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Standard User AdamInTheSticks
(newbie) Thu 19-Jan-17 12:48:01
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Ideas to improve broadband speed: 3G / 4G a good option?


[link to this post]
 
Hi,

Apologies in advance for this long first post!

I live in Ceredigion, a rural county in West Wales. My local exchange, Rhydlewis, was upgraded to ADSL back in 2004, after a couple of us campaigned for it (if I recall, we had to get a certain number of signatures, over 200 I think, from the local community). So, I started off at the usual 512kbps download speeds, before 2 years later being upgraded to ADSL Max - which is where we still are.

The exchange is a 20CN Market A / Market 1 exchange, which *has* been FTTC-enabled in February/March last year under the local BDUK scheme, Superfast Cymru (although only for 1 or 2 cabinets on the exchange so far, I believe - not sure how many cabs there are on this exchange, they seem to be rare around here): however, I'm one of the unlucky ones (one of many in the area) stuck on a long EO (Exchange-Only) line (my line is probably around 4km in length). At least I do usually get download speeds of between 2 & 3 Mbps these days (and recently, the router syncs at just over 3 Mbps), whereas others nearby are still sub-2Mbps - so I don't feel I can complain too much.

However - being stuck on ADSL Max, the upload speed is only around 0.3 Mbps - which isn't great for my 2 VOIP lines (the voice quality in calls does degrade sometimes quite a bit) or any "Cloud" services. So not ideal, especially when I mostly work from home as an I.T. Support Consultant (often using remote control software, similar to TeamViewer) and Web / Software Developer.

Also, being on a 20CN Market A exchange does limit ISP options (e.g. no LLU, so no TalkTalk, also no AAISP as they, along with many other ISPs now it seems, no longer accept customers on 20CN Market A exchanges) - also, as we are officially classified as a "sub 2Mbps" line, Sky (and no doubt soon, other ISPs) will also no longer accept us as customers - so I'm currently with PlusNet, who I'm actually pleased with thus far (I've been with them 18 months - before that I was an Eclipse customer, and before that, Pipex at the beginning of ADSL in our area). Of course, PlusNet (along with some other ISPs) charge us more for our ADSL as we are not in their "low cost area", so yet another disadvantage.

The Welsh government "Superfast Checker" used to show me as "In Scope" when I checked against my line number - which did give me hope! However, since September, my "Fibre Journey" had firmly gone into reverse gear, and now shows as "We are exploring solutions"! It's only then that I realised for sure I was on an EO line. Oh well...

I've got a nice router - a DrayTek Vigor 2860 Vac, that can use both ADSL and VDSL, so is future-proofed, just in case we ever do get fibre! It also can use a 3G/4G "dongle" or other Ethernet WAN link for load-balancing or "fail-over", plus has 2 built-in VOIP (FXS) ports, which is great.

My current router DSL stats (as of 18th January) are as follows:

ATU-R Information
Type: ADSL2/2+
Hardware: Annex A
Firmware: 05-07-02-08-00-01
Power Mngt Mode: DSL_G997_PMS_L0
Line State: SHOWTIME
Running Mode: G.dmt Annex A
Vendor ID: 00000000 00000000
ATU-C Information
Vendor ID: b5004946 544e82b1 [IFTN]

Line Statistics

Downstream Upstream
Actual Rate 4000 Kbps 448 Kbps
Attainable Rate 4096 Kbps 1124 Kbps
Path Mode Interleave Interleave
Interleave Depth 64 8
Actual PSD 19. 6 dB 12. 3 dB
Near End Far End
Trellis ON ON
Bitswap ON ON
ReTx 0 0
SNR Margin 8dB 22dB
Attenuation 51dB 31dB
CRC 2166 195
FECS 1685428 s 1674 s
ES 1028 s 149 s
SES 0 s 32 s
LOSS 0 s 24 s
UAS 0 s 0 s
HEC Errors 0 89
RS Corrections 0 0
LOS Failure 0 0
LOF Failure 0 0
LPR Failure 0 0
NCD Failure 0 0
LCD Failure 0 0
NFEC 136 134
RFEC 16 8
LYSMB 136 1072


Do these look generally ok?

The router is connected to an ADSL Faceplate (with built-in micro-filter) directly in the Master Socket. So I think I've optimised as much as I can for now, as far as I can tell.

Anyway - somehow I doubt that we'll ever get improved fixed-line broadband (and I expect in 2020 we'll just get a USO voucher for a Satellite installation - yuck!) - *unless* we get a new cabinet in our local hamlet (Bwlchygroes) - and, as far as I can tell, there's no possibility of FTTP from the Rhydlewis exchange - so, finally getting to the point:

What are my options for improving my broadband connection speeds?
Also, are there any other fixed-line broadband technologies on the horizon that may in future help in long-line rural situations? Would LR-VDSL help in this situation, for example?

