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ISP Zen Internet Calls on UK Government to Tackle Broadband Noise

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013 (11:53 am) - Score 2,322

Broadband provider Zen Internet has today called upon the Government to get tough on the causes of Repetitive Electric Impulse Noise (REIN), which references a type of electrical interference that can disrupt the performance and stability of consumer broadband services (e.g. ADSL and FTTC lines).

The problem with many REIN faults is that they sometimes occur outside of both the ISPs and infrastructure providers (e.g. BTOpenreach) ability to resolve. For example, related “noise” can be caused by nearby high-speed trains, faults in a power system (e.g. TV adapter), old-style twinkling Christmas tree lights and the list goes on.

Most of the time this isn’t a concern but the introduction of extra noise occurring on the same band of radio spectrum frequencies as your broadband will often disrupt the connection, which over time may significantly lower your speeds and or trigger multiple disconnections. Sadly pinpointing the exact source is extremely difficult and even when you can then the rules are far from perfect.

Gary Hough, Zen’s Regulatory Manager, said:

Currently no one polices or looks after the frequency range that is used to make your connection work. In the last government reshuffle, this important issue that has the potential to affect every circuit in the country, was essentially parcelled off and responsibility handed over to the BBC who unfortunately have no mandate to sort out Broadband, or reason to do so, quite understandably.

If the government gave regulatory powers to one of its agencies to identify and compel people to fix their broken electrical devices, REIN faults could then be fixed and we would have a solution. Currently people who have these types of faults affecting them and who have exhausted all avenues with their ISP have little option but to complain to their MP and hope their involvement gets the 3rd party causing the problem to kindly resolve it.”

Furthermore Zen Internet also suggests that the industry standard Access Network Frequency Plan (i.e. the spectrum management plan for controlling interference within a metallic access network) could be added to the “somewhat out-datedSIN349 document, which defines the minimum standard for both how well your phone calls will work on your land line and how fast and stable your Internet connection is (sort of).

Gary Hough added:

This would allow all ISPs to measure a line’s capabilities for broadband services and help the national operator, [BTOpenreach], fix broken lines in a much more effective and efficient way.”

In theory a change like this could be very useful but we can imagine that some operators might have concerns about refining the standard. Meanwhile tracking down the precise source of REIN or even identifying whether or not a fault has been caused by such noise in the first place would remain extremely difficult, although no doubt the processes and procedures could be improved.

On top of all that there are some complex legal and social problems, such as how you politely go about getting your neighbor to replace a faulty piece of equipment (assuming that is even an option) when to them the device could still be working just fine. Similarly some sources of REIN might require significant infrastructure changes on the part of the third party and this might not always be viable.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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39 Responses
  1. Rupees Burdoch says:

    Zen has bigger problems to solve such as their extortionate pricing. While the service is decent, it’s not even close to value for money. I switched to Sky without a single regret and save hundreds of pounds a year.

    1. DTMark says:

      Apart from your messages appearing as obvious spam since they all seem to promote Sky, you’ve also failed to pick up on the fact that a fair number of Zen’s customers are businesses and Sky do not have business offerings.

    2. Bob2002 says:

      Their new(ish) Unlimited Fibre products are competitively priced.

    3. Mark Jackson says:

      Zen’s new unlimited fibre deals are indeed very attractive so I wouldn’t knock them, although it’s also fair to say that they’re more focused towards home workers and professionals. People who look for quality.

    4. Martin Pitt - Aquiss says:

      DTMark, If you note that all of Rupees Burdoch always mention Sky since the username appeared in the last few days, we both have to wonder if Sky are now employing spammers 😉

      Mark J – Over to you 🙂

    5. BT Investor says:

      Yeah Sky Broadband is cheap if you are willing to spend hundreds of pounds a year for television. My advice would be switch to BT and enjoy BT Sports for free with first pick premiership action, the aviva league, champions league coming soon, and loads more!!!

    6. Spilt Milk says:

      Im with BT and can not get any BT Sports channels on my tele, tell me how do you get these “free” channels?

