Possibly one of the biggest complaints I hear and often the provider isn’t to blame or a simple change of equipment is all you need. So lets look at things you can do to help, how to narrow down issues and why they may happen.
This covers the issues you have control of, if you want to see what your provider may be doing to cause it click here…
Before we go anywhere remember, faults can and do happen. How often and how long for is directly related to your bill. Our Leased lines cost a fortune but in the time we have had them we have had one outage in three years which lasted minutes. Don’t expect to pay bargain basement prices and get good service, that’s not how it works.
That out of the way lets look at the most common issue: WiFi
Almost all of t he issues I see are caused by WiFi. Either bad equipment, poor setup and unrealistic expectations. If you are having speed issues the very first thing you need to do is rule out the WiFi connection. Connect to the router with a cable, if you are using a laptop, turn the WiFi off on the machine, some machines will STILL use WiFi even if cabled (I’m looking at you here HP). Re-run your speed tests and if all is well, you have WiFi issues. If not, something deeper is going on. for at least half of people that have issues this will solve the issue.
So what are the possible causes. First and foremost, the router may just be pants. There are a lot of very unrealistic claims put out by many providers about their kit. At the end of the day these were all built by the lowest bidder with little QA or actual verification of the claims. A number of times providers have been told by the ASA they need to prove this and have been unable to. Dont beleive the hype. For example one of the larger providers touts their router as being the best in the world, able to solve world hunger and cure cancer in rats. Sad fact of the matter is that not only is it garbage, but it can actually slow other people’s connections arounf you down which brings us on to:
Congestion. The radio waves are not an infinite resource. You have to share a relativeley small amount of radio spectrum with everyone else. The most commonly used band at 2.4Ghz is quite small with only 11 channels. Given the distance WiFi can go thats normally enough but in dense housing you may have a problem. This is made worse by many supplier routers being fixed to one of those 11 channels by default and in the case of one of the larger suppliers, the router using up to 4 channels in one hit. That 11 channels doesn’t go so far with this happening. To make it worse. Microwave Ovens, Wireless AV, DECT cordless phones, Bluetooth, radio control and many, many other things.
The location of your router can make things worse with regards to interferance, especially with cheaper units. Site the router away from any of the above items and one of the most common trouble makers here is the DECT cordless phone sat on the top of the router. It needs to be at least 3ft from the router.
5Ghz WiFi can reduce a lot of this but that band also has some big users meaning that its not immune, although there are less things up here at the moment it IS affected by some doppler and fire control radars making it a little hit and miss around military installations and airfields
There are many apps available for mobiles that enable you to see channel use in relation to your router and if you know how, you can fix your router on clear channels. If your provider use your router to broadcast a free network for your provider’s customers to use, you can ask for this to be turned off (Virgin and BT do this by default!) Sometimes a channel change is all that’s needed.
Obstruction is another issue. WiFi does not penetrate well, especially metal or materials containing moisture. Adding repeaters or moving your router can help but a repeater may be the best bet. The 2.4 and 5Ghz bands behave differently. Although both are affected by metal 2.4Ghz gives better distance where as 5Ghz scatters better and gives better connections close in. Many routers use both to get better coverage.
Often overlooked is the capability of the router. Many broadand connections are capable of well over 100Mbit and many routers top out at 54Mbit. This was a particular concern for some BT Homehubs where the WiFi cannot match the broadband speed. Replacing an older router may help and you have to remeber, once again, that your connection id not only shared by you and your household but by every device and router in range on that channel.
We have touched on this already above, sometime it’s just time to upgrade the equipment. Your provider will sometimes do this but in most cases it is easy enough to do yourself and you’ll get better equipment this way. Quite often as technology advances lines get the new technology but the old equipment can’t support it and so you never see the gain. Vectoring being deployed by BT is a good example of this. Very few routers including their own support this yet it is being enabled on many lines and gives more stable connections and in some cases better speed. G.Fast is another example. There are still DOCSIS 2 modems out there on the virgin network that top out at 10Mbit despite Virgin no longer offering a service that slow.
Supplier routers are normally ‘just good enough’ often with just enough processing power to get the job done and no more. On top of this some kit is bugged and crippled out the box. The Virgin Superhubs are infamous for having a serious bug that couldn’t be fixed. When you get down to the very low end routers they can be truly awful.
A router issue will show up with a poor speed result regardless of what you do, even direct cable connection. Its always worth rebooting the router before you go any further and leave it off for at least 5 mins before powering back up. If you still have issues then you have one last thing to look at, the line.
Sadly not all broadband services are created equal. With ADSL, VDSL (Also incorrectly called Fibre) and 4G you have the option to change your router. Some providers don’t like this but you are free to do it and in almost every case, even where there is no problem this will result in an improvement. If you are on a cable connection though you have less control and you must used the supplied router. All is not lost though, most of not all support being used as a modem, turning off the router side of things and then you can use most types of commonly available broadband router. The same can be done with most satellite providers, however as a rule the supplied routers are normally actually pretty good and rarely a source of trouble.
This is different depending on your provider.
For cable all you can do is look for loose connections. The F connectors used can work loose. Check the box outside and make sure the cover is on. Thats about all you can do.
For full fibre, you are in the same boat. Check the cables for damage and make sure they are secure.
For ADSL and VDSL youc an do a little more. The first thing your provider will ask you to do is disconnect everything except the modem. If you have a BT type socket you can remove the lower half of the face place on the NTE5C sockets with a built in filter. This leaves your modem as the only thing connected. If this helps, you have an issue in the house and more likeley than not a bad or missing microfilter. They do actually fail believe it or not! On the older sockets you can remove that plate and plug your microfilter right into the socket behind it. Likewise if this helps you have an issue in the house. Now Openreach will do this same test for your provider. If THEY find this solves the issue you’ll be charged for the call out so its good to do this if you can.
If it’s still no good the odds are you have a line problem and you need to speak to your Provider.