UK telco regulator Ofcom has released a bunch of tips aimed at helping us get the most from our home Wi-Fi networks.
While the news has been full of the steaming providers lowering their stream bitrates, the reality is that demand is within the capabilities of broadband providers. Demand has just shifted to different parts of the day with many families online together during the day for home working and homeschooling.
But as Ofcom says, some of the problems could be within our homes – we can all play our part in helping to manage how we use our broadband, home phones and mobiles.
So here’s its list of top tips for getting more speed from your home broadband and Wi-Fi network.
1. Use your landline if you can – or Wi-Fi calling
More people are making calls on their mobile network during the day. Because of this high demand, you may find you get a more reliable connection using your landline. If you do need to use your mobile, try using your settings to turn on Wi-Fi Calling providing you have a relatively new handset – however, this won’t reduce the demand on your connection, of course!
Some smartphones and mobile packages enable your phone to make calls over your broadband network, which often provides the best sound quality and also helps reduce demand on the mobile network. Similarly, you can make voice calls over the internet using apps like Facetime, Skype or WhatsApp.
2. Move your router clear of other devices
Keep your router as far away as possible from other devices, and those which operate wirelessly. Cordless phones, baby monitors, halogen lamps, dimmer switches, stereos and computer speakers, TVs and monitors can all affect your Wi-Fi if they’re too close to your router.
Did you know that microwave ovens can also reduce Wi-Fi signals? So don’t use the microwave when you’re making video calls, watching HD videos or doing something important online. Also, place your router on a table or shelf rather than on the floor, and keep it switched on.
3. Lower the demands on your connection
The more devices attached to your Wi-Fi, the lower the speed you get. Devices like tablets and smartphones often work in the background, so try switching wifi reception off on these when you’re not using them.
If you’re carrying out video calls or meetings, turning the video off and using audio will require much less of your internet connection; or try starting them at less common times, rather than on the hour or half-hour.
You might also want to manage your family’s online activity so that different people aren’t carrying out data-heavy tasks (like HD streaming, gaming or video calls) all at the same time. Downloading video in advance, instead of streaming it, can also help.
4. Try wired rather than wireless
For the best broadband speeds, use an Ethernet cable to connect your computer directly to your router rather than using Wi-Fi. This is a computer networking cable which should give you a faster, more reliable connection. They’re available from as little as £3.
5. Plug your router directly into your main phone socket
Where possible, try not to use a telephone extension lead, as these can cause interference which could lower your speed. If you have to use an extension lead, use a new, high-quality cable with the shortest possible length. Tangled and coiled cables can also affect speeds.
So can interference from your phone line – try plugging ‘microfilters’ into every phone socket in your home. They look like little white boxes and split the phone and broadband signals so that they don’t affect each other. Different providers have varying setups in the home, so always check their website before unplugging any cables.
6. Test the speed on your broadband line
Find out what speed you’re actually getting. You can run a speed test using Ofcom’s official mobile and broadband checker or Speedtest.net (Android and iOS apps are available there, too). If possible, carry out tests over a few days and at different times of day. A number of in-home factors can affect Wi-Fi speeds – you really need to do it when your connection isn’t being used.
7. Get advice from your broadband provider
If your connection isn’t working as well as it should, you can find advice on your broadband provider’s website – which is also available on mobile phones. If you need to contact them for help, please be aware that, because of coronavirus, some companies have many fewer people to help with your queries. Most are prioritising vulnerable customers and essential public services, so take this into consideration.