  2. Phil says:

    Rupees Burdoch: hope one day that sky will be sold because I wouldn’t care less! Sky are very bad company, once you have sky tv, they don’t care, once you have sky phone line, they don’t care, once you have sky broadband, they don’t care. Sky number one priority is your money not the customers aftercare!

  3. Telecom engineer says:

    Give bt powers to disconnect offending rein properties and charge £50 per day after notification if cooperation is refused. I’ve had a couple of occasions of proving a rein fault to faulty LAN card / CCTV system which even impacted the offenders speed but they refuse to replace just to annoy the neighbours. Usually businesses and tidy folk comply with requests no issues.
    Problem is it takes ages to locate rein and then good natured cooperation is required to resolve. A lot of people are anti social and get a kick from affecting people’s lives negatively. At the end of the at present there are no comebacks.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Hmm £50 per day sounds far too much, a good way of starting up a new mafia, so maybe just threaten a £50 charge if the first request is ignored for a month and then after the 2nd month levy the charge only if strictly necessary.

      We’re talking about people’s private homes; even police need a warrant for that, so I don’t think the go-in-all-guns-blazing approach is appropriate, polite or correct for tackling a problem that most people would not be familiar with.

      If all that fails then follow with a warning of further action of some sort.

    2. telecom engineer says:

      A touch big maybe lol. There are the types who will continue to use a faulty tv etc until bt buy them a new one. Time to turn the tables. I think it should be treated at least like illegal radio broadcasts. At the moment bt keep offenders details secret and are at their mercy. A warning from ofcom with court orders and fines would be far more fitting imo.
      Detection followed by cooperation within reasonable timeframe should ofcourse be free and the costs absorbed by wholesale / llu dsl line rental costs.

    3. Spilt Milk says:

      What do you propose to stop REIN on lines which have been repaired poorly? Where if they were shielded properly the problems would unlikely occur. The same goes for any cable which is a mix of Aluminium and copper and no longer meets RF requirements?

      Perhaps Ofcom could set up an independent party (NON-BT Group) to investigate if the REIN problems are related to third party equipment interference or actual poor quality lines there self and where necessary either fine BT for any cables that do not meet specification or the third party for equipment that is causing the interference. May be that is the fair solution instead of the buck passing and back and forth blame game we have now.

    4. telecom engineer says:

      Um I propose that you read up on rein and the causes rather than talking tripe. BT cables are passive conductors and do not produce rein. Cross talk is a seperate issue. The apps either end of the line are slso not openreach’s responsibility however there are no issues getting cps to cooperate with investigation on repairs on their kit. The problem is usually 3rd party. A reporting eu is always glad to stop using a faulty freeview box in order to have broadband. For lines not repaired correctly… repeat reports attract compensation and as such are always investigated. Infact the above named cp has a reputation for aanalysing this and would have no issue bringing openreach to account where responsible.

    5. bob says:

      It is actually the BT lines that are at fault. The equipment is usually fully compliant with UK & EU regulations so no action can be taken. It is down to BT to properly screen their lines against interference. No action can ne taken against compliant equipment

    6. telecom engineer says:

      Bob you are talking testicles. Rein investigations do not occur until the line has been proven free of all faults using end to end testing with the most modern test kit. Look up pair quality testing. Faulty electrical items can indeed transmit of which they are unlicensed for. Often this can occur with said item seemingly functioning correctly for its intended purpose.
      I have every network qualification under the sun including every broadband skill bt do. Trust me when I say rein is not caused by a faulty pair of wires. An unbalanced pair is more prone to rf interference but said fault is picked up by 3 measures alone under a pqt and is not a cause.
      Been doing this long enough to know what iam talking about thankyou very much. Please read the article for further explanation.
      Also it is stupid to expect bt to lead coat every pair in the network to minimise tje issue. Full fibre is the only wsy and thats a whole other arguement other than shpuld bt spend 20bill so mrs jones can keep her knackered vhs running?

