To improve your WiFi speed, you first need to ascertain whether the issue is with the WiFi (Wireless connection only) or your general broadband speed. Ideally, you would first connect to your router via a wired ethernet connection and run a speed test. This would give you a more accurate representation of your broadband speed. If happy with the confirmed speed, you could try the same test over a wireless connection. For best results, this test would be close to your router (within 5 metres), with a pure line of sight, avoiding any obstacles, like doorways and staircases. If the speed you achieve wirelessly is similar to the speed reached in your wired-connected test, your problem is likely to be from interference or a physical obstruction path as you move around your home.
When considering the optimum location of your router, you need to be mindful of the impact on the signal of different materials. Standard glass, wood and fabric cause a relatively low interference to WiFi signal. Brick is considered a medium interference obstacle, and plaster, concrete and low emission energy saving glass or bullet-proof glass is extremely difficult for WiFi to penetrate. Metal obstacles should be completely avoided. Remember that some of your internal walls could have been constructed using foil-backed plasterboard, and cement board is often used in wetrooms and bathrooms.
The location of your router is critical if you want to maximise its performance. Most basic routers have an omnidirectional antenna, giving you an even 360 degree coverage. A central router position in the home helps to minimise dead spots.
The most common source of interference is from other WiFi networks. The default channel your WiFi router is set to might be the same as your neighbours, causing interference. Configuring your router to use a different WiFi channel should fix this problem. If your router is on the 2.4GHz band, you would typically select channels 1, 6, or 11. A modern, good quality router like the BT Smart Hub 2 will perform a WiFi scan when you first set it up, or when you initiate a factory reset. Another common cause of WiFi interference can be from; fluorescent lighting, WiFi video cameras, cordless house phones, microwave ovens, WiFi printers and baby monitors. WiFi devices operate on either 2.4 GHz or 5 Ghz. A good, modern router will also offer 'dual-band', transmitting two networks simultaneously, allowing you to connect some of your devices to the less congested 5Ghz frequency band. Even if your router supports the 5Ghz band, it might not be automatically switched on. Refer to your routers user guide for setup instructions.
The 2.5Ghz frequency band used for most WiFi devices is the standard and has been around for a while. It's good at what it does, but it's so popular that it can be a congested frequency to use. This is why the 5Ghz band was introduced. But, if interference is not an issue, then switching to the 5GHz band might make things worse. Although the 5GHz frequency band has the advantage of being able to transfer data faster and is less prone to interference, it's not as good at penetrating walls and obstacles around the house. It also has a shorter range. So, if you're trying to get your WiFi to reach the garden shed - try it with the 2.5Ghz band first!
The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has strict rules about how internet service providers (ISPs) can advertise broadband speeds. An ISP must display the 'average speed' that at least 50% of their customers can achieve during peak time (8pm-10pm).
For example, a standard ADSL broadband package from TalkTalk may be able to achieve a maximum speed of 17Mbps, but it can only advertise this broadband package as 11Mbps, which is their peak hour rate for this particular package. All broadband deals listed on FasterBroadband.co.uk are displayed with the peak 'average customer' speed. To view the maximum achievable speed for any deal, click on it's 'key features' link on our Broadband Deals page.
When you switch your broadband provider, your new ISP should clearly state what broadband speed you're likely to achieve at your property. This may be different from the speed advertised as 'average speed'. However, they must indicate your minimum speed before you agree to the contract.
Not all ISPs have signed up for this Ofcom voluntary code of practice. If your provider has, then if your broadband falls below your agreed minimum speed and they fail to fix it within 30 days of you first reporting the fault, you have the right to exit your contract without any early termination charges. This right to exit also applies to bundled TV products on the same line, irrespective of whether the two services were purchased simultaneously, or on the same contract. It should be noted that within that 30-day period, you must reasonably accommodate any engineer visits they deem necessary. If you do not make yourself available when required, the 30-day period will be extended accordingly. A copy of Ofcom's current RTE process can be viewed here: Ofcom Voluntary Code of Practice (Residential) PDF
Currently, the following residential ISP's have joined this Ofcom code of practice:
You should be able to stream TV programmes comfortably with a connection speed as low as 3Mbps. For example, streaming BBC iPlayer programmes in Standard Definition (SD) requires a connection speed of 1.5Mbps. However, if you choose to stream in High Definition (HD), a connection speed of 5Mbps is required. If you experience buffering problems with streaming in HD, switching to SD should resolve this.
|TV Service||SD Standard definition||HD High definition||4K Ultra HD|
|BBC iPlayer||1.5Mbps||5Mbps||Not available|
|Now TV||2.5Mbps||Not available||Not available|
macOS has a built-in Wifi diagnostics tool that is often overlooked. That's no surprise as it's well hidden, but nevertheless it's a great way to view your WiFi signal strength. Follow the steps below to start monitoring your WiFi signal in real-time.
Step 1: Hold down the Option (Alt) ⌥ key (to the left of the space bar), whilst clicking the WiFi icon in the top right of your screen.
Step 2: You should now be able to see a dropdown menu, like the one pictured below. The contents of this menu are handy as they show the type of WiFi network that you're connected to. The menu also shows the frequency your router is transmitting on (see 'Channel') - 2.4 GHz or the faster 5 GHz range. The type of security should ideally be WPA2, or the more recent WPA3. If your security is shown as either WEP or WPA (without any numbers after it), the security of your network traffic will be compromised.
Step 3: Within the dropdown menu, select 'Open Wireless Diagnostics'. Once the program window opens, navigate to the menu tab then select 'Performance' as per the image above.
Step 4: The program will display 3 live performance graphs which will show information that you can use to diagnose faults, compare different routers or different router positions.
The MAC Wifi diagnostics tool uses live graphs to show the performance of the following key aspects of your Wi-Fi connection :
Rate: shows the WiFi transmission rate over time in megabits per second.
Quality: shows the signal-to-noise ratio over time. Your device disconnects from the WiFi router when the quality is too low. Many factors can affect your WiFi signal quality, including the distance between your device and the router, signal obstruction due to objects such as walls and interference from other electrical items like microwave ovens. WiFi printers and cordless phones can also play a part in degrading your WiFi signal
Signal: shows both signal (RSSI) and noise measurements over time. You want the RSSI to be high and the noise to be low, so the larger the gap between RSSI and noise, the better.
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