Are you experiencing slower-than-expected Internet speeds? Have you invested in a top-tier Internet service only to be disappointed in the results? It might not be the plan that’s the problem, and you might not need to resign yourself to a less-than-optimal Internet experience. There is plenty you can do to try and improve the quality of your Internet connection.
1) Know the damage first
The first step is always to run a speed test and check just how inefficient your Internet is against your expectations. There are plenty of online tools that you can use to run a speed test, and you should check the results against the Internet plan that you’ve signed up for. Just remember that there will always be some decline in the final speeds that you get. For example, if you’re paying for a 50 Mbps connection, then you should expect a speed of around 80-90 per cent of the maximum – in this case between 40 and 45 Mbps. That additional loss is the result of the distance the Internet signal needs to travel, congestion in the network, and so on.
If the speed is substantially below that 80 to 90 percent range, then it’s time to explore what you can do to boost it up.
2) Look at whether your modem/router needs to be replaced
Older modem/routers will struggle with the demands of the modern Internet. The single biggest cause of slow Internet is having one such modem. A good modern modem/router should be able to handle a lot of simultaneously connected devices, be able to broadcast according to modern standards, and is compatible/recommended by your ISP (ring them to ask). Modem/routers also degrade over time, so if yours is three or more years old, and no other troubleshooting tricks can give you better speeds, consider replacing it.
3) Check to see how many Internet connections are in your area
If you live in a congested area – a block of flats, for example – there may be so many Internet connections running at once that yours gets overpowered, resulting in disruption to your connection. The easiest way to check this is to simply pull up your network settings on your PC and see how many Internet connections it detects at once.
If there are more than ten, then you may want to change your router’s channel (instructions here). That will help to reduce the number of competing signals your Internet connection has to contend with.
4) Tighten your security
Drop into your modem/router’s settings and see if there are any devices that are unfamiliar that are connected but with the device. It might be that people have gained access to your network and are leeching your Internet connection, slowing things down for your own devices. Additionally, run an antivirus over each of your computers. Some modern viruses are designed to use your computer and Internet as a source for Bitcoin mining and the like, and that can slow down your entire environment. Even if you don’t detect these things, you should update your security according to best practices to prevent it becoming a problem in the future.
5) Redesign your computing environment
Depending on where your modem/router is placed, your Internet signal might be struggling because the house itself is disrupting the signal. Walls, closed doors, and other devices that emit wireless signals (think everything from Bluetooth to microwaves) can create “black spots” in your home, causing dramatic slowdowns in Internet, if not drop-outs.
This can be diagnosed through simple (and free) heat mapping software. If you do find black spots, then you can try placing your router in different locations, or buy signal boosters to strategically place them around the house and create a “mesh”.
6) Monitor how your family is using the Internet
Finally, simply monitor how your family is using the Internet. Every additional connection “splits” the available signal across the house, and if there are multiple instances of video streaming/conferencing, a security system, and a house filled with IoT devices (WiFi light bulbs, smart TVs, printers, gaming consoles, refrigerators and coffee machines), then the bandwidth available to any single device might be too little.
Disconnecting devices that are not currently in use, and planning out high-bandwidth devices (for example, agreeing not to stream Netflix when someone is using the home office for work or study) is a practical solution to this challenge. But, if all these devices do have to be in use at once, speaking to the ISP about an upgrade might be the only solution.
In most cases slow Internet speeds are a challenge that can be resolved. If none of the “home remedies” above provide the solution, then you can ask your ISP to organise a technician to investigate further, though that will generally come with a significant cost (particularly if the issue isn’t a fault of the ISP).