    7. Spilt Milk says:

      I am very aware of what REIN is and how it is not always the fault of third party equipment but BT cabling.

      I myself only around this time last year had a neighbour who had a singing Santa decoration outside their home. It had some type of wireless function where when people got within a set distance to it the thing would light up, start dancing and singing away.

      Every time this would happen my at the time ADSL connection would drop and the modem would have to resync/connect and would only do so once their Santa had shut up. It did not affect any other phone line in the street.

      Contacting BT and demonstrating the issue at first resulted in engineers with pretty much the same pompass attitude as yourself, that being ‘its the neighbours Santa fault nothing we can do not our equipment’.

      This continued all the way up to around a week before Christmas when BT finally sent a third engineer which actually had proper equipment and ran proper tests. Rather than the voice only mob BT had chosen to send up to this point. Rather than just assuming they knew it all like you and others that came before him, they decided to actually run tests and see what occurred on the line when the Santa thing started singing.

      The result, noticed an immediate problem with my line and he changed the drop wire between the pole and my home. The issue immediately stopped and just like every other home in the street my connection was then fine no matter how many times the Santa thing went off.

      So it was the drop wire in my case, whether it was not connected properly, the outer shielding was worn or it was something else it does not matter. Replacing the BT cable and not the singing Santa fixed the issue. The fact nobody else was suffering in the street and the fact the issue went away once i got someone who was not too lazy to climb up the phone pole shows it was the cable.

      As to you accusing me of “talking tripe”, not half as much as your gangster idea of kicking in doors and handing out £50 fines. I am not shocked at the attitude though, that is half the problem too many other engineers which BT employ that think they know best without testing things properly. Not only my experience but obviously that of thousands of others given the prior poll on here…

    8. Spilt Milk says:

      What a wonderful site this is, individuals working or having worked for organisations allow to accuse people of “talking tripe” and “talking testicles”. Rather than just admit their precious organisation may be wrong.

    9. telecom engineer says:

      Milk. So you had a fault and when the cp booked the correct type of engineer he found a fault using a pair quality test and thus renewed the dropwire ( no doubt an hr which caused your pair to be unbalanced). If santa was knocking out your dsl it was indeed faulty but broadcastong rein at such a low level that a fault free pair was not majorly affected. The new dropwire will just be teisted pair and also moy shielded. National networks are not the same as running cat5 in your house.

    10. Spilt Milk says:

      Does not matter the santa thing obviously is not faulty if it did not affect any others wiring and once my wiring was up to par no longer affected mine. Obviously the Repetitive Electrical Impulse Noise (thats what REIN means) was not at a high enough level which would normally affect phone lines.

      Just in my case it did because BTs crap cable was decades old and knackered.

    11. Telecom engineer says:

      milk. Santa was faulty. Just because I have not got bleeding hands doesn’t mean my knife is not sharp.
      It doesn’t matter one iota how old your cable is, it could be a million years old, as long as it is fault free and within sin standard it will perform exactly the same as a new equivalent cable.
      You had a fault, it was fixed by the appropriate engineer. This proves Openreach are doing their job. The sla etc on standard voice repair does not require a pqt so the issue was your cp not booking the correct visit. It doesn’t prove your misguided argument at all.

    12. Spilt Milk says:

      Obviously the old cable did not perform the same as the new cable as with the new cable the issue went away. The Santa was clearly not faulty.

  4. bob says:

    It would be almost impossible to do this. These equipments usually fully comply with the regulations

    The real problem is the BT lines they were never designed for the purpose they are now used and the problem lies with the BT lines. The problem will only get worse as more people take up HS broadband and speed and distance is pushed further

    In general there is nothing that can be done against the equipment as it fully complies with the regulations. It is really down to BT

    1. telecom engineer says:

      Not complaint though are they. If I make a shoe with electronic lights it may pass every shoe regulayion going but if I knpck out 5 live with every footstep I should indeed be under the cosh of ofcom.

