installations of gigabit ethernet use dado
    trunking with mains and utp separated by a distance of 4", you have to
    be trying pretty hard to cause mains interference.

    A major source of interference can include anything with a motor in
    it, as well as some electrical thermostats and solenoids (so keep it
    clear of fridge/freezer and central heating electrics).
    I made sure that there were no extensions wired at all, by changing to
    a DECT system, plugged directly into the master socket.
    Phil W Lee, Mar 11, 2015
  15. JohnDavidson

    JohnDavidson Guest

    A colleague lives out in the countryside and has a small home office with a
    business broadband connection & telephony service provided by a well-known
    two-letter acronym. The broadband has been very poor for a long time
    (speeds of ½-¾ Mbps and frequent drop-outs) which haven't been addressed by
    replacement routers: they have half a dozen in a cupboard, along with
    countless filters.

    The service provider is telling them that their area isn't due for an
    upgrade in the foreseeable future and hasn't offered any practical solution
    so far, but they're sending out someone next week to chat about installing a
    telephony upgrade and have promised that this person can talk to them about
    broadband as well.

    So, in advance of that meeting, what can I reasonably advise my colleague to

    Can he, for example, enquire whether the lines are aluminium, and if so ask
    for them to be replaced by copper (and will that make a significant
    difference)? Is it possible that there is DACS on the line, and can this be

    Any suggestions welcome!


    I've now been to see my colleague (although the supplier's rep failed to
    show) and I have the router stats; I'd be grateful for opinions. This is
    from a BT Home Hub 3...

    Connection time: 0 days, 02:53:21
    Downstream: 2.117 Mbps
    Upstream: 587.7 Kbps
    Latency type: Fast
    Noise margin (down/up): 2.9 dB / 6.1 dB
    Line attenuation (down/up): 61.3 dB / 39.8 dB
    Output power (down/up): 16.6 dBm / 12.6 dBm
    FEC events (down/up): 0 / 0
    CRC Events (down/up): 11360 / 30

    Interestingly, was reporting 1.8Mbps today - more than double
    last week. However, the dropouts continue on a regular basis.
    JohnDavidson, Mar 12, 2015
  16. JohnDavidson

    Graham J Guest

    I too live in a rural location - and these figures look similar to mine.

    The downstream line attenuation here is virtually the same, and suggests
    the length of the phone line is about 4km. However here my noise
    margins are a bit better 6/13db - so your line may be a bit noisy.

    So dial 17070 and listen for noise - if there is any complain to the
    voice provider saying it is so bad you can't hold a conversation. Don't
    mention broadband - it will only confuse them. They shouod send an
    Openreach technician out who might be able to improve things.

    However my connection time is several hundred hours - it stays up except
    for lightning.

    Do all the things that have been recommended to increase reliabiliy:
    proper master socket, faceplate microfilter on that master socket,
    correctly wired internal extensions that can be isolated by removing the
    faceplate microfilter, connect router directly to faceplate microfilter
    using the short cable provided.

    Then change ISP to one who can be helpful. Ideally Andrews & Arnold, or
    Zen Internet, or Plusnet.

    Swap the router for a type known to maintain connection in the face of
    noise - I use Draytek but that's also because I use the LAN-to-LAN VPN
    facility. It might be better to use a make & model that works with
    Routerstats (only the old Draytek Vigor 2600 does; I have several if you
    want one to try) so that you can capture graphs about the reliability of
    the connection.

    Fundamentally the line is not fast enough for comfortable business use.
    So have ADSL provided on another phone line and use a router that
    provides load sharing; that way for most purposes you get double the
    bandwidth - and some improvement in reliability particularly if the
    failures are caused by problematic joints on the phone line or
    intermittent failures of the exchange equipment. So getting the second
    ADSL service from a different provider is worthwhile.

    You could provide a backup connection using a 3G dongle, but given the
    rural location I doubt that you get a 3G service from anybody despite
    what the coverage maps claim. I'm near Thetford in Norfolk and there's
    no 3G service in my village or anywhere until I get inside the Norwich

    I suggest a Vigor 2860 router with a V130 modem; this will connect to
    two ADSL services and a 3G modem plugged into its USB port. The V2860
    shows the ADSL stats from the V130 on WAN2 as well as the stats from the
    built-in modem on WAN1. By contrast their V2830n-v2 is claimed to but
    testing yesterday shows it does not, and the supplier can't tell me when
    they will have a firmware revision that does so.

