A question often asked is "What is Broadband, and what's it like in Downton?", and one of our local experts, Paul Cornish, kindly offered to produce a Layman's Guide.
Guide to Broadband
This is a basic guide aiming to provide a one-stop reference to information about broadband.
How does it work?
All Exchanges in the UK have been upgraded by Openreach (wholly owned by BT but separate from them!) and connected using Internet technologies. Between the Exchanges and us (the poor user) are a variety of either above ground cables strung from telegraph poles or underground cables running in ducts. These fan out from the Exchange to green cabinets that are usually positioned by the side of the road. From the green cabinets yet more cables (above or below ground) finally connect to our houses and hopefully terminate in what’s called a Master Socket.
With this setup your broadband package is called something like ADSL/ADSL2 (or even copper) and the maximum speed you can expect is around 25Mb/s.
Now the good news from 2014 to 2016 most of the green cabinets in the village were upgraded to be Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC). There were three cabinets upgraded in early 2020. You’ll be able to spot these as they have vents in the sides and look newer than the original cabinets they typically sit beside. This upgrade meant that the longer connections between the Exchange and the green cabinet were replaced by fibre optic cables. Confusingly most of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs eg BT Retail, Sky, Vodafone etc) refer to this as fibre broadband. The FTTC upgrade meant that the maximum speeds increased to about 80mb/s. This you’ll get if you live almost next door to the new FTTC cabinets. Further away the speed reduces until at about 3kms it’s about 25Mb/s. Very, very few houses in Downton have fibre optic cables to their actual home (otherwise known as Fibre to the Premise or FTTP) – these offer speeds up to 300Mb/s.
Note all of these speeds are what BT Openreach expect you’ll get – they are maximums and do NOT take into account what happens inside your house.
If you want to see what speeds Openreach expect you’ll have – if you’re a BT Retail customer then enter your phone number into
and there you will see a page like this:
The figures in the blue box are for the Fibre to the Cabinet, in the yellow box are for a copper service and those in green must be enabled if you want to reliably receive streaming TV over BT. The red X at the top shows what Cabinet you are connected to.
What Happens inside My House?
Setting up the Broadband RouterThe connection with the Exchange ends at what is called the Master Socket. Very roughly everything between that socket and the Exchange is the responsibility of BT Openreach. Everything that happens after the Master Socket, ie inside the house, is the responsibility of the householder.
The Master Sockets have had many different types over the years – and what you can do in your house depends on what type you have. Handily
BT has a web page
- which explains what’s what.
If you’ve got ‘copper’ or ADSL broadband then you must use micro-filters wherever a phone or broadband router is plugged in. You can use the existing house phone extension wiring to position your broadband router away from the master socket.
If you’ve got ‘fibre’ broadband then firstly, you’ll need a newer Master socket and secondly the broadband router MUST be plugged into the Master Socket. If BT Retail is your ISP then you can ask them to install a free BT Infinity data extension kit so that you place your broadband router in a convenient place. You may have to push for this as some of the third party installers (those whose vans say ‘Working on behalf of BT’) are less aware of this BT option.
Connecting DevicesThe router has typically 4 ethernet sockets on the back so you can run Ethernet cables to your devices. Otherwise you’ll have to use wifi which is shared amongst every device that is using it.
Typically it is best to use Ethernet cables to connect up fixed key devices eg TVs, Game consoles etc and only use wifi for things you carry around eg mobiles and tablets.
You can also buy what are called powerline adaptors (eg Devolo or TPLink – here’s a guide https://www.techradar.com/uk/news/the-best-powerline-adaptors which mean you can use your 240v mains power cables to carry the Ethernet signals. This gives you more flexibility as to where to locate and connect devices up.
How many devices that are connected and how they are being used affects the speed for ALL users of your broadband.
Checking Your Speed
As you’ll have read different broadband packages offer different speeds. To check what speeds you should be getting, if you’re a BT customer then you can use the BT’s Broadband checker https://www.broadbandchecker.btwholesale.com/#/ADSL. If you’re not a BT customer then use whatever your ISP provides. Then you can check what actual speed you are getting using a Speed tester. The web site Think Broadband have a good speed checker [ https://www.thinkbroadband.com/speedtest]. If you register and provide your post code you can see what other users are getting. A useful comparison.
Speed RequirementsThe speed you require depends on what you want to do – the most demanding is watching videos – streaming. Cable.co.uk has an online guide - https://www.cable.co.uk/broadband/guides/broadband-streaming/ which outlines what’s required by package (Netflix, Disney+, BBC etc). Or HighSpeed Internet - https://www.highspeedinternet.com/resources/how-much-speed-do-i-need-to-watch-netflix-and-hulu. For standard definition (SD) streaming you'll need on average 2-3Mbps, for HD 5-8Mbps and for 4K UHD you'll need 25Mbps minimum.
These are the minimum requirements as the required speeds varies with what is being viewed eg 4K Live Sports requires greater speed. Also, note that these speed requirements are for EACH device that is streaming even if they are watching the SAME video.
If a member of your family is using a Games console they too will require some more bandwidth - https://www.highspeedinternet.com/resources/how-much-speed-do-i-need-for-online-gaming - about 5MB/s.
As you’ll soon discover having several members of the family each using their device in a different way quickly and dramatically increases the speed that is required. Watching 4K Live sports, someone else watching an HD Netflix video and someone else playing an online game quickly requires at least 35Mb/s.