    2. Spilt Milk says:

      Old BT paper wrapped wiring is not compliant with modern regs either is it?

      Maybe we should fine them for all that old carp that still exists?

  5. telecom engineer says:

    No because it meets sin standards. If it doesnt and faults are raised and issue not resolved within sla bt are indeed fined.

    1. Spilt Milk says:

      Who tests this cable to make sure it is within standard? Once the paper wrap is decayed it is no longer within sin standard is it?

      Who tests the cable is meeting spec with regards to temperature and moisture?

      Who tests ALL OF that? BT there self and their take no responsibility engineers they seem to suffer from?

      I like your idea. Lets get a third party idea, they can go inspect cabling and third party electrical equipment and decide which is knackered and not within modern requirements. That is what Zen also seem to think would be a good idea.

  6. telecom engineer says:

    The results are all stored and the cp gets a result on every broadband job and provision on pqt. For sin standard cps have access to test heads and can run tests themselves.
    The issue as described in the article is 3rd parties causinf rein. While bt investigate they are under no obligation to do anything but we do out of need. Give bt a uso for dsl, make rein a function of that, let bt refer proprties to ofcom who do not comply. Thats my opinion.
    And probably what zen would want also

    1. Spilt Milk says:

      Ill ask again who determines if BT cables are meeting standards and set regulations, is it BT there self?

      Is that like an alcoholic self regulating itself?

    2. bob says:

      In 98% of cases the equipment is compliant with the regulations ie the various CE marking directives. And as such nothing can be done
      The problem lies with the BT lines which are being used well outside of their design critera. If you do that you can expect problems.
      AS more people take up HS broadband and as BT push Higher speeds the situation will get worse.
      This though is an issue for BT to deal with they need to properly screen their lines, Used for what they were designed ie low frequency voice noise is not a problem

  7. bob says:

    All electrical and electronic equipment generates electrical noise. The regulations allow that. They just define permit levels. It is impossible to eliminate all noise even Tempest standard does not eliminate everything and you would not be able to meet the cost of that

    The basic problem I the BT lines. They are being used outside the design critera and have no shielding at all so will pick up noise. The solution lies with BT

  8. Telecom engineer says:

    So the entire argument once again falls into BT are shite using a Victorian network designed for morse code and they are a sinister bunch responsible for all ills in the world. The rest of the globe never use dsl or phone lines I suppose… Rein not an issue in other countries either?

    Rein is not caused by passive conductors such as phone lines.
    Under certain circumstances a faulty line is more prone to rf than a good one, such faults are detected by a pair quality test who’s measurements are up to ten times the legal required quality, such tests are mandatory on every broadband fault.
    CP can also run tests via the test access matrix.
    BT have a rein team who look at numerous line states, ensure previous visits have proven a good line etc before sending a dedicated rein engineer to investigate.
    If a faulty device is found bt have no powers to remove or order a cease and desist on its use until fixed.

    1. bob says:

      You still do not understand do You. The Line may meet SIN and the line may or may not generate some interference but that is Irrelevant.. If the lines are used outside of the orginal design criteria which was for carrying low frequency voice data and the lines are not screened they are going to pick up interference. That is unavoidable

      More uses of HS Broadband and BT trying to push very old copper wiring to carries higher and higher speeds just increases the problem

      Just because equipment interfers with old twisted pair copper wiring does not mean it is faulty in 99.9% of cases it will not be. If it is CE marked it is approved and compliant. IT does not mean it generates zero emissions that is almost impossible

  9. Spilt Milk says:


    BT blamed the singing Santa
    Replacing BT cable and not the santa resolved issue

    1. telecom engineer says:

      Ok mate I have explained it to you twice you ate either completely blinded by some venomous dislike of bt or you are being deliberatley obtuse. I have better things to do than be trolled by you.

  10. Nige says:

    The EMC Directive requires all equipment to not prevent radio and telecommunications equipment from operating as intended. This is enshrined in the EU EMC regime, derived from UN treaty text.

