How an old TV was responsible for villagers’ broadband woes

22 September 2020

The mystery of a rural village’s faltering broadband has been solved, thanks to engineers who tracked the problem to an unlikely source – one resident’s old TV set.

Residents of Aberhosan in Powys, Wales suffered from poor broadband connections and speeds, which typically began at the same time – 7am – every day.

Engineers were sent to the village by Openreach, the company that manages the UK’s phone and broadband infrastructure, to try to locate and fix the issue. Repeated tests showed the network itself was fine, and engineers even replaced sections of cable that served the village, but residents still experienced problems.

So, an Openreach team were dispatched to the village to carry out a different set of tests – specifically to explore whether the problem might be caused by a phenomenon called single high-level impulse noise, or ‘SHINE’. This is when an electrical device gives off unwanted electrical signals that can have an impact on broadband connections.

We’re surrounded by a range of electrical or electronic devices which we use every day, such as smart phones, computers, radios, televisions and microwave ovens.

Sometimes these items can develop an obvious fault, and the device can be replaced. However, occasionally a device might develop a hidden fault that in some cases can lead to it emitting unwanted radio signals.

The physical characteristics of a copper wire telephone line can easily allow it to accidentally become a receiving aerial, capable picking up these rogue signals. Broadband internet delivered by copper wire can therefore be vulnerable to such phenomena.

Using specialist equipment, the engineers were able to trace a ‘large burst’ of electrical interference in the village – coming from one property in particular. At 7am every day, the resident would turn on their old TV, which would subsequently affect the whole village’s broadband.

Thankfully, since locating the source – and after the owner promising never to use the TV set again – villagers have experienced no further problems with their broadband,

Since locating the cause of the fault that has dogged not only the residents of Aberhosan but also properties surrounding the village, there have been no further reported issues with the network.

In further good news for the village, Aberhosan will benefit from fibre broadband later this year following work by Openreach and the Welsh Government.

If you’re experiencing disruption to your broadband, you should contact your provider in the first instance.

We’ve also got some tips on practical steps you can take to improve your broadband speeds at home.

You can also read more about how Ofcom engineers have helped to solve similar technical mysteries to the one described here, including: