Slow or inconsistent home and office broadband speeds are a major frustration for most people.
Lagging internet speed irritates you when you are online. It can have a dramatic impact on that challenging work deadline, the series finale of your favourite show or even the ability to download files.
But there is a bigger problem: it is not easy to to find out what causes broadband speed changes in the first place.
Without that knowledge, how can you know what to do when you want to improve your broadband connection and download speeds?
- Is your hardware able to handle superfast broadband speed?
- How suitable is your device’s network card?
- Antivirus and other software can slow connection speeds
- Broadband speed can be affected when there is not enough disk space
- How close is your modem to your device when you want to use Wi-Fi?
- What might be obstructing your Wi-Fi signal?
- How old is your property?
- Is your broadband speed suffering from Wi-Fi interference?
- How good are your router and modem?
- Do you use ethernet cabling?
- Who has access to your broadband network?
- Do you need to consider signal boosters?
- How good is the wiring in your building?
This article will show you what factors affect broadband connection speed to your home and to your business. There are lots of variables - way more than most people realise. But there are nearly always things you can do to speed up your broadband experience even if you are not skilled with computers or IT.
A key thing to bear in mind is this: it is not always the broadband speed that is the main problem.
Do you know if your slow speeds are because of the broadband service, other factors, or some combination of both? If not, read on.
Whilst it may seem as though the broadband speed is the primary problem, in many cases the fundamental issue is the device used to access the internet. New laptops, tablets and other devices are expensive. Very often these devices are kept in good condition and used for many years.
Your laptop or computer may look fully serviceable on the outside, but on the inside the hardware gets outdated fast. This can limit internet speeds even when the broadband connection is fast. Broadband technology has advanced a lot in the last few years. The speeds now available are often too fast for many devices. AC Wi-Fi or Wireless AC is technology which is inaccessible for a great many laptops more than a few years old. So even with a relatively new laptop it may be that you are unable to take advantage of gigabit speed or other fast speed broadband connections purely because of the device which is being used.
A particular source of problems revolve around the network card installed on the device. On many laptops tablets and smartphones the maximum speed is often limited to 100mbps. So even if the broadband connection speed is much faster the device will not be able to take advantage of the speeds available.
When drivers get out of date, the hardware can become unreliable or unresponsive. In some cases this can make your broadband connection appear slow. Simply search online for how to update your device drivers. Then follow the instructions to complete the process.
Software programmes on devices used to access the internet affect internet speeds significantly. A major cause of slowing or inconsistent broadband speed is antivirus software. Most PCs are protected by a wide range of anti-virus software. As well as antivirus, there are anti malware and anti spyware programs available on the market. Antivirus protection is important. But be aware that most leading solutions run automatically when checking for downloads, diagnosing overall device performance and running scheduled scans. This all slows down broadband speeds if you are online at the same time.
Not having much memory left on the device is another problem which can affect broadband speeds. Insufficient memory will often slow down the performance of devices online and offline. When such devices are used in conjunction with antivirus software broadband speed problems can emerge very quickly. And this is still true if the broadband connection itself is super fast. Devices have 2 types of memory: read only memory ("ROM") and random access memory ("RAM"). RAM gets taken up by software running on devices and many programmes can 'hog' RAM when they are running. In addition, older devices often have barely enough RAM. Antivirus software and apps can tip them over the edge in terms of broadband speed performance.
The connection between the device and the modem is also vital for fast broadband speeds. This is especially key when wireless connections are being used rather than cables or ethernet connections.
The amount of space between the device or devices being used to access the internet and the modem can make a big difference to Wi-Fi connections. If the modem is situated in a location which is far away from some of the devices or hidden behind thick walls then speeds can slow. Sometimes the modem is placed on a different floor to where the device is being used to access the internet. This can also cause problems.
Wi-Fi signals can also be affected by other types of obstruction between the modem and the device. Common examples include locating the modem in a position which keeps it out of sight (such as a cupboard or cabinet), concealing the modem behind other electrical equipment like a television, hiding the modem behind furniture or even under stairs.
