Why is my neighbour’s broadband speed much faster than mine?

This is an interesting question with a number of possible answers/solutions.

The first thing you need to do is make sure you are comparing apples with apples as there are a number of different services available each with different speeds.

Assuming that your broadband service is delivered over a standard telephone line then the main broadband service options are:

  • Original ADSL – 2 Mb/s
  • ADSL Max – 8 Mb/s
  • ADSL2+ – 20 Mb/s
  • VDSL2 (ie fibre to the cabinet) – 80 Mb/s

In the list above we have indicated the maximum download speeds (or bandwidth) for each service.

The actual speed achieved would depend on the distance of your telephone line from the exchange (or the street cabinet for VDSL2) and its quality in terms of interference generated by faulty cable joints etc.

If your neighbour is on the same service as you then you should be achieving roughly the same speed as him (or her) as you will both be about the same distance from the exchange (or cabinet).

Internet Service Provider

It is possible that your speed is slower than your neighbour’s because you have a poorer quality line or even that your service provider is for some reason “throttling” the speed of your service. Your internet service provider should be able to advise if either of these could be affecting your broadband speed.

If your internet service provider can’t see anything wrong with your service and they supply your router then they may go through some diagnostics with you over the phone.

Depending on the result of these diagnostics they may conclude that your router is faulty and send you out a new router.

Hopefully that will solve the problem.

BT Openreach

If your router is not the cause of your speed problem, or if you use your own router, then your internet service provider will probably offer you the opportunity to have a BT Openreach engineer look at the problem.

This may require a visit from the BT Openreach engineer to your premises and you would have to agree in advance to pay £130 in the event that a site visit is required.

[NB. BT Openreach maintain the equipment at your local telephone exchange and the cabling from the exchange to your premises. They operate independently of BT Retail and must offer the same service to all internet service providers.]

I strongly advise that you do not get BT Openreach involved until you are sure that the problem is not on your premises (ie behind the BT Openreach master socket). Otherwise you risk having to pay £130 and be no closer to resolving the slow speed problem.

When the BT Openreach engineer visits he would disconnect all your equipment and wiring from the line and plug his test equipment into the master socket test-point. If the engineer finds that there is a fault then it will be the responsibility of BT Openreach to fix the fault.

However, if the BT Openreach engineer finds there is no fault then the assumption is that the fault is with your equipment or wiring and it will be your responsibility to fix the problem. The £130 call out fee would therefore apply.

It is my experience that some BT Openreach engineers are very helpful and would help diagnose the problem, particularly if it is obvious and does not take too much time. However the BT Openreach engineer is under no obligation to do this and may have time pressures which prevent him (or her) from providing further assistance.

Equipment or Wiring Fault

As indicated above it is my recommendation that before getting a BT Openreach engineer involved you establish first if there is a fault with the wiring and/or equipment on your premises that is causing your speed to drop.

To diagnose the problem the first thing you should do is disconnect all your wiring from the master socket and plug your router directly into the master socket test point which is located behind the front plate of the socket. This may or may not be a simple task depending on your particular installation.

Please note that you should not use one of your existing filters in case it is your filter that is the problem. Instead you should buy a new one, or borrow one from a friend.

Unfortunately, if there is a fault with the wiring or equipment that you have just disconnected you may not notice a speed increase immediately.

The reason for this is that the broadband equipment at the exchange is likely to have adjusted automatically (downwards) to the fastest possible speed that your line can support and it can take a few days for the speed to increase on your line once it has detected that the fault has disappeared.

This could cause a problem as it may not be convenient to leave your wiring, filters and equipment disconnected for a few days., although you can plug a phone into the other outlet of your filter to give you some phone service.

After you have left your router connected for a few days with your wiring and equipment disconnected and it transpries that your broadband speed has not increased to that of your neighbour then you can be certain that you have a faulty router and you should replace it.

If the speed does increase then the conclusion is that you have faulty wiring or equipment and you would then have to follow a process of elimination to find out what is causing the problem.

This can be a time consuming, laborious exercise and you may want to seek help from an internet and telephone engineer who has the expertise, experience and equipment to test your wiring and equipment within a short period of time.

The things that you would have to test and eliminate include:

  • extension wiring;
  • alarm equipment;
  • broadband filters; and
  • attached equipment such as wireless access points, network switches and possibly extension phones.

I mention alarm equipment because we recently had a customer who had a broadband speed problem and we discovered that a recently installed alarm system had been connected to the telephone line before the master socket. This was causing problems not only because of the incorrect connection, but because it was not filtered correctly.

In our experience it is faulty filters that are the most common cause of broadband speed problem. Filters are essential to the correct operation of xDSL broadband services as they stop phone and broadband signals from interfering with each other.

Other common problems are poor extension wiring with breaks in the cable or thing such as carpet tacks creating a short circuit or intermittently breaking the cable connection. Fortunately this sort of fault is often apparent through poor quality telephone calls.

Another problem is that interference can be picked by the bell wire that is usually connected in most extension wiring. The bell wire is not essential for most modern phones and in fact the circuitry in ADSL filters make it redundant.

Our recommendation is therefore to remove the bell wire from extension wiring. The bell wire is connected to terminal number 3 in a standard extension socket.

If you would like assistance in establishing if there is a problem with your internal wiring or equipment then you should contact Premitel. Our charge for sending out a Premitel telephone engineer is significantly less than BT Openreach’s abortive call out charges!

If you do not live near Edinburgh then you should get in touch with a local independent telephone engineer.

Once your wiring and equipment have been given a clean bill of health you can be confident that the cause of your speed problem is with BT Openreach equipment or cabling. You can then request assistance from BT Openreach (via your internet service provider) without fear of an abortive call out charge

Other Issues

I should also say that even if your router, your wiring, your equipment and your filters are OK you may still suffer from a lower broadband speed than your neighbour.

The reason could be that your neighbour’s line may simply be of better quality than yours. Even a small difference in quality could cause a significant difference in broadband speed.

BT Openreach are under no obligation to ensure that your line quality the same as that of your neighbour. They just have to ensure that it meets their minimum standards.

Unfortunately xDSL broadband is not a guaranteed speed service. Guaranteed speed services cost significantly more than ADSL and use different technologies.

Get in touch with Premitel if you have a specific requirement or if you wish to discuss how your business could make better and more cost-effective use of its existing telecommunications and internet infrastructure and services.

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