Some people would say "why not move house"? Well, that may well happen within a few years - but at the moment, for various reasons I won't go into here, it's not an option. Plus, the fact we don't have a good broadband link here will become an increasing deterrent to prospective house buyers anyway!

As far as I can determine, the best bets (in order of preference), are:

1. Use a 3G / 4G LTE connection to supplement my current fixed-line ADSL (although the 3G/4G coverage here is marginal at best).

2. Sign up to a local WISP for FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) - there are a couple of WISPs fairly nearby, BlueWave Internet and ResqNet, but I'm right on the Northern border of their range, and possibly out-of-range: I did ask BlueWave Internet for some information 2 or 3 months ago as I had a leaflet flyer from them in the post, they said they'd do a "drive-by survey" and get back to me: but I've never heard anything back since, so far. Does anyone have any experience with BlueWave or ResqNet? We are in a fairly hilly area, between 250-300m above sea level, with quite a few surrounding trees - so I expect LOS (Line-Of-Sight) issues may be a potential problem anyway for FWA, even if we are within range of any masts.

3. Using a Satellite connection (which would, from my research of the subject, be a real last resort, unless Satellite Internet Access has improved a lot in recent years or will do so soon...).

Things like a leased line are way too expensive for me (as a very small home-based business) to consider, and as yet I don't think there's enough interest locally for a community-funded fibre or FWA solution (although that could change in the future - it would be something I can explore maybe in time).

Also, having an extra land-line installed and bonding the 2 together would only get me to around 6-7Mbps down / 0.6Mbps up at best, which is not really worthwhile considering the extra expense of a 2nd line rental & ISP subscription. Plus - some ISPs that make line-bonding easier (e.g. AAISP) are not an option, as they don't supply to 20CN Market A customers.

So - my preferred "DIY" option, for now, would be to explore using a 3G/4G connection to supplement my ADSL.

The problem is that I live in a marginal 3G/4G area, with just "glimpses" of a 4G signal from EE, which has the best coverage in our area (followed by Vodafone) - indoors I usually have a poor 2G signal, which sometimes changes to H or H+ near windows (and this almost always have sub-1Mbps download speeds, sometimes even under 0.1Mbps!), although upload speeds can approach (or occasionally exceed) 1Mbps - which is a good improvement on my ADSL 0.3Mbps upload at least. I have had occasional "glimpses" of 4G indoors, but this lasts only for 2 or 3 seconds before reverting to 2G or 3G, so not long enough for a speed test.

Outdoors - we're supposed to be in an area with "Good outdoor coverage, weak or no indoor coverage" for 4G (and "Weak outdoor coverage, no indoor coverage" for 3G), according to EE's Coverage Checker. However, it seems the reverse to me is true! In most places my phone just shows "G", although this changes in quite a few areas to "H" or "H+" (still with poor speed test results though). *However*, there is a small area on our land, around 30-50m from the house, where I can usually (although not always - depends on weather, etc) pick up a 4G signal - and SpeedTest.net has given download speeds of around 15 - 30 Mbps, and upload speeds anywhere 2 - 15 Mbps!! Which for me, is amazing! I haven't yet explored all of our land (some 3 acres) for better 4G signals, so will do this in due course.

In fact, EE's coverage checker for my Post Code has changed in the last few days - it used to show "Weak outdoor coverage, no indoor coverage" for 4G. After some digging, it seems EE have boosted the 1800MHz band (LTE Band 3) a bit, as it's now showing a strength value of 2 (was 1 around a week ago and before):

var tmpCoverageResponse = {"gotSuggestions": false, "gotSingleGeo" : true, "suggestions" : [], "singleGeo" : {"title":"SA444TA","lat":"52.09707","lng":"-4.369381"}, "layers" : [ {"type" : "2G", "strength" : "2", "selected" : true} , {"type" : "3G", "strength" : "1", "selected" : false} , {"type" : "4G800", "strength" : "1", "selected" : false} , {"type" : "4G1800", "strength" : "2", "selected" : false , "highspeed4g" : false}, {"type" : "4G2600", "strength" : "0", "selected" : false} , {"type" : "4GPlus", "strength" : "0", "selected" : false}] , "lastUpdated" : "09 January 2017 12:00 AM", "paths" : { "layer2g":"/geowebcache/service/gmaps", "layer3g":"/geowebcache/service/gmaps", "layer4g":"/geowebcache/service/gmaps" } };
updateMobileCoverage();


However - the signal on my phone has not improved at all. So I'm wondering if they update the coverage checker & map before the make any actual changes to the cell masts?

