Coaxial hacking

A few days ago, our (my and selfisekai's) new flat had been connected to the interwebs. Theoretical speed: 1000/50; Practical was more like 940/50 during normal hours (not great, but not terrible), and as low as 30/30Mbps in peak hours. Suffice to say, peak hours weren't great, and we decided to do something about it.

We're connected to the interwebs using the HFC technology (Hybrid Fiber-Coaxial) - this means that the building has fiber connection, but the ISP went the cheap way and just used existing coaxial cables (previously used for TV) for further distribution. When we were getting connected, a guy from the ISP said that the coax cable installed inside our flat probably won't be able to achieve gigabit speeds (it's really thin and flimsy), but when he was around, it was up to spec. Problems started later that day - we would get slower speeds for a moment, but a modem restart would supposedly fix the issue. The problem was (probably) that the coaxial cable couldn't carry all the needed frequencies; When the spectrum was less crowded, it achieved the advertised speed, but when other people started using interwebs, speed was no more.

Obvious solution: ditch the installed coax and route your own. I went on a quest to find a hole through which I could route the new cable: an hour of fiddling near existing holes ended with me concluding that there's no way to route the cable without drilling a new one - and I'd prefer to avoid that. I began searching for solutions - an obvious one would be to buy a flat ribbon "coax" extender - basically a 20cm ribbon cable that would go through the door and to the other side. But this would cost money, right??

The hack...

This may look like a broken cable, but you wouldn't believe if I told you..

Enter the FREE solution: that ISP installation guy left us a coax extension cord for our modem; Obviously, that would be too thick, and the door would no longer close.. But what if you could remove a part of the insulation? Only the solid copper core on the inside is really important, the rest is for keeping the noise out... Well, I did just that - I sliced open the cable in roughly the correct spot with an precision knife, removed some isolation, bent it and checked if the door would close.. and it did! The next step was obviously to check if it would still work, and miraculously, it achieved 940Mbps without a problem. Success!

We've got internet!

To add back the shielding I removed, I used a some tin foil that came with yesterday's pizza, and then taped the ends with to make sure it wouldn't slide away. The whole thing got taped to the door with black duck tape, and it's been holding perfectly fine (so far)

Left - isolated with tinfoil; Right - taped down to avoid flexing the cable

Conclusion

This hack might not be isn't the best way to route cables. The biggest problem is that every time someone closes the door, it puts a little bit of stress on the cable - not enough to do anything by itself, but enough to possibly cause problems in the future. This means that we may need to replace the cable with a proper solution in a few months, but for now, it's been working perfectly for a better part of a week.


By The Way: more weblog posts will come later this year, possibly in a month or two. I have a lot of hacks to write about, but not enough time to spare :P


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