Making the most of Virgin Media’s new speeds

Virgin Media (the ISP formerly known as UPC) sent one of their “we’re going to start charging you more money” e-mails recently. I decided to cave and migrate to the 240Mb plan from the 120Mb one that I was on. There are a few tricks to being able to actually use this speed though.

Getting a good router

Stop using whatever UPC / Virgin Media gave you for routing if you can. They’re all pretty bad. I’m using an Asus RT-AC66U which will give you AC class wireless speeds. At the moment I’m connected to the router at 702Mb which is fast enough to take advantage of my new 240Mb connection.

Maths / network bit

The 702Mb that I’m connected to my router won’t give me close to that speed. Wireless networking uses MACAW which is roughly the same thing as saying “is there anyone talking, no? ok, here’s what I have to say”. Roughly speaking you’ll get a maximum of a half of the speed that you’re connected to your router. In my case this means I’d get around 350Mb maximum (ish).

Finding the weak connection

I was getting a much slower speed than I should have been so I started to look for the weak connections in the network. My laptop was connected to the router at 702Mb – no problems there.

The next link in the chain was between the router and the cable modem. This was where I found the first problem. Both the router and the modem had gigabit network ports but closer inspection revealed that they had been connected with category 5 network cable. This was cutting the maximum speed that the router and modem could communicate at to 100Mb. I replaced the cable with category 6 but still had some issues.

Tweaking the router

At this stage all of the physical and logical connections were correct, but the speed was still around 40% slower than expected. The first thing that I did was to enter correct values in the QoS page in my router’s administrative interface. That helped the upload speed a little bit but the download speed was still off.

The final tweak to get maximum speed was to go to the router’s switch control page and to enable jumbo frames and set NAT acceleration to auto.

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