Bear in mind, all these signal readings and speed tests are on my WileyFox Spark X Dual-SIM smartphone, which probably doesn't have the best radio or antenna compared to other phones. Also, from doing some research, it seems that dedicated 4G routers will usually pick up signals better than most phones. And a step-up again can be gained from using an external antenna.

So - would it be worthwhile for me to purchase a 4G LTE router, does anyone think?

I was looking at the TP-Link Archer MR200 as a possible first choice, followed by the more expensive Huawei B315 as a second choice. I've ruled out the D-Link DWR-921/B as another option, as apparently it doesn't support IPv6, and is causing issues with EE SIMs.

At the moment - I'm leaning towards the TP-Link Archer MR200, as it has 2 external LTE antennas, which may provide a better connection in poor signal areas than the internal antennae of the Huawei. Does anyone have any opinions or experience of these routers?

Of course, it may be that I can't get a signal in my area at all without an external antenna - in which case, I was considering the Solwise 4G-XPOL-A0001 omni-directional antenna as an add-on option.

My main concern is that, after spending money on a 4G router and external antenna, I *still* may not get a reliable 4G connection (or one at all!), as I'm in a very marginal signal area (at least, according to my phone).

If it *does* work though - I can see that a 4G connection would provide a nice boost to speed, and I've got the option to use a PAYG SIM, or a monthly contract. Although the problem with 4G connections is the data caps (and on my ADSL, I could use anything from 30Gb to 100Gb downloads in a month, at present - one thing PlusNet does provide me is unlimited uploads/downloads, which is very rare for a 20CN Market A link, as far as I know), at least I could use it just for the occasional times when speed becomes extra important (e.g. urgent downloads or uploads, occasional streaming, some remote access tasks), and still using my 2-3Mbps ADSL link for usual day-to-day tasks otherwise. Having a 4G link would also provide a very useful backup link ("fail-over") if there are ever any problems with my fixed line broadband (even if, by some miracle, it does get upgraded to FTTC or FTTP).

I would be happy with a downstream speed of 10Mbps and upstream of 1Mbps (even happier with more, of course!). At least that would meet the forthcoming 2020 USO figures.

So - does this sound like a feasible option for me and others in my locality in a similar position? I wish I has a better 4G phone or could somehow hire some kind of 4G LTE signal test kit though, to investigate the local area and provide me with a bit more confidence that I wouldn't be wasting my money on purchasing a 4G router & antenna!

Maybe it's just the fact that I've got to bite the bullet and just buy the router (and maybe external antenna) just to find out if it's feasable!

Are there any other suitable options for improving broadband speeds in areas where fixed-line links are unlikely to be upgraded?

Apologies again for the "essay" (if you've read this far!), I just wanted to provide some background information in my first forum post.

Many thanks.

Kind regards,

Adam.
Standard User RobertoS
(elder) Thu 19-Jan-17 13:11:23
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Re: Ideas to improve broadband speed: 3G / 4G a good option?


[re: AdamInTheSticks] [link to this post]
 
One possibility re your upstream speed is to enquire if Plusnet, (and BT!) still offer the ADSL Max Premium product. That would give you the same downstream speed, but 832kbps upstream. Plus IIRC a higher priority in the BT Wholesale backhaul for both those.

Some of the smaller ISPs may also offer this, but if you want unlimited downloads can get expensive. Around 30GB peak time and unmetered off peak they are reasonably priced.

Kindness isn't going to cure the world of all its awfulness but it's a good place to begin. Daisy Ridley.
My broadband basic info/help site - www.robertos.me.uk. Domains, site and mail hosting - Tsohost.
Connection - AAISP Home::1 80/20. Sync 54999/14466Kbps @ 600m. BQMs - IPv4 & IPv6
Standard User huwwatkins
(committed) Thu 19-Jan-17 13:19:45
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Re: Ideas to improve broadband speed: 3G / 4G a good option?


[re: RobertoS] [link to this post]
 
You can add Max Premium by going to this link:

trials.plus.net

Its something like £7 extra a month and got added to my account in around 24 hours. Not sure if you would get the full benefit on a line that length.

Edited by huwwatkins (Thu 19-Jan-17 14:01:13)


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Standard User RobertoS
(elder) Thu 19-Jan-17 14:10:43
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Re: Ideas to improve broadband speed: 3G / 4G a good option?


[re: huwwatkins] [link to this post]
 
Attainable is showing 1124kbps.

Kindness isn't going to cure the world of all its awfulness but it's a good place to begin. Daisy Ridley.
My broadband basic info/help site - www.robertos.me.uk. Domains, site and mail hosting - Tsohost.
Connection - AAISP Home::1 80/20. Sync 54999/14466Kbps @ 600m. BQMs - IPv4 & IPv6
Standard User 23Prince
(experienced) Thu 19-Jan-17 14:45:02
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Re: Ideas to improve broadband speed: 3G / 4G a good option?


