New Telus diagnostic tools improve Skyway ADSL service and support

04. September 2012 Internet Support 2

I have some exciting news to share in this month’s blog post. Telus has recently made available new tools that help us manage our clients’ ADSL connections. While the standard ADSL limitations remain we can now reset and play with port settings to achieve best performance possible from your ADSL connection. What used to involve a Telus “trouble ticket” and a four hour wait, can now be done in just a few minutes!

Limitations to ADSL you say?

Both Cable and ADSL have their limitations. The issue with cable is that service can, if enough people are using it, bog down and slow to the point that it isn’t much better than a dialup modem. The main limitation with ADSL is that the quality of service degrades over distance.

ADSL works by connecting an ADSL port to an ADSL modem or router via copper wire. This connection is called a loop and it works similarly to a standard electrical circuit.

Attach one piece of wire to the positive end of a battery and another to the negative. Now attach the other two ends to a light bulb and you make an open circuit (or loop). Note that the brightness of the light will correspond to the amount of power the battery is capable of providing to the bulb and the length of the wire you are using. Increase the length of the wire (admittedly, you’ll have to use a fair bit of wire), and you’ll see the bulb start to dim. To resolve this problem and get the bulb burning as brightly again you need to add more power. What causes the bulb to dim over distance is called resistance. Resistance, in the case of our model, is the force that is slowing electrons down as they pass through the wire. You might also think of resistance as friction.

This example works well to describe the limitations of ADSL. In this case, the battery is the Telus port and the light bulb is the ADSL router at the other end of the wire. If the distance between the two is short then we can offer our customers the fastest speeds available to us. If we lengthen the loop to the maximum (about 3 Km) we are adding resistance, so we have to increase the power of the signal sent between the ADSL port and router to overcome this resistance so they can continue to communicate. In this case the resistance is referred to as “signal noise”. When the distance is too great, the ADSL port and router can no longer “shout” over the noise, resulting in ADSL failures. The only ways we have to combat the problem are to slow the connection down (i.e., dimming the bulb intentionally), reducing the noise and/or playing with settings to find an optimal “sweet spot” for a stable service. This brings me to the tools that Skyway West can now access.

The New ADSL Toolkit

Telus has given us two new tools in addition to one we’ve had for a while which allows us to see the current live status of the port attached to your connection. This tool shows your sync status (can the ADSL port see the ADSL router?), signal strength and some other statistics associated with the current operation status of the port. We’ve been capturing these details for years from the router’s perspective but it is nice now (not to mention helpful), to see the picture from both sides – especially if the service in question is down and unreachable.

The first of the new tools gives us the ability to reset or restart the ADSL port, useful if restarting an ADSL router does not restore a connection problem. It is also useful in that it helps us determine if Telus has made an error with their port assignment. Restarting the port means loss of sync. If we restart the port and the ADSL router does not go down there is a high probability that Telus has made changes and need to revisit those changes to correct the problem.

The second new tool is the Port Tweak Tool. I’ve been playing with this over the last couple of weeks and have to say, while it isn’t yet perfect, it is an amazing and powerful tool for improving ADSL performance. I receive a report every morning of problematic ADSL services and the tool lets me resolve them immediately without having to endure the cumbersome process of opening a ticket with Telus. I am now going through the whole Skyway West customer base, determining the optimum settings for each client, applying those settings to their service and watching the results. While some clients may not notice much difference, some have already commented — unaware that I have been tweaking their settings — that their services have perked up considerably.

The settings I can change depends on the type of ADSL port the service is using. There are several types running on Telus’ network and each type can yield different change options. Here are some of the highlights (note that distance and other limitations may further limit the choices for settings options):

Speed: Yes, in most cases I can adjust the speed up to the fastest speed available to us.

Latency: Latency refers to the time it takes for a packet of information to get to an endpoint and/or come back. The faster the latency the more energetic a service will be. The caveat is that increasing the latency can lower the stability of the service so care is warranted when deciding on a latency tweak.

Signal strength: Lastly, on certain ports we have the ability to choose signal strength. As mentioned above, signal strength controls how loud the ADSL port and router need to “shout” at each other so they can be heard over background noise.

To sum up, we’re very happy about these new tools. It’s been very rewarding to discover services that could be working better, apply a tweak to them and see them come back up with better performance numbers than before. Access to these tools has also meant that in many cases we’ve been able to reduce any client downtime. These tools also tend to lead us to the correct solution of a problem more quickly and we’ve greatly reduced the number of tickets that we’ve had to wait on from Telus.

Got a question or an idea for a topic you would like to see covered in one of my upcoming blog posts? Write to support@skywaywest.com and sound off. I’ll do what I can to address your questions or concerns either personally in a reply email or on the blog. Until next month, take care.

— Wes


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