How to speed up your broadband internet | WIFI

Check the speed

Find out what speed you get with a computer connected to your router via an ethernet cable. Many routers and other devices come with one, or cost around £5 separately.

You may also need a USB ethernet adapter (about £10) if your computer doesn’t have a port built in.

If you can’t connect via ethernet, use a recent wifi phone, laptop, or tablet as close to your router as possible and with a clear line of sight.

Speedtest.net from Ookla and Netflix’s Fast.com are two reliable speed test services.

Some of the more advanced routers have speed test services built into them as well. They can usually be accessed via your browser’s router settings pages or a companion app, if they have one.

Connecting your device to the router with an Ethernet cable can improve speeds. Photo: Tetra Images / Getty Images / Tetra Images RF

If your broadband is slow on your router, it may be time to switch providers. Some fixed-line ISPs offer speeds over 200Mbps in certain areas, while 4G/5G home broadband is an alternative.

If you don’t come close to the speed your ISP advertises, you may be able to get a discount, or switch to a plan with higher speeds.

Calculate what you need

When it comes to broadband, the faster the better, especially with so many people and devices using the internet simultaneously. However, the minimum speed needed for most online activities is rather slow.

Video calling services, such as Zoom, typically require upload and download of up to 4Mbps.

Online gaming services like Xbox Live need at least 3Mbps and 0.5Mbps, while game streaming services need at least 10Mbps.

Video streams, such as Netflix, need at least 5Mbps for HD or 25Mbps for 4K content.

Average UK broadband speeds are down by 50.4 Mbps and 9.8 Mbps, according to data from Ofcom in March 2021. This means the majority of connections should be able to handle the most popular services.

But keep in mind that with more than one device or person using your connection simultaneously, including updates and downloads when idle, slower broadband packages can quickly throttle.

Change the position of your router

If your broadband connection is fast enough but your wifi is weak, there are things you can do. If possible, move the router closer to the center of the house, or toward rooms where you need the strongest signal. Keep it in an open place, not in a closet, and away from hard and metal objects.

And try to place it away from dense walls, especially those made of concrete blocks or pipes and wires running through them.

Check your settings

Most modern routers will automatically select the best settings for your home, but you can check manually using the router’s web interface accessed through a browser on a computer. See your ISP’s router help pages to learn how to do this.

Wifi operating at 2.4GHz uses a range of frequency “channels”, only some of which do not interfere with each other. To reduce interference from your neighbors’ wifi, switch to channel 1, 6 or 11, which do not interfere and are therefore less likely to cause or suffer interference.

If you have a connection below 200Mbps, enabling prioritization or QoS for key devices may help. This prevents other things from taking up all the available bandwidth – it will prevent a game download on your Xbox from interrupting a video call on your laptop, for example.

Set a strong wifi password with at least WPA2 security, not the least WEP option. This will make sure that no wifi thieves can log into your network and steal your bandwidth.

Check your devices

The slow internet may be due to your hardware rather than your router. For older computers, upgrading the wifi adapter may help. USB wifi 5 adapters cost under £15, while the latest wifi 6 models cost around £50, but you’ll need a compatible router to take advantage of the extra speed.

For a device that isn’t portable, like a media streaming device or console, use an ethernet cable if it’s close to a router, as this will be faster and more reliable than wifi.

If you have about 40 devices connected simultaneously, consider disconnecting non-essential devices to help free up more bandwidth for those you need most.

Weaker routers have a hard time connecting too many devices at once.

wifi access extension

If your wifi can’t reach parts of your home, you can extend your current router’s signal with plug-ins.

Powerline networking devices use the power cables in your home to transmit data. They usually cost between £20 and £70. They plug into standard electrical outlets with one connected to the router via an Ethernet cable, and others placed around the house to provide Ethernet and/or Wi-Fi ports for your devices. The speed at which you get it depends on the condition of your electrical wiring.

Wifi extenders (£25-70) do a similar thing, but simply connect to your router via wifi, then stream it back to other devices.

The Network Adapter (under £20) can add more Ethernet ports to your router if you need to connect more devices.

Upgrade to a better router

wifi network systems
Wifi systems come in different shapes and sizes, and spread your broadband throughout your home using a series of wirelessly interconnected satellite units. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Replacing your current router is often the most effective way to improve your wifi, but it’s also the most expensive. Before committing to a third-party router, talk to your ISP as they may be able to provide you with a more modern router for free. Virgin and other ISPs are currently rolling out more powerful routers with 6 Wi-Fi.

Other than that, there are broadly two options: a single beefy router with much more powerful wifi broadcasting than that cheaply provided by your ISP, or a mesh system, which uses a series of satellites scattered around your house to cover the wifi.

They both usually use their current router as modem and then broadcast their own more powerful wifi.

Single unit wifi 6 routers start at around £60 but can run into hundreds for powerful gaming-oriented devices. They connect to your old ISP box via an ethernet cable, which means they’re often easiest to put in a central area of ​​your home. Running a long Ethernet cable under floorboards or carpets, behind sideboards, picture rails, or under furniture can help keep things clean.

Good 5 mesh wifi systems start at under £100 for a triple set of satellites, which should be enough for most homes with connections under 200Mbps. For those with faster broadband, three-band wifi 6 models cost around £300.