[re: huwwatkins] [link to this post]
 
I always understood Max premium to be 832kbps upload. £7.83 a month

Edited by 23Prince (Thu 19-Jan-17 14:45:42)

Standard User AdamInTheSticks
(newbie) Thu 19-Jan-17 15:23:12
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Re: Ideas to improve broadband speed: 3G / 4G a good option?


[re: 23Prince] [link to this post]
 
Many thanks RobertoS, Huw & 23Prince...

Ah yes, I had completely forgotten about "Max Premium" - thanks for the reminder (and the direct link Huw).

To quote the PlusNet trial site:

A lot of customers need to upload at a faster speed, such as uploading photos and videos, the standard Max product allows upload speeds of up to 448kbps, Max Premium offers up to 832kbps.

Max Premium is available to Residential broadband customers for £7.83 (inc. VAT) per month.


Also, it seems there's only a 30-day notice period to cancel it too (so it's on a "rolling monthly contract" basis).

It would upgrade my upstream speed to 832kbps (which, as RobertoS points out, looking at my attainable rate of, well it's now actually showing 1116 kbps - seems my link has recently re-synced and the downstream is now showing as 4320 kbps, the highest ever, yippee! [SpeedTest results are now 3.3 to 4.1Mbps downstream, which I've never seen before!]), which may well help the VOIP lines and of course upload in general.

(EDIT: The Thinkbroadband speed tests are, over a few tests, showing an average download of around 3.3 Mbps, and upload of 0.3 Mbps, which is closer to what I have been getting recently - so I think SpeedTest.net was probably being a bit over-optimistic - however, I was getting 2.5 to 2.8 Mbps downstream a month ago, so something on my line seems to have improved recently!).

So, I think "Max Premium" is definitely worth considering - I'll remember this option, and probably try it out soon.

Many thanks once again. smile

Edited by AdamInTheSticks (Thu 19-Jan-17 15:41:32)

Administrator MrSaffron
(staff) Thu 19-Jan-17 16:21:12
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Re: Ideas to improve broadband speed: 3G / 4G a good option?


[re: AdamInTheSticks] [link to this post]
 
You are on the old school IP Profile system that is slow to update, so line connection speeds can be high and IP profile limiting you

The author of the above post is a thinkbroadband staff member. It may not constitute an official statement on behalf of thinkbroadband.
Standard User AdamInTheSticks
(newbie) Thu 19-Jan-17 18:58:24
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Re: Ideas to improve broadband speed: 3G / 4G a good option?


[re: MrSaffron] [link to this post]
 
Thanks Andrew, ah yes, I had forgotten that my IP Profile may take a while (a few days even) to update.
Another feature of ADSL Max!
Standard User RobertoS
(elder) Thu 19-Jan-17 19:48:19
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Re: Ideas to improve broadband speed: 3G / 4G a good option?


[re: AdamInTheSticks] [link to this post]
 
Assuming you are quoting us the Actual Rate, not the Attainable, a rise from 4000kbps to 4320kbps doesn't give an IP Profile increase frown.

Kindness isn't going to cure the world of all its awfulness but it's a good place to begin. Daisy Ridley.
My broadband basic info/help site - www.robertos.me.uk. Domains, site and mail hosting - Tsohost.
Connection - AAISP Home::1 80/20. Sync 54999/14466Kbps @ 600m. BQMs - IPv4 & IPv6
Standard User AdamInTheSticks
(newbie) Thu 19-Jan-17 21:47:12
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Re: Ideas to improve broadband speed: 3G / 4G a good option?


[re: RobertoS] [link to this post]
 
Thanks for the info, RobertoS.

Yes, currently my router is showing both Attainable *and* Actual Downstream rate to be 4320 Kbps. Which, according to your very useful table of IP Profiles, puts me firmly in the 3500 profile - which is why I'm generally getting Speed Test results of between 3 & 3.5 Mbps downstream (3.3 Mbps on average).

Still, anything 3 Mbps and over is very good for my line, compared to what I was getting just over 2 years ago just before I fitted the ADSL Faceplate (it was around 0.5 Mbps down & 0.2 Mbps up prior to the faceplate - and jumped to around 2.8 down after!).

(EDIT: for clarity - if I recall correctly, I was having some line issues just prior to when I fitted the ADSL faceplate - I seem to recall that speeds before these problems were usually within the 1 to 2 Mbps range for downstream: so installing the faceplate did provide a substantial boost anyway).

However - this is not really sufficient for longer-term future needs, I can get by with it for now, but this is why I'm investigating alternatives to boost my internet connectivity (in the absence of any FTTC/P possibilities) - with my main focus on 3G/4G and FWA at the moment.

Thanks again.

Edited by AdamInTheSticks (Thu 19-Jan-17 22:22:17)

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