Broadband Speed Problems
Suffering from broadband speed problems?
Well if it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. Broadband speed problems account for the majority of complaints raised with broadband suppliers. However, before you get too angry with your supplier there are certain things you ought to consider when assessing your broadband speeds.
2Mbps instead of 40Mbps? Okay, maybe you have a problem. Such a big gap between expected and received speeds would be hard to explain away as being down to anything other than a line or setup fault, but even so the fault could still be inside your property.
In the case of this writer I had a similar performance issue which was eventually traced to modifications made by a previous resident. “That’s what happens when people use cheap freelance engineers” was my engineer’s (moderated) explanation.
How are you measuring your speed?
The closest you will get to the same speed measurements as those seen by the network will be to plug your pc into your router using an ethernet cable and checking that all other devices are turned off or disconnected. Before testing your line, turn off any proxy server or firewall as these can affect the results. Then go to https://www.speedtest.net/ and run their test. It’s rated as the most accurate independent speed tester. The test takes no more than 30-40 seconds and measures both upload and download speeds. For a second opinion, you can try the test at https://speedof.me/ which does the same thing but using a different method.
Once you’ve done that, turn your firewalls back on and turn your usual devices back on. If the devices are usually connected via WiFi let them connect and then try testing speeds from those devices with one or two logged in to the internet and you’ll see a speed difference.
If one of your household is a gamer, constant TV/Video streamer or downloader, try testing while they’re active and you’ll see a further difference.
Some broadband speed problems relate to the practice employed by some suppliers of throttling – slowing down – speeds for all users during peak periods. A bit like reduced speeds on motorways, this is intended to smooth traffic out and so allow better speeds for everybody. Some companies use traffic management, some don’t. The jury is out on whether this is a positive or negative thing, but one way or the other you shouldn’t be surprised to see reduced speeds in the evenings.
What devices are using your broadband?
These days almost anything more sophisticated than a broom can use WiFi to operate, send data or access the internet. Household security cameras, camera door bells, smartphones, laptops, heating systems, fridges, TVs, streaming sticks, tablets and so on can all be silently logging in and eating away at your speeds.
When shouldn’t you use WiFi?
There’s no getting away from it; WiFi is brilliant. However, there are times when you should try to use a wired ethernet connection to your router when possible. WiFi will never provide the same speeds that you get from a direct connection and when your speeds are already low, you don’t want to further reduce them if at all possible. Also, if you’re in a building with thick walls you’ll find that WiFi signal strength will vary and may not reach every corner of the house, no matter what you do, short of adding more repeaters than you have chairs!
If you have no choice but to use WiFi, treat yourself to the best router you can justify paying for. The free routers supplied by broadband companies are better than they were a few years ago but for reall top-end performance you’ll need to buy your own. Routers aimed at gamers are usually among the best, but can easily cost £100-200. As an alternative you can buy WiFi repeaters, which pick up and re-transmit signals around the house. There are also powerline adaptors that use the household electrical wiring to move signals around the house, with their plug-in adaptors becoming WiFi hotspots around the house.
Unrelated to speed you should also remember that connecting to the internet via WiFi is less secure than using a cable. It’s unlikely that your neighbour has hacked your WiFi password and is piggy-backing your broadband services for free, but it can be done, especially if you have a weak password.
Physical distance from cabinets
If you have ADSL or FTTC fibre broadband, the distance between your property and the local cabinet/exchange makes a big difference and causes many broadband speed problems. The further away, the more speed is lost due to resistance in the copper cables. There is nothing you can do about this and changing suppliers won’t help at all. Changing house, a somewhat drastic way to improve broadband speeds, is more likely to be effective!
But maybe there’s just a fault!
If you have considered all the above, ruled out wifi weaknesses being a problem and don’t have devices silently using your broadband without you knowing, it could just be that there’s a fault on your line! If you believe this is the case, contact your supplier and advise them of it. They will conduct tests themselves and also raise a fault with the network to see if a fault can be found. Just don’t be surprised when your supplier asks you questions about how many users and devices there are; they have to rule out the obvious themselves, even if you’ve already done that.
Before you contact technical support…
To avoid the embarrasment of realising you’ve wired the router incorrectly, have too many devices connected or other basic issues, we recommend reading our ‘testing broadband speeds‘ page and running the suggested tests before contacting your broadband supplier’s technical support team.