How To Get The Most From Your Broadband Connection
So you have a brand new broadband broadband connection. It’s cheaper than before and gives you a lot more bandwidth. Still, you don’t quite get the maximum download speed promised. What’s wrong?
An Internet connection goes beyond just going to a provider and paying a flat rate. Going online will reveal a whole universe of information needed to optimize your home Internet connection. Everything from router specifications to port configurations. It might as well be Klingon if you’re unfamiliar with the tech.
Still, here are some basic steps you can take to get the most speed from your internet.
Get a better router
Most home broadband plans now include a WiFi router and modem free of charge. That’s a lot to start with, but let’s be honest – these will be extremely economical devices. This is important because routers have a maximum limit on the bandwidth they can provide through WiFi.
In many cases, these routers come with a wireless connection that can handle speeds of up to 1 Gbps (1000 Mbps). They will also have two antennas that emit the signal. One using the 2.4 GHz band and the other at 5 GHz. This part is important because it is what affects your home connection.
The 2.4 GHz band is the slower of the two, with a maximum bandwidth of 300 Mbps. On the other hand, the 5 GHz band offers a maximum bandwidth of just under 7 Gbps per second.
Speed is not the only thing to consider in this case. The 2.4 GHz band may offer less speed, but has more range and is better at sending the signal through walls. An important factor if you and your router are at opposite ends of the house. The difference between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz is a trade-off between speed and range.
With this in mind, it is important to know which band your WiFi router is currently using. Each manufacturer has a different default setting, and you should consult your user manual on how to change the settings.
Upgrade all your gadgets
This is not an upgrade for everyone. Most of you will absolutely agree with what you read in the previous section on getting a better router.
At the end of 2019, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers introduced the new WiFi 6 standard. This results in even faster wireless connections that can reach speeds three times faster than the previous standard (in theory).
However, accessing WiFi 6 can mean upgrading everything in your house (phone, computer, TV, etc.). Only the latest devices can work with it, and everything else will just stay at the old connection speed.
Extend your WiFi range
Let’s say you’re stubborn and want to stick to the fastest 5 GHz band. After all, you are paying for all that speed and you don’t want to waste it. The best way to extend the signal range of your router is to buy a little gadget called a repeater.
It’s just a matter of locating your WiFi signal and rebroadcasting it. This device then allows you to reach the corners of your house that your router does not have. Best of all, the installation doesn’t require a lot of effort.
A repeater is also very useful in the event that you have a large house that cannot be adequately covered by your router.
Wireless or cable, which best suits your needs?
Let’s be honest. Wireless connections will never give you the best speeds. This can happen for a variety of reasons; some listed here and others being a bit more technical. Either way, you will be guaranteed to lose some bandwidth no matter which router you are on.
The best way to maximize your Internet speed is to give up the wireless connection completely. You will need to sit a little closer to the router and directly connect a cable directly to your computer. A physical connection eliminates almost all interference, giving you the best possible speed.
Of course, this limits the number of people who can be connected at the same time. Each router has approximately four LAN ports for physical connections. Not to mention that there must be space for everyone to crowd around the router. In other words, it’s not really practical for a family using multiple devices that need internet access.
Other factors that can slow down your internet connection
Not all slow internet connections can be traced to your WiFi. Most of the time, it’s about updating your apps in the background. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can have a dramatic impact on your experience.
For example, Windows 10 has a habit of quietly downloading updates. You won’t know this is happening, but you will notice that websites suddenly load slower than usual. Some people end up turning off automatic updates to avoid this problem. These people also end up with security issues and become vulnerable to malware.
Instead, you can schedule these updates for a time when no one is actively using the Internet. It is recommended that you configure your computer to check for updates between midnight and 6 am; because you should already be asleep and not binge watching Netflix on a work night.
Finally, make sure you are not the problem
There are plenty of other ways to get the most out of your internet connection, but perhaps the most important thing is to make peace with the fact that you will never reach your top speed. There are various reasons why your internet is slower than expected. Many of these reasons are actually beyond your control.
With that said, you should be getting at least 90% of the advertised internet speed. This is a general number and in practice the actual number varies a little more. Either way, you should be prepared to contact your ISP if you’re consistently getting less than 80% of what you should be getting.
If you are wondering how it is done, there are tools on the internet to test this number. Remember to do everything you can to optimize your home network first. You don’t want an engineer to come to your house to point out that you are the problem.
* This article was originally published on November 26, 2018 and has been updated for freshness.
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