Thursday, 10 March 2011

30% slower than broadband!!! WOOOT

Let me first phrase this post with 'I hate the technology writing on the BBC at present, the work they are doing is shoddy, misleading and sometimes just down right wrong' and this post is about just such an occasion.  I flicked into the BBC News site and into the Technology section this morning, as I normally do and was greeted with an instantly miss-leading headline banner:

"Home wi-fi '30% slower' than fixed broadband"

No shit wi-fi is slower than a physical wire!  This is so miss-leading its untrue, wi-fi by its nature is slower than a physical connection, especially in noisy office and domestic environments.  Heck in my street there are 5 wireless networks all on channel 4 alone!  (Guys in the New Brinsley area, please god move to other channels... but not the ones I'm on!).

But the BBC saying this, is plain scaremongering.  But I persevered and read on, and what the article is actually saying is that there is a "30% drop-off compared to the speed coming into the home [compared to the speed advertised by the broadband provider]".  Now, that is news worthy, it needs tackling, it needs pointing out to Ofcom.  But, the BBC headline completely leads the user away from that, with their pretty picture of a girl laying on the floor, without wires, using wi-fi to surf the net on her laptop.

The article then goes onto to shove its foot further down its own gullet with quote "people are voting with their feet and trading speed for the benefits of mobility" - Iain Wood, Epitiro.  That is a strong argument, people are trading the speed of their connection for the freedom of mobility.  Fair enough.

I know, and I'm sure you know, that what Iain means is that the wi-fi technology is intrinsically slower than the wired variety, therefore when they use wi-fi they are accepting wi-fi speeds, even if they know they have a 20mbit connection they know they only have a 10mbit wi-fi router (standard wireless-G routers are approximately 10mbits and are usually less when in a noisy environment).

Iain, I'm sure, is not saying this is knowing skulduggery by the ISP's [broadband providers] as the BBC are intimating with this article!  And indeed he goes onto explain the difference between the wireless speed and poor signal, and the broadband speed.  But instead of saying "they are different" they use the bullshit word "the disconnect between"... (gah, I hate this bullshit).

What is basically being explained, for those of you not in the know, is.  If you are paying for a big large download speed from your internet provider, and you are then plugging this into a Wireless-G router, you are simply not making all your pipe space reach your network.  I'd recommend you look at buying a Wireless-N class router, which provide much more space on the airwaves for your broadband bandwidth to be served in a bubble around your home.  However, beware, you don't just need a newer router, you also need each device on your network to be Wireless-N also.  If you are still using a laptop, or desktop PC, with just a wireless-G card, it will only suck wireless-G amounts of bandwidth out of the Wireless-N bubble your router provides.

And all this is totally different to the speed the ISP is actually giving.  If you are paying a premium for a large pipe, say 20mbits and are only using wireless you may never know your actual provided speed.  So, take your PC or laptop physically to where the broadband comes into your home and plug directly into the router with a wire.

The wire should then give you a much clearer idea of the actual speed you are getting.  You can search the internet for speed tests, one I use can be found here.  If you then take three or four traces of the speed of your connection, one early in the day, one mid-afternoon, one early evening and one late at night and find that the speed is consistently lower than that which you are paying for pick up the phone and complain.

Now, when you speak to your ISP they may use a term "ISDN" to you, or "PSTN" these two gangs of letter basically mean that "your broadband goes over telephone cables at some point" and telephone cables; bless 'em; are not designed or quiet enough for decent transmission of broadband data.  As such, you may find you're told you are "too far from the exchange" for a better speed.  This means that there is so long a physical wire from your home to the telephone exchange that your signal is too noisy and dirty to give you the full speed you are paying for.  In these cases you can bug the likes BT for some of their new longer range broadband technology.  Or you can look to go to a different supplier who give a solid copper wire direct to your door, such as Virgin Media.

Another fobbing off technique providers use is to tell you that they provide a fair usage quota, so that at busy times of the day, such as the early evening, they slow down connections so as to even out their bandwidth their end.  This is usually deep down in the small print of their contracts.  However, if you've had your broadband since before 2005 you can challenge this contractual item, as they usually didn't mention it when you took your service out with them!  Basically they imposed fair use quota's and speed limits after the explosive growth of the take up of broadband.  And usually your contract tells you nothing about it.  As such you are entitled to the service as advertised, or a refund.

If anyone in the Nottingham or north western Nottinghamshire area wants some help understanding their wireless set up feel free to drop me a line, for a small fee (or just a cup of tea) I can see what your set up is like and maybe explain how you might benefit from upgrades to your wireless for gaming, watching video or downloading.

And for god-sake, don't be sucked in by the piss poor reporting of technology from the BBC.

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