Given the pervasiveness of the Internet, it’s not surprising that there are people out there trying different things. Recently we brought you the intuitive NetValve speed throttling appliance. Now courtesy of some hardworking network technicians at ISP Andrews and Arnold here in the UK, we can reveal that ADSL really does operate over a wet string. The ISP’s website explains that they are ‘Serious about Internet’, and perhaps the details of their work proves this.
The company revealed their work in the boss’s blog. (It’s official, ADSL works over wet string). This article has been picked up by ISP Review (UK ISP Experiment Gets ADSL Broadband to Work Over Wet String) and also The Register (How fast is a piece of string? Boffin shoots ADSL signal down twine) It’s also heavily documented on the engineers Twitter feed. (@0x47DF).
Essentially the test replaced a copper ADSL connection with 2 meters of wet string. Originally cotton thread was used, but this didn’t hold enough fluid to work and was upgraded to what looks like sisal string. The water needed to have some electrolyte added to allow current to pass, so a handful of salt was used. The string itself doesn’t really pass the current but acts as a waveguide for the fluid within it. The sodium and chlorine ions in the electrolyte solution provide the ability to conduct electricity. Despite evaporation from the string drying it out, the engineer was eventually able to deliver a stable ADSL connection, capable of passing 3.5Mb/s of data in each direction, despite massive line attenuation. (Conversion from electrolytic conduction to electron conduction in the crocodile clips used to connect the string is not very efficient.)
So when your network technicians state that your connection is provided by damp string, they may well be telling the truth.