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Broadband explained


There are many reasons to explain poor or non existent broadband speeds. Our services at Speednet Scotland are able to bypass all the situations and circumstances that can arise to cause this. Below is a comprehensive list of factors that can really affect your chances of achieving maximum broadband speeds. Slow broadband and speed variations can have many causes. Some of these are easy to fix yourself, others you have little control over. Below are some of the more common speed limitations over a fixed-line broadband connection.


If you live in a remote or rural location this will probably be the biggest reason for your poor speeds due to the lack of infrastructure and distance from your local exchange. Visit www.samknows.com on the link below to check your local exchange details. You will be able to see exactly where you are in relation to it.

Line length

Line length will effect your ability to get ADSL or your potential ADSL speeds. Although you may be a stone throw away from your nearest BT exchange your line might in fact be using another exchange much further away. Users with lines longer than 6km may struggle to even get a connection at all.

Poor line quality

Poor line quality can be caused by several things such as age, bad joins, corrosion and and water which will effect your copper pair’s ability to provide you will reliable connection.

Fibre line

Some telephone lines are provided partly over a fibre optic connection which stops you being able to get a broadband connection. This is known as TPON.

Poor internal wiring

If your phone line’s in good condition, you’ll get a stronger signal. The internal wiring in your home plays a key part, too. Once data travelling over the internet reaches your house, it still needs to reach your PC or laptop. Good-quality wiring, short cables and few extensions will all help to increase your broadband speed.


Your broadband speed will also be affected by the maximum number of people sharing the same internet connection to the broadband exchange as you. Many home broadband ISPs use something called a contention ratio. Contention ratios cap the maximum number of people that can share your local exchange. Contention ratios are often set at 50:1, which means there’ll be no more than 49 other people using your connection at the same time as you. Some providers (and ‘business packages’) offer lower ratios, giving faster web access. If lots of people are online it can slow your connection at certain times in the day. The impact of time of day on broadband speed is linked to the broadband contention ratio or an ISP’s broadband traffic management policies. More people tend to be online between 6pm and 11pm (peak times for many broadband ISPs). As a result, internet speed may be slightly slower at these times. See our contention ratio explained page for further information.

Broadband traffic management

Increasingly, home broadband ISPs are using other methods to manage bandwidth at busy times – often called ‘traffic shaping’ or ‘traffic management’.Traffic management systems don’t set a fixed contention ratio, but do mean that broadband speeds will probably be lower at busy times, especially if you’re putting high demands on the service – by downloading lots of big files, for example. Some companies may give priority to those on more expensive packages, so if you need to be sure of decent broadband speeds at peak times, it could be worth checking if a higher-spec package will offer you less restrictions. EU rules require broadband ISPs to provide their customers with clear information about their traffic management policies and any impact on service quality. A number of the UK’s biggest ISPs have signed up to a voluntary code on how to provide this information in a way that is understandable, appropriate, accessible, current, comparable and verifiable.

Internal usage

If several people within your own household are online and using the same internet connection at the same time, this may lead to slower broadband speeds. As the number of devices you can connect to broadband via wi-fi increases – such as smartphones or an ipod – this has the potential to put more pressure on your home broadband network.


How many tasks you’re carrying out online at the same time ? Internet speeds are likely to seem faster if you do only one thing online at a time. The more you try to do, the longer each individual task is likely to take. For example, if you’re downloading a TV show in the background using BBC iPlayer, this may make online speed slower when surfing from one web page to another.

Wireless router quality

Similarly, the better the quality of your modem or router, the faster your broadband connection. The best routers will transfer data quickly, maintain the wireless connection even over long ranges, and have excellent security settings.

Speednet Scotland sell our own N draft wireless routers and network mains adapters to maximise your internal configuration.

Websites visited

When lots of people try to look at the same web page at the same time, the server that ‘hosts’ the website has to work harder to ‘serve’ all those requests for the same page. If more people request web pages than the server can handle, it will slow down the broadband connection speed for that website – though it won’t affect the speed when you connect to other websites.

Floors, walls & doors

Brick, stone, concrete and metal all block wireless signals to some extent. If your house has thick walls (a lot of older houses have really thick walls) the range of your wireless connection may be reduced. Also, newer types of wall and loft insulation may cause issues, especially if it has any aluminium coverings etc. To compensate, position your wireless router carefully; work out where you want to use the connection most, and try to put it at the centre of this area. Place it away from walls and off the floor if possible. Another way to combat this is to utilise network mains adapters to boost signal across your house.

Other networks

If your neighbours all have wireless networks, you might encounter the equivalent of ‘congestion’. If you suspect this might be a problem, try changing the channel your router broadcasts on. This is a bit like tuning to a different radio station. You can do this on a lot of routers simply by turning it off, and then back on again. It will scan to find the best channel available. This can also be done manually so you can ‘fix’ your best channel.

Internal wireless signal interference

Wi fi and other types of wireless connections may perform poorly due to signal interference, which requires computers to continually resend messages to overcome signal issues. Other household electrical equipment can interfere with your wireless network. Things like Bluetooth equipped mobile phones, microwaves and cordless telephones can all affect the signal. This is usually only a problem when you have lots of items switched on at the same time. If you can’t work out why your connection’s slow, try turning off some other gadgets one at a time to see if it makes a difference. Also, if any of these gadgets sit beside your router, try moving them as far away from it as possible. You may find this alleviates your problem quite a bit. Lots of household objects can affect the performance of your wireless network. Mirrors reflect signals, fish tanks can weaken them significantly, and one survey in 2006 found that even Christmas decorations can be a nuisance. Large metal items can be particularly problematic. If you encounter poor wireless reception in a particular spot then imagine a straight line between yourself and the router. Is there anything in between that might be the cause of trouble? If so, try repositioning the router.

Computer virus or worms

An internet worm is a malicious software program that spreads through computer networks. If any of your computers are infected by an Internet worm, they may begin spontaneously generating network traffic without your knowledge, causing your Internet connection to appear slow. Run antivirus software regularly to diagnose and remove these worms and trojans from your computers.

Computer performance and spec

This is probably one of the most over looked aspects of slow browsing and it is potentially the most harmful to your experience. The speed of your internet will be determined by the efficiency and spec of your computer. If you PC is not running properly how can you expect it to handle vast quantities of data that needs to be processed quickly. Please visit our optimise your computer page for more information.

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