How I improved my broadband speeds by 450%!

Yup, you read that right. A headline grabbing 450% speed improvement? Its true, but… read on.

I’ve been testing BT’s new Ultrafast Broadband service. This service is based on G.fast technology and offers download speeds of up to 330Mbps, and upload speeds of between 42Mbps and 50Mbps. But since the service was first installed (13th September  2017), the performance of my desktop PC has been very disappointing.

In my previous post,  I described my attempts at trying to improve the internet download speeds of my desktop PC. I carried out a few speed tests over several days and at different times of the the day.  But with a simple change I was able to improve the download speeds from 44.3Mbps to an average of 76.2Mbps, which is an improvement of 72%!  But the speed improvement is small and nowhere near the fastest speeds that the line is capable of. So what’s going wrong?

My self-built desktop PC is connected to the internet router (a BT Smart Hub X) using a wired network connection via a TP-Link AV200 (PA251) Powerline adapter. By replacing the TP-Link AV200 with the faster TP-Link AV600, I was able to improve my download speeds slightly,  to an average of 76.2Mbps (a 72% improvement):

AV200 V AV600
A 72% speed improvement was achieved by replacing the TP-Link AV200 with the faster TP-Link AV600.

But even this improvement is a far cry from the speeds I was able to achieve using the iPad (2017), which achieved speeds of up to 300Mbps! So why can’t my desktop PC perform like the iPad?

The poor performance of the desktop PC seems to be down to the use of the TP-Link Powerline adapters on my home network. The TP-Link AV200 adapter is now over five years old and has a data rate of 200Mbps.  The use of the newer TP-Link AV600 rated at 600Mbps didn’t improve speeds very much relative to the capacity of the line.

I could probably boost internet speeds further using a faster Powerline adapter (such as the TP-Link AV2000), but the difference in performance between the AV200 (which is almost 5 years old) and the newer AV600 (purchased 2016) would indicate that any performance gains are likely to be small. Furthermore, the TP-Link AV2000 Powerline adapters are not cheap, retailing at around £80.

The data rates 200Mbps, 600Mbps and 2000Mbps are the highest Powerline rates in theory, these are theoretical data rates. But home power line circuits are very complex and susceptible to interference from environmental factors and this can lead to a degradation in the performance of your home network. Electrical equipment containing electro-motors, such as washing machines and air-conditioning units, can generate interference and may even “cut off” Powerline connections.

In my earlier broadband speed tests, the iPad reached speeds of up to 300Mbps. This iPad supports the supports the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, which can only transmit over the 5Ghz spectrum. The Next-Gen 802.11ac Wi-Fi for Dummies describes this as supercharged Wi-Fi:

superchargedwifi

Could I achieve significantly better speeds using a 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter?

I purchased the TP-Link T9UH wireless USB adapter for around £28. The TP-Link T9UH supports the 802.11ac standard and attaches to the PC via a USB 3.0 connection:

Slide3

I performed a few speed tests using http://www.speedtest.net . The download speed went from 55.22Mbps on a Powerline AV200 adapter to over 303Mbps when using the TP-Link T9UH Wi-Fi adapter. That’s a speed improvement of 450%! Yup, you read that right.

bt4

Speed tests using the TP-Link T9UH Wi-Fi adapter.
Speed tests using the TP-Link T9UH Wi-Fi adapter.

What we can learn from this is that environmental factors in the home play a major role in the performance of your home broadband which should not be overlooked when trying to improve your broadband speeds. Only time will tell if these speeds can be maintained. I only have a few devices currently operating on 5 GHz, but in time there may be enough to cause some interference as the 5 GHz band gets increasingly crowded.

Here are some things to consider:

  1. Carry out speed tests on your line
  2. Talk to your ISP
  3. Update your browser
  4. Some electrical devices can cause electrical interference to your router
  5. Consider upgrading your router to the latest model
  6. Try wired rather than wireless (or try wireless rather than wired if using a Powerline adapter?)
  7. Use micro-filters to tackle phone line interference
  8. Plug your broadband router directly into your home’s main phone socket

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