10 ways to improve your home’s internet connection
Whether it’s a lagging Netflix show, a frozen Zoom call, or your favourite website just won’t load, there’s one thing we can all agree on: slow internet is a drag.
With more of us working or studying from home, maybe because of the wet weather or because we’re isolating, having a wireless network that’s fast and lets you do the things you want to do is essential.
There could be a number of reasons why your connection is slow, such as the weather itself or high traffic on your service network - and these are out of your control. But there may also be other reasons for a sluggish signal that you can address. We have some tips and tricks to try so that you can troubleshoot your connectivity problems and get back online in no time.
1. Identify slow internet
The first thing you should do is compare the expected internet speed and your actual internet speed. At home, this means checking both maximum download and upload speeds, which are both represented in Megabits per second (Mbps).
Do a speed test by doing a Google search for ‘internet speed test’ and clicking ‘Run Speed Test’. If these speed don't match the ones on your internet bill, then you should go through the following steps before contacting your internet provider.
Take ‘busy periods’ into account
During the internet ‘busy period’, typically between 7pm and 11pm every night, it’s normal for speed to lag a bit. Outside of this time, however, your internet speed should be fairly close to what's advertised.
2. Turn it off and on again
The age-old trick (at least in this Digital Age) of turning your equipment off and on again may actually make a difference. Restarting your modem/router and NBN connection box may see speeds improve - just make sure that you check your product manual to ensure you’re rebooting it the right way.
Tip: You can disconnect from the mains power as well. Wait between 30 seconds to 1 minute before connecting your devices back to a power source again.
3. Improve the placement of your router
Is your router hidden away in a closet? You’re probably better off moving it. Walls, doors, digital devices like TVs, large appliances like fridges, and furniture are common Wi-Fi blockers - and they’re likely everywhere you look in your home. That’s why physically moving your router can make a noticeable difference to the speed of your internet.
The right spot will depend on your home, but in general, the more central it is, the better. Your router will work best with a clear line of sight, preferably 1.5 to 2 metres off the ground, and in a place where your devices can be close to. That may mean you need to get creative with your cabling, but it’ll be worth the better signal.
Ideally, you should also keep your router away from other devices that use electromagnetic waves, such as microwaves and radios (including baby monitors).
4. Get rid of unnecessary connections
Disconnect any devices that aren’t being used and may be slowing things down; you should only keep essentials connected to your network.
You can do this fairly quickly by changing your Wi-Fi password and restarting your router, and then logging back in to the network with the new password on all the devices that you use. Using this method will help you get rid of devices that you didn’t realise were still connected to your network and aren’t really used much, like an emergency mobile tucked away in a drawer.
5. Update your devices
Keep on top of software updates on your devices, including router firmware and hardware driver updates (for those with PCs).
Read the labelling on your router to see how you can go to its settings and let you update its firmware. This may help with your speed problems and can also protect your connection from cyber crime, which is why you should make a point to update it on a regular basis even if you’re not experiencing slow speeds.
6. Switch to a different frequency
If you have a dual-band router, then try switching to the 5GHz band which offers faster speeds and, because it isn’t used as much, is less likely to experience interference from other wireless networks and devices.
7. Get extra equipment to boost your connection
Sometimes your signal needs a little extra help. Enter the Wi-Fi extender or the mesh router system.
Wi-Fi extenders - also referred to as Wi-Fi boosters or range extenders - extend the Wi-Fi signal from your router. It captures the signal from it and then rebroadcasts it to increase the coverage area of your Wi-Fi, which should hopefully improve your internet speed at home.
However, these extenders will only improve the signal based on the strength of the network at which it’s placed. This means that if it’s positioned at the edge of your Wi-Fi network, then it will only extend that likely low strength. A good compromise is to place the extender halfway between the router and the internet dead zone.
A mesh Wi-Fi system is more expensive but more effective than a Wi-Fi extender. A mesh system replaces your router entirely, and these devices connect to each other and cover large areas with a single network.
8. Consider upgrading your router
Often, the modem your service provider gives you is fine, but you can upgrade your router. Newer, better routers can produce a faster wireless network as they typically have more antennas, better radios, and faster processors.
9. Consider wired connections for essential devices
While being able to use devices wirelessly is handy, a wired connection will be faster and more reliable. It may be worth connecting high-priority devices like smart TVs, desktops, and gaming consoles to your router with an Ethernet cable.
10. If all else fails, contact your internet service provider
A decent provider should let you call up and have someone on the other end walk you through the steps needed to get your wireless connection up and running - and performing well. Sometimes it’s a quick fix on their end, but other times it may be a widespread outage that’s affecting many customers, including you.
Support from different internet companies can sometimes be a hit or miss, so if you’re unhappy with the level of support you’re receiving, then consider upgrading your service to a new plan with faster speed tiers or to a new internet provider altogether.
You can also read through Internet Service Provider reviews to see the top-rated internet plans and providers, and to see what other Aussies have to say about their connection.