Now that working from home is a mainstay for many, a reliable and strong broadband connection is more important than ever. But there's nothing worse than having workflow interrupted by sluggish internet. During these times, knowing how to improve your broadband speed can be a lifesaver.
Perform a speed test
Before trying anything else, you should first check your connection by performing an internet speed test. There are many free broadband speed tests available online.
To get the most accurate reading possible, it's advised to carry out a few tests over several days, and at different times throughout the day.
It's also advised to carry out a test while standing next to your router. If you get good speeds while next to your router, but nowhere else in the house, then your Wi-Fi coverage may be at fault. However, if you find that your broadband is still slow while standing right next to the router, speak with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) as your router or modem may need to be upgraded.
Change your router band and channel
If you live in a fairly built-up area, you may have noticed times when your Wi-Fi suddenly slows down or drops out completely,. This can happen when too many people are accessing the same Wi-Fi channels in your area.
To optimise your Wi-Fi signal, it's best to find a channel that no one else - or very few people - are using. This can boost your signal and provide you with better overall coverage.
Most WiFi routers broadcast data using the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. Each of these bands is divided up into channels - 11 for 2.4GHz and 45 for 5GHz. These channels are used to send and receive data over your WiFi network.
A good way of looking at it is to see the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands as two highways, with the Wi-Fi channels the lanes on those highways. The fastest lanes would be the ones with the least amount of traffic.
To change your WiFi channel, take the following steps:-
- Open any web browser and into the address bar, type in your router's IP address. Your router's IP address can usually be found on the back of your router.
- Hit Enter on your keyboard
- Enter your router's username and password. Your router's login details can usually be found in the user manual sent out with your router by your broadband provider.
- Open Wireless Settings
- Click the Channels drop=down menu and change your Wi-Fi channel.
- Hit Save or Apply
Channels on the 2.4GHz band offer 2.4GHz more range and better penetration through solid objects like thick walls. However, the 5GHz band is newer and likely to be faster and less crowded. So give both a try and see which suits your home better.
Ensure your router is in the best position
The construction of your home could be impacting your ability to get a decent Wi-Fi signal and where you place your router can massively affect your wireless coverage.
To shield your router from irritants such as dust, you might think that keeping your router in a cupboard or somewhere else out of the way may be best, but that isn't always the case. Here are some tips on placement for your router:-
- Keep your router in the open, away from any thick walls or other obstructions - such as large pieces of furniture - which may lead to interference or overheating.
- If possible, place your router as close as possible to the centre of the house. This will mean that your signal can reach as many room as possible.
- Avoid having electronic devices such as cordless phones and baby monitors, as well as appliances such as microwave ovens, in the vicinity of your router as these can negatively impact your Wi-Fi signal.
- If your router has external antennas, place them vertically to increase coverage.
- Place your router in a high position - such as on the top of a shelf. This will help ensure the signal is as clear and unobstructed as possible.
Connect using an Ethernet cable
Although obviously not as convenient as having a wireless connection, opting to connect to the internet using an Ethernet cable can help boost your broadband experience.
Because a wired connection is capable of transferring data at a faster rate than Wi-Fi, you'll get the fastest speeds available on your broadband plan. Connecting via an Ethernet cable also means you'll have less interference to deal with, so you won't need to worry so much about what frequency the neighbours are on.
Use a Wi-Fi extender
It's possible that your home may simply be too big for a single router to send out a good Wi-Fi signal everywhere. Alternatively, your router may have too many obstructions - such as thick walls - that it has to penetrate in order to provide you with decent coverage. In these instances, you may want to try a Wi-Fi extender.
Also known as a repeater, a Wi-Fi extender works by taking your existing Wi-Fi signal and increasing it before transmitting the boosted signal. Extenders act as an inexpensive solution to extend the range of your wireless router.
Try a mesh network
More powerful, reliable, and effective than Wi-Fi extenders, a mesh network can do a lot to boost your coverage.
A mesh network is a group of devices called 'nodes' that act as a single Wi-Fi network. These nodes can be placed around your house and communicate wirelessly with one another. So, rather than your data coming from one point (i.e., your router), data will be sent and received from the nearest node.
Secure your wireless network
If you have a weak Wi-Fi password - or worse, don't use one at all - unwanted guests could be piggybacking on your network.
To avoid unwanted people accessing your broadband, make sure you have a secure password set.
You should also choose a secure password for your router. Many come with a default username and password, making them easy targets for hackers. The instruction manual that came with your router should provide detailed instructions on how to change your password.
