iPlate boosts broadband connections by 60%

iplateBT was quietly confident earlier this year when it told me that a £10 device would significantly increase the speed of many people’s broadband connections – and judging by our tests, it’s absolutely right.

iPlate boosts broadband connections by 60%

The iPlate (or interstitial plate, as its mother would call it) has boosted the speed of my home ADSL connection by a staggering 63%. Before I connected the easy-to-install device over the weekend, the actual throughput of my ADSL Max connection was averaging around 1.9Mb/sec, according to repeated tests at Speedtest.net. Now, that same speed test is reporting an average download speed of 3.1Mb/sec. All for doing nothing more than spending 10 minutes undoing a couple of screws and popping the plate in my master phone socket.

I should explain, for those that now rush to Broadbandbuyer.co.uk (who supplied our iPlates) and order an iPlate for themselves, that the speed increase didn’t happen instantly. In fact, straight after I’d installed the iPlate I rushed on to Speedtest.net and was crestfallen to find it had made absolutely bugger all difference to my download speed. However, I did notice whilst rifling my router’s settings that my modem’s synch speed – the maximum theoretical speed your physical connection can achieve – had risen from a paltry 2Mb/sec to a far healthier 3.6Mb/sec.

So why wasn’t I feeling the immediate benefit? Because BT automatically chokes the speed of your line to match your synch speed to improve connection stability – something which is known as your BRAS profile. A quick check on Zen Internet’s brilliant online customer portal confirmed that my BRAS profile was indeed stuck at 2Mb/sec. It can take up to three days for BT’s automated equipment to adjust your BRAS profile once your synch speed improves, but within 36 hours my BRAS had been adjusted to 3.6Mb/sec and I was surfing at vastly improved speeds.

And just to check it wasn’t a complete fluke, my colleague Jonathan Bray has been testing another iPlate on his home connection and has seen his actual throughput improve from 3.2Mb/sec to 4.9Mb/sec – an increase of 53%. In Jon’s words, it’s “gobsmacking”. I wholeheartedly agree.

How does it work?

The iPlate essentially dispenses with the bell wire – the wire that used to make old phones make that glorious, old-school ringing noise that morons now pay for as a ringtone on their mobile. Modern phones don’t need the bell wire, meaning it now does nothing more than inconveniently act as a conductor for any electrical interference in your home. Dodgy light fittings, central heating, microwave ovens, the old telly used by the family next door: all of them can generate electrical interference, creating “noise” on your line and subsequently hampering broadband speeds.

It’s perfectly possible to disconnect the bell wire yourself (a quick Google search will reveal several walkthrough guides) but this involves snipping wires. Get that wrong and you face not only a hefty bill for a BT engineer, but the indignity of having said engineer turn up at your house, take one look, suck his teeth and ask “what cowboy’s been meddling with this?”. The iPlate is a far safer choice for those who don’t know exactly what they’re doing.

Will it work for you?

There’s no guarantee, which is why you won’t be seeing this product given a full review in PC Pro. All we can report is our anecdotal evidence, which is very encouraging indeed, but others may get little or no improvement at all. Broadbandbuyer.co.uk claims that seven out of ten homes are likely to benefit from the device.

BT claims its trials showed speed increases of up to 3Mb/sec, with an average improvement of 1.5Mb/sec. We asked Zen Internet if it had any experience of customers using iPlates, and Neil Scott, from the ISP’s fault-management team told us: “In a small scale trial we performed with early test iPlates, the results where varied from no increase up to 1Mb/sec”. But if our experience is anything to go by, Zen may be a little on the pessimistic side.

The iPlate really only comes into its own for people who have their router plugged into an extension socket, rather than the NTE5 master socket. Scott also warns of several other instances of where the iPlate will have little or no effect, including:

– Where there is already an SSFP (Service Specific Front Plate) installed that separates the broadband and telephone signals

– Where the socket is a newly installed BT Openreach socket (with BT Openreach Logo)

– Where the line is newly installed, without the ringer wire included

        How do I fit the iPlate?

        The device really couldn’t be much simpler to install. An idiot could it. (An idiot arguably did do it, in fact). You merely unscrew the front plate on your NTE5 master socket, pop the iPlate into the socket, and then rescrew the front plate back on, using the (now necessarily) longer screws that are supplied in the packet.

        The only potential pitfall is the rather delicate wiring that is exposed when you unscrew the plate. Take great care not to yank any of those wires out, or you’ll probably be needing a visit from the same smug engineer that the DIY bell wire wreckers will.

        Where do I get one?

        Broadbandbuyer.co.uk is selling the iPlate for £10.80 (£14.81 inc VAT and delivery). BT also hinted that it and other ISPs might decide to dish these devices out to customers who are having problems with connection speeds and reliability, so it’s well worth phoning your ISP’s helpdesk first.

        Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

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