BT develops ‘I-Plate’ socket device to speed user broadband connections

Millions of UK households could potentially benefit from improved broadband performance, using a self-install filter

Millions of UK households could potentially benefit from improved broadband performance, using a self-install filter developed by BT Wholesale.

The patent pending innovation, called the "I-Plate" (meaning interstitial plate), filters out the electrical interference in the home caused by televisions, lighting and home wiring, which can often slow down an individual's broadband speed and affect the stability of their connection.

By fitting an I-Plate to the master phone socket found in the majority of UK homes, most customers should experience some broadband performance benefits, said BT.

BT's trials of the I-Plate have shown that filtered lines can deliver a range of broadband improvements, including faster speeds, a more stable broadband connection and slight improvements in broadband performance over "long lines".

To be eligible for an I-Plate, customers need to have a BT NTE 5 master socket and extension wiring in their home. BT estimates that seven out of ten UK homes have this type of master socket and home wiring, bringing the potential benefits of the I-Plate to about nine million households.

BT Wholesale will be making the I-Plate available to its UK communications provider customers from today. Consumers with the suitable socket and home wiring will be able to obtain the product from their communications provider.

As this is a new broadband product from BT Wholesale, communications providers are expected to take time to start offering the I-Plate to their consumer and business customers, BT said.

In a benchmark survey of 36,000 lines, BT found that filtered broadband lines typically showed a speed increase of up to 1.5Mbps, with some lines showing speed improvements of as much as 4Mbps. Higher speeds cannot be guaranteed in every case as the level of electrical interference varies greatly from line to line.

However, BT said the survey also found that the I-Plate can improve the stability of the broadband connection, so some customers can experience broadband performance benefits even when line speed is not noticeably increased.

Because I-Plates help with both broadband line speed and stability, they are particularly useful for supporting high bandwidth applications such as TV and video, allowing for faster downloads and better quality streaming.

The I-Plate can also extend the geographical reach of a broadband service by around 10dB. This means that homes which are some distance from their telephone exchange may receive an improved service, while others that were previously just beyond the reach of a broadband service may now be able to get one.

Cameron Rejali, managing director of products and services at BT Wholesale, said, "Most consumers are unaware of the impact that faulty TVs, fluorescent lighting and home wiring can have on their broadband performance. The I-Plate can help solve this, depending on the level of electrical interference within the home, delivering faster speeds, greater stability and bringing high quality IPTV to more consumers."

The I-Plate can be easily installed by consumers, avoiding the need for an engineer visit. The BT NTE 5 master socket can be easily identified by the horizontal split in the face plate and BT logo.

All consumers need to do is simply unscrew the face plate, clip the I-Plate in place in the socket and replace the face plate over the I-Plate.

The I-Plate works by filtering electrical interference created by TVs, lights and other everyday electrical equipment in the home. This interference is picked up by the bell wire, which forms part of the extension telephone wiring that runs around most homes.

The bell wire is a third wire which runs alongside the pair of wires that carry the telephony and broadband signal. It acts like a giant antenna picking up interference, which then bleeds over onto the broadband signals because of to its proximity.

This can cause significant loss of broadband line speed and stability. The greater the number of telephone extension sockets/the more electrical equipment in a home, the greater the problem can be.

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