Clean up your computer
Periodically cleaning up your computer can help your broadband speeds. A few things to check are:-
Run an antivirus check
Accidentally downloading malicious software - a.k.a 'malware' - can massively slow down your computer and in turn, your internet connection. If you believe you may have inadvertently downloaded malicious software, it's important to remove it as soon as possible You can do this by regularly running antivirus checks on your computer.
Antivirus software is available in both free and paid-for packages and can offer you strong protection.
Download the latest browser
If it's been a while since you refreshed your web browser, it's worthwhile checking if an upgrade is available. Regardless of the browser you're using, an upgrade will always be completely free, too.
Clear your cache
Every time you use your browser to access a website, the browser stores or 'caches' it. Periodically clearing out your browser's cache will help it to function more efficiently.
Check your rights with your provider
If you've followed these steps and are still suffering slow speeds, then you should contact your provider for further assistance.
Most major broadband providers have committed to Ofcom's code of voluntary practice on speeds. This means that, whichever broadband plan you sign-up for, it must have a minimum guaranteed speed. If your actual speed is be low this threshold, you have the right to leave your contract without incurring any early termination fees.
Consider switching to a new broadband provider
If you're currently out of contract with your broadband provider, chances are you're already paying more than you need to for your broadband, so now is a good chance to either haggle with your existing provider for a new deal or switch to a new provider altogether.
To secure faster speeds and a better deal, run a quote to see what broadband deals are available in your area.
What other factors can affect my broadband speed?
There are a number of things that can influence the overall speed of your broadband, including:
Your type of broadband
The type of broadband you have will largely dictate the speeds you experience. In the UK, there are three main types of broadband:-
Standard (ADSL) broadband
Standard broadband, also known as ADSL, uses copper telephone wires from BT's Openreach network to deliver your connection. So, if you sign-up for ADSL broadband, you'll need an activated phone-line.
Average download speeds with ADSL range between just 10 - 11Mbps. And if you live a long distance from the nearest telephone exchange, or if the copper cables delivering your service are old or damaged, download speeds can drop well below this average.
Superfast (FTTC) broadband
Next on from ADSL is 'Superfast' - or 'Fibre to the Cabinet' (FTTC) - broadband. Here, the term 'cabinet' refers to the big, green cabinets you often see on streets and footpaths. For superfast broadband, fibre optic cables are fed from the telephone exchange into these cabinets. Copper telephone wires are then used for the remaining distance from the cabinet to your home. Because copper cables are involved for the journey from the cabinet to your home, a phone line is also required for this type of broadband.
Average download speeds with superfast broadband usually range between 38Mbps and 67Mbps. However, similar to ADSL, if your home is situated a significant distance from the cabinet, or if the copper cables from the cabinet to your home have frayed or degraded over time, the speeds you experience may be slowed.
Ultrafast (FTTP) broadband
With average download speeds of over 100Mbps, 'Ultrafast' broadband - also known as 'Fibre to the Premises' (FTTP), 'Fibre to the Home' (FTTH), and 'full fibre' - is the fastest and most reliable type of broadband available in the UK.
How is it so fast? Unlike 'Superfast' and ADSL broadband, FTTP broadband uses only fibre optic cables. A full fibre connection also means that the speeds you experience are less likely to fluctuate throughout the day or drop out at times of high traffic.
Your internet service provider (ISP)
Although the type of broadband you have is more likely to affect your internet speed, your provider can play a role, too.
For example, if you're with a provider that enforces traffic management or fair use policies, you may find that your internet becomes slower at certain times during the day.
To find out if your provider enforces these policies, check the terms and conditions of your broadband contract.
Additionally, some providers only offer standard ADSL or superfast (FTTC) broadband. If you're after faster broadband, it's worth checking to see whether you live in an area where ultrafast (FTTP) broadband is available.
Where you live
Where you live affects your broadband speeds. If you live in a suburban area, chances are you'll at least have access to superfast (FTTC) broadband. But if you live rurally, you may find yourself stuck with a sluggish connection. One reason for this is that properties in rural areas tend to be more spread out than in densely populated cities and towns, and as such, are often located a greater distance from street cabinets and telephone exchanges. This increased distance means your connection has further to travel, leading to increased latency and slower overall speeds.
Additionally, if you live rurally, you may have fewer options for not only providers, but also the type of broadband available. Because of harder to reach locations and higher installation costs, the rollout of fibre broadband in rural areas has been much slower. This is also true when it comes to upgrading existing infrastructure, or fixing frayed or damaged copper phone lines. The cost involved is often greater than the return, so goes ignored by many Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
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