    If your colleague is anywhere nearby I would be pleased to help.
    Graham J, Mar 12, 2015
  17. JohnDavidson

    Martin Brown Guest

    The line attenuation at 61dB is horrific! Is he connected to the
    exchange by ten miles of wet string or something? WTF isn't the marginal
    connection on interleaved if it is for business use vs gaming?
    (this would be about the first thing a competent ISP would do)

    I am curious about the odd reported sync speeds and low downlink noise
    margin. I wouldn't get anything at all on my line at 3dB - I only get a
    decent stable sync at 9dB but then I get about 5Mbps down and 448k up.
    6dB is supposed to be the nominal target noise margin.

    BTW 2112kbps is the nearest multiple of 32k for downlink.

    And to avoid insane rates of daily dropouts I need interleaved on rather
    than fastpath. If the Latency type fast was changed to "Interleaved"
    then his connection might be a little bit more resilient.

    If he has been complaining to his ISP about this stability problem and
    got nowhere then he really should look for a new competent ISP!

    Is highly relevant to his predicament on a long rural line.

    I take it the modem doesn't show Loss of Signal or Error Seconds :(

    Here are the stats from my router after a couple of days online for
    comparison. My line is approx 4 miles of elderly rural overhead and
    buried cable which dives under a beck on its way to the exchange:



    Line Status -- UP
    Link Type -- Interleaved Path
    Operation Mode Automatic G.992.1 (G.DMT)

    Data Rate Information
    Upstream 448 (Kbps)
    Downstream 4960 (Kbps)

    Defect/Failure Indication

    Operation Data Upstream Downstream

    Noise Margin 19.0 (dB) 8.3 (dB)
    Line Attenuation 27.0 (dB) 46.5 (dB)
    Indicator Name Near End Indicator Far End Indicator

    Output Power 12.1 (dBm) 19.9 (dBm)
    Fast Path FEC Correction -- --
    Interleaved Path FEC Correction 74904 87
    Fast Path CRC Error -- --
    Interleaved Path CRC Error 0 1799
    Loss of Signal Defect 0 0
    Fast Path HEC Error STR -- --
    Interleaved Path HEC Error 32 1495
    Error Seconds 95 0

    Received Data 17178129 (Kbits)
    Transmitted Data 3292510 (Kbits)

    My sync speed is usually just over the 5M threshold.

    The advice given elsewhere to put a modem on the line that is supported
    by Routerstats lite and graphically monitor the connection sync rate and
    SNR for a while still holds good. Then you can hit the rep with some
    clear graphical evidence of the lines instability.
    Martin Brown, Mar 12, 2015
  18. JohnDavidson

    chris Guest

    This has an aroma of REIN (Repetitive/Random Electronic Interference
    Noise) ... 11360 CRC's in 3 hours

    Below is the stats for my line which suffers REIN, very similar pattern.

    Downstream Rate Cap: 16352 kbps
    Downstream Atten. at 300kHz: 69.3 dB
    Uncancelled Echo: 16.7 dB
    VCXO Frequency Offset: 9.3 ppm
    Final Rx Gain: 34.5 dB
    Impulse Noise Comp. Tones: 0
    Excessive Impulse Noise: 0
    Impulse noise protection: 1.11
    Delay of latency path: 7.99

    Sync Speed (Down) 2279
    Speed (Up) 576
    Reported Attenuation 67.5dB (Line attenuation varies winter to summer
    67.2 - 69.0 (hot summer!))
    (Line length estimated at 7.8km)

    Living in a region from where Marconi's spark transmitter (circa1900)
    first "broadcast" across the Atlantic
    we now have the modern equivalent, a farmer with an electric fence. This
    causes anything between 600 Uncorrectable
    SuperFrame Block Errors - USFBE and 600,000 USFBE when the router gives
    up and goes down the pub. USFBE requires the
    re-transmission of data which causes problems with anything time related.