    Commercial pressure has “forced” telcos to take their equipment so far outside of specification that the situation is almost laughable – almost. Already there is a rapid rise in complaints from authorised users of the spectrum due to leakage from xDSL. Factor in the new hilarious EN50561 for powerline networking and ISP’s will not know their arse from their elbow from the conducted emissions [read REIN].

    As an example, the telecoms industry is now developing a new “Standard” G.fast which intends to place up to 423 MHz on the old cables, originally intended for voice communications in an effort to squeeze every last drop of potential performance from the existing copper last leg of infrastructure. Much of it is unshielded and a considerable amount is not well balanced and this will inevitably result in yet more EMC issues to radiocommunications and telecoms users alike from mutual interference.

    The point gentlemen is multi-faceted. The first is that if the line was operating at acceptable tolerance when the Santa was inactive and was prevented from operating as intended when it was active, there is an EMC issue. The cause was electromagnetic interference from the santa and the location of the line in respect of the santa is enormously relevant to the degree of EMI experienced and entirely probable that no one else in the street would be affected (without pretty pictures it is impossible to make any definitive statements) but proximity plays a significant role.

    It is also equally possible that you share the same electrical distribution phase and that the cause could have been double-edged with radiated emissions coupling into the line and conducted emissions coming in via the house mains. EMC is fickle like that. Just because the unwanted interaction ceased upon replacement of the drop wire may be as much a function of an altered length of drop wire than an improvement in shielding – or maybe when the DW was replaced an inherent imbalance in the loom was improved sufficiently to offset the effects just enough to prevent loss of sync. Improbable but not impossible.

    In the end there is one important solution: for Ofcom to fulfil its statutory duty under spectrum regulation and market surveillance and deal with the problem THEY created – failing to enforce against the EMC Regulations which are in place to protect telecommunications and radiocommunications.

    ISP’s have more to fear from cheap, non-compliant, Chinese LED lighting and new high output powerline networking than they should ever fear from mediocre infrastructure! As long as Ofcom continue to ignore the warnings from the EMC industry and fail to properly enforce, the situation will only continue to deteriorate and the only people whom suffer are the users with loss or degradation of service and the telecoms companies who have to deploy resources to deal with a problem that is substantially not their fault. . . Maybe it is time to turn eyes back to those with whom the buck stops…

  11. telecom engineer says:

    Very considered post though I do argue regarding a large number of lines being unalanced. There may well be thousands on any given day as faults cause lines to become unbalanced it is not a natural state of a line nor the network which has always been inherintley designed to be balanded to avoid cross talk / overhearing between pairs.

    1. telecom engineer says:

      Read again. You are quite correct the majority of cable is unshielded as per the rest of the world,, how balanced do we class well balanced? Personally I would state 45db ( on a pair being excited) is adequet (split legs etc often measue 30db or less) pqt is for 55db, rein team demand 60db.
      There is a lot involved in all of this which is why powers to at least deffer to the regulator is a must.

  12. X66yh says:

    Indeed a very well considered, useful, educational post.
    I suggest people read it and learn from it.

  13. Gary Hough says:

    Wow – alleged Sky trolling apart, this thread clearly shows how the subject of REIN and electro interference is often an extremely sensitive and difficult subject to resolve. You can now see why my colleague and I are keen to try and get some regulatory ownership of these issues rather than into one large Telco who I have to say are NOT responsible for all REIN issues we encounter but given the volume of lines they serve unfortunately are highlighted as having many examples of this type of problem. Their hands are as much tied as ours are and other industry colleagues and this is one of the reasons why we would like to work with our industry in a much broader capacity as well as the regulatory bodies who really do need to take some responsibility in this area to try and reduce the impact when faults like these arise for the very end users who some have highlighted in this very thread can suffer severely.

    We do have some support from other ISP’s and will be moving this forward this year as much as we possibly can. It’s about time this issue was taken seriously which at the very least is required in the interest of customer service and reliability.

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