Ways to boost your home broadband

Man on laptop

It’s likely that when the UK’s unprecedented lockdown finally begins to ease, many of the restrictions placed on us since late March might be maintained. Even as some businesses start phased returns, millions of employees could be expected to work from home wherever possible. Schools are unlikely to reopen for at least a few weeks, meaning any degree of primary or secondary education will remain reliant on web-based learning. And people of all ages are increasingly using online gaming and streaming media services to fill long days of restricted movement and enforced social isolation.

This is placing an extraordinary strain on broadband services, many of which are decidedly old-fashioned. Some homes across Scotland still rely on copper phone lines, restricting line speeds to around 11Mbps. That may not allow you to stream Disney+ to four separate devices at once (even though a subscription supports four simultaneous streams), or let gamers enjoy the latest Xbox and PlayStation titles. Some domestic appliances are voracious consumers of bandwidth; a Sky Q box consumes 5Mbps even on standby, potentially leaving an entire home with only 6Mbps for everything else. Add in an Alexa smart speaker and a Hive home heating system, and your smartphone may end up connected to 4G rather than WiFi.

Happily, there are plenty of ways to boost home broadband, including these simple tips for improving connectivity around the home:

  1. Use Ethernet cables. Hardwiring a device to your broadband router is faster and more dependable than a WiFi connection. Wherever you can, connect computers, TVs and smart home devices to your broadband router with an Ethernet cable.
  2. Invest in Powerline adaptors. These are the next best thing to a hardwired Ethernet link. Connecting a router to a plug socket via Ethernet pumps bandwidth through your electricity circuits, achieving faster speeds than devices would manage via WiFi.
  3. Disconnect bandwidth hogs. While you’re stuck at home, there’s little benefit having a Hive heating system munching its way through bandwidth. If your connection is slow, unplug smart TVs and app-based hardware to free up bandwidth.
  4. Reposition your router. ISPs often claim your router needs to be connected to the master phone socket. Yet it may be more effective plugged into a satellite socket if the latter’s position is more central, distributing data more equally around the home.
  5. Upgrade your router. Building on the last point, the router supplied by your ISP will be cheap and basic, but a third-party device could do the same job far better. Look for routers with external aerials, 2.4/5GHz dual bandwidth and WiFi6 technology.
  6. Buy repeaters. Another way to improve whole-home connectivity is through repeaters and mesh systems. The former amplify WiFi signals across a broader area, while the latter create whole-home networks with more consistent speed and signal strength.
  7. Reset the router. Like most always-on electronic devices, routers can slow down through sheer overwork. Restarting it may boost efficiency, as well as enabling software updates to take place – which themselves could improve performance
  8. Schedule key events for periods of low activity. Many tasks can be scheduled overnight, from downloading box sets to running software updates. Try to arrange bandwidth-heavy activities for times when few other people or devices will be active.
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