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UK ISP Experiment Gets ADSL Broadband to Work Over Wet String

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017 (7:35 am) - Score 8,044

The engineers at AAISP (Andrews and Arnold) look to have become contenders for the oddball experiment of the day award after they successfully made an ADSL based broadband connection “work” over 2 metres of wet string (at the surprisingly quick pace of 3.5Mbps), as opposed to the usual metallic wiring.

A normal ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) connection, which is still used by a little under half of premises in the United Kingdom, works by splitting a single copper telephone line into separate voice and data channels. The data can then be transmitted digitally (from the exchange to your home) by using frequency spectrum (2.2MHz on the ‘up to’ 20-24Mbps capable ADSL2+ standard).

In a normal setup, using twisted pair copper wiring (or aluminium), it should be possible for the ADSL signal to reach several thousand metres, although naturally signal degradation occurs over distance and end users experience this as a loss of speed (reduced download and upload performance) or problems with line stability.

Broadband ADSL and ADSL2 Reach (metres)

Suffice to say that the idea of using a wet piece of string to deliver your ADSL broadband signal isn’t exactly standard practice (it probably wasn’t high up on Openreach’s list when deploying the service all those years ago), although the limited conductivity of water and adaptability of ADSL to unstable conditions does make it theoretically possible, albeit only over very short distances. Now one of the mad scientists professional engineers at AAISP have been able to prove this by dunking a piece of wet string in salty water (blog).

aaisp_stringband_resultsThe reason for using salty water is because pure water is an extremely bad conductor of electricity (very few ions), while water with an electrolyte (like NaCl or sodium chloride / salt to the rest of us) is a much better conductor of electricity (more ions).

Overall the experiment successfully achieved a connection over 2 metres that could deliver download speeds of “up to” 3.5Mbps, although the upload rate of 67Kbps doesn’t exactly inspire and touching the string with your finger is likely to break the signal. But then this is just a bit of fun and AAISP aren’t trialling a new connectivity solution for the future (we hope).

Somehow we don’t think this reinvented technology, which we’ve decided to call Stringband because we’re talented like that (well you can’t conduct such an experiment without giving it a silly name), is going to catch on in the mainstream but it’s an interesting test nonetheless. After all, science is always at its best when you’re learning something while at the same time having fun.

But don’t let the Government see this as they might adopt the service as a cost effective solution for future broadband needs. No doubt the ASA would then also allow it to be described as “fibre broadband” ehumm.


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Mark Jackson
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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22 Responses
  1. Avatar Asrab

    This Fiber makes more sense – but how do you keep this new fiber wet wont hot days dry out this new technology 🙂

  2. Fabulous! Perhaps Openreach can add this to their suite of technologies, though as with copper, the distances will be a problem in rural areas 😀

  3. Avatar CarlT

    That’s genuinely about the same upload speed and a download speed twice what we had here before FTTC.

    So if there was any doubting why I was all over Openreach on that…

  4. Avatar Graham Long

    This must the evidence that the Advertising Standards Agency used whne they concluded that ISP’s can call anything “fibre broadband”. Unlike copper, string actually is a kind of fibre!!!

  5. Avatar Optimist

    String theory explained!

  6. Avatar tonyp

    Would it have been better if the ‘fibres’ were taught and had tin cans on each end for a POTS service?

    Incidentally the ADSL1 graph above is spot on for my best performance at 3.9km.

  7. Avatar Joe

    “No doubt the ASA would then also allow it to be described as “fibre broadband” ehumm.”

    Its funny because we know its true!

  8. Having no broadband in my area due to being over 11km from the exchange, this ‘invention’ could be a serious contender for me!!

  9. Avatar Slackshoe

    Openreach would have deployed wet string if they could have got away with it.

  10. Avatar ComputerWorld

    You forgot to mention that BT are planning to attach that string to yoghurt pots and charge £18.99 for line rental.

  11. Avatar Chris Padget

    Gives a whole new meaning to stringing us along which is what BT have done for years. The wet Jute fibre speeds appear somewhat better than we can achieve in EX14 using the old copper/aluminium mix.

  12. Avatar Dai

    Some salty comments here.

  13. Avatar Billy

    I’ve been using this technology for the past 15 years.

  14. Avatar Paul B

    I suppose you could support multiple users if you used a piece of wet rope 😉

  15. Avatar Davek

    I thought BT was already using this technology on my line with all the string they are using to hold it up. But not sure what the nails and trees are for!

  16. Avatar Nathan

    Always thought BT we’re charging us for old rope!

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