Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Increasing Your Internet Speed by: Chris Holgate

I've been writing just recently about slow broadband connections and discussing common methods used to improve line speeds. This week I was pointed in the direction of a little device which claims to potentially increase the speed of your broadband connection for just under £7.

The BT iPlate can be used by broadband customers who have more than one telephone sockets in the house. The iPlate has a small plate which is installed in to the master socket and attempts to reduce interference in the extension wiring in the home.

It works by cutting out the 'bell wire' cable on your line; originally this would have been used by older telephones to allow a physical bell to ring however modern day handsets have a ring feature built in and, as such, it is now redundant. Ideally, (but somewhat impractically) the bell wire would be removed from your home by a BT engineer as it now only serves as a conduit for line interference.

By using the iPlate the bell wire is choked, therefore potentially improving the signal to noise ratio (SNR) of your connection which in turn should have a knock-on effect on the line speed.

The iPlate is only suitable for customers who have the most common BT NTE5 style master socket; these consist of a split face plate with a single phone connection. The bottom section can be unscrewed independently from the top of the socket which should have the BT logo embossed on it.

It is NOT suitable for master sockets which display the BT OpenReach logo, have two phone connections, or don't have a split in the faceplate. Also, ensure that you are examining the master socket and not one of the extension sockets.

Installation is simple; you unscrew and remove the lower section of the master socket, install the iPlate in its place, then reinstall the lower section of the master socket on top of the iPlate. From start to finish this process will take no more than a couple of minutes.

Before installation I would recommend performing a speed test using a website such as www.speedtest.net as this will let you see the improvement if any. Leave a couple of days before testing the line post installation as it can take up to 72 hours for the exchange to acknowledge that your potential speed is faster. This limiting factor is referred to as a 'bRAS profile' which is designed to reduce the traffic bottle necking at the exchange as a result of it attempting to transmit data faster than the line can handle.

Fortunately our home doesn't have a bell-wire or any extensions as we ripped out the old line when we bought the house and a single socket was then installed in a different location with none of the redundant bell wire reconnected. As such, I have been unable to test it personally but the general independent consensus is that although it doesn't make a difference in all home installations, there is the potential for many users to make quite considerable speed gains with 1.5mbps increases proving relatively common.

As I said, the theory is sound and for £6.63 including delivery (www.shop.bt.com) or free if you're a BT Total Broadband customer (visit www.bt.com to order), the iPlate has got to be worth a punt. Of course, you will only see an improvement if the wiring is a factor that affects your line speed. If you don't see any improvement then you can simply pass the device on to a friend.


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