    Rain affects REIN we currently see .. wet days errors are low, dry days,
    errors are high .. bigger sparks?

    This is not the only REIN problem we have experienced. A LED Shaving
    light some 500metres away, across fields, used to knock us
    offline for between 20 and 40 minutes each day.

    Check out REIN on the web and have a router with good diagnostics -

    I use a 2Wire2700hgv and use routerstats-lite to monitor and plot the
    SNR and the USFBE.

    The old BT Business Hub 2Wire2700hgv is excellent, the same cannot be
    said of the 2Wire2702hgv

    Unfortunately trying to get BT OpenReach to investigate is like "pulling
    hens teeth". BT test equipment is not designed to detect REIN.
    If you are lucky and get a "switched on" BT guy, he might even discover
    the source of the REIN, (using medium wave 612KHz radio or similar) but
    BT don't have the authority to stop the REIN, they can only ask "nicely"
    BT say they only investigate REIN as a goodwill gesture. They are not
    allowed to reveal the source, due to data protection.

    Having had this problem for 18 months, I have reached stalemate with my
    ISP (Plusnet). Unfortunately the solution is at BT OpenReach level so
    moving ISP will not solve the problem.

    We are currently lobbying ministers to legislate to outlaw REIN and we
    hope BBC Radio 4 You & Yours Monday 16 March will have a feature on
    REIN, so we hear
    chris, Mar 12, 2015
  19. JohnDavidson

    Graham J Guest

    You don't show your SNR margin - what is it?

    For your loss of 67dB I would not expect anything like 2279 kbits/sec -
    more like 1500 kbits/sec, and the table at:

    .... would suggest your line is only about 5km. I know of an instance
    where an 8km line simply fails to get any ADSL signal, so I very much
    doubt your estimate.

    In another instance a line nearly 8 km long achieved reliable download
    sync at 256 kbits/sec with 83dB loop loss. Two Openreach guys worked
    their way along the line re-making all the intermediate joints, fitted a
    new master socket and faceplate filter, and were very pleased to get a
    reliable connection. This was Snetterton, the other side of the A11
    from the race track - so nothing remote!

    If you move to Zen or A&A they can almost certainly set the SNR margin
    higher than it currently is. Alternatively if you use a Vigor router
    you may find it does that for itself and negotiates a higher SNR margin
    with commensurate lower speed in order to maintain a reliable connection.

    At a location where Openreach explained a problem as being caused by
    REIN they would not even investigate the line - simply said there was a
    known problem in the area and the technician left having seen the error
    counts on his testgear. Happily that has been overtaken by events - the
    location now has FTTC and the line to the green cabinet apparently isn't
    affected by REIN. Personally I don't believe any of it - I listened for
    noise at 612kHz and could hear nothing, yet the router indicated an
    increasing Rx error count.
    Graham J, Mar 12, 2015
  20. JohnDavidson

    chris Guest

    To answer your questions: -

    The sync speed is 2279kbps at the moment with an SNR of 6.2dB, possibly
    helped by old cable which uses a larger diameter copper. (1.0mm cf 0.6mm)

    The line length is 7.8Km according to BT and having walked/driven the
    route to the exchange it is around 8Km
    The line is stable with connections lasting up to 6 weeks ....
    In fact the line will stay in sync down to 1dB or less .. the 2Wire
    router is the key!

    The current error rate reduces throughput due to data retransmission,
    confirmed by ISP.
    Whilst BT were investigating they found by switching of the source of
    the REIN the errors disappeared

    Increasing the SNR just reduces the sync rate. It does not reduce the
    error rate.
    In the current situation, the error rate does not affect the SNR. With
    the LED shaving light REIN, SNR dropped to nearly zero

    With respect to BT not investigating REIN ... they know they do have the
    authority to rectify the situation
    The investigation is just a goodwill gesture.

    The Minister, Ed Vaizey MP, believes all REIN cases are resolved.

    In both REIN cases I have experienced (LED shaving light and the
    electric fence) an AM radio tuned to 612KHz located the source.
    chris, Mar 12, 2015
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