The age of the property in which the broadband connection has been set-up is often very relevant when it comes to Wi-Fi speed. Older properties tend to have problematic thicker walls. In addition, it is common to find durable concrete flooring in between the first two stories. In many rural properties there are often more walls and rooms. This can mean that is ensuring broadband accessibility in all rooms with a single modem is challenging.
Other electronic equipment used within the property can cause significant broadband performance issues including broadband speed. Examples which have been reported include other equipment which uses Wi-Fi such as:
- mobile phones
- cordless phones
- home automation
- CCTV systems
- modern doorbell technology
- robotic lawn mowers
In many cases these technologies use Wi-Fi channels which can interfere with wireless broadband connections. There are ways of reducing and eliminating Wi-Fi interference to speed up broadband.
After devices and the Wi-Fi signal, another critical factor adversely affecting broadband speed is the router and modem.
Many online information resources dealing with broadband speed factors mistakenly use the terms modem and router interchangeably. They are not the same thing.
A modem Is the piece of hardware which connects to the internet. The router is what connects individual devices and your Wi-Fi.
Typically internet service providers provide both pieces of hardware as part of standard broadband packages. Very often issues connected with broadband speed can relate to either the modem or the router.
There are various modem and router factors which can affect broadband speed. first of all the specifications of the modem and router can have a direct impact on broadband speed which can be enjoyed.
When signing up for a broadband package or switching provider it is a great idea to ensure you will be provided with a modem and router which will fit the speed connected with the package.
How the devices are connected to the modem is very important.
Connections to the modem via a physical ethernet cable are more reliable for broadband speed. If the connections are all remote and via Wi-Fi you will likely experience variable broadband speed performance.
Some networks can be intentionally or accidentally shared with other users because of how the modem is set up. Privacy settings for example may not be set to encrypt the password. The name given to the Wi-Fi connection signal when setting up the connection might be the same as the password. In these and similar cases, unauthorized and unanticipated access to the same broadband network can take place. This can slow down broadband speed significantly.
Sometimes families or businesses invest in third-party booster devices or other hardware designed to improve the Wi-Fi coverage available at the property. But not all booster solutions are equal. A low quality or ineffective booster solution can often have an unintended adverse impact on broadband speed.
The way that the broadband connection between the modem and the external cabling within the property is set up is important. Very often the connection to the property itself is fine but electrical wiring within the building itself undermines the effectiveness of the broadband connection. This can all slow down broadband speeds. Outdated wiring is especially common in rural, older real estate.
The broadband speed being delivered to the modem is another speed factor.
One of the biggest variables when it comes to network speed is the type of connection which the property has had set up. There might be a limit on speed if you are relying on out of date technology.
There are different types of home broadband connection which rely on different types of technology. There are five main types and each of these has a different capacity for broadband connection speed:
- fibre broadband (also called fibre optic broadband)
- traditional broadband (this relies on the copper cabling technology used for phone lines)
- coaxial cabling (similar to traditional broadband but with cabling which is more effective than copper)
- wireless networks
- satellite broadband
The broadband speeds which can be secured vary hugely depending on the type of connection which is being used.
The fastest of these is fibre optic broadband. But even within fibre broadband packages there are still differences of technology which can have a bearing on the speed you can enjoy.
Fibre broadband services generally fall into one of three sub categories:
- Fibre optic cabling is used at every stage of the connection. these types of service are called fibre to the home (or ftth). Depending on the website you are reading and the information you have access to, the same type of connection is also called fibre to the building (fttb) and fibre to the property (fttp). In practice, these terms all mean the same thing. In a fibre to the home connection, fibre optic cabling is used at every stage of the connection. This means little to no interference or interruption to the broadband connection before it reaches the property.
- Sometimes fibre optic cabling is not available to the property which has broadband installed. In many cases excellent broadband can still be enjoyed via fibre to the cabinet installations. With a fibre to the cabinet installation (also called fttc or “fibre to the exchange”) fibre optic cabling is used for the majority of the connection. Copper cabling is then used from the nearest exchange to the property itself.
- If the cabling used as part of a fttc connection is coaxial cable then the speed which can be served is typically superior to standard fttc connections using copper cable.
Finally, different internet packages available in Ireland have a network speed associated with them.
Internet speed is actually two speeds (upload speed and download speed) expressed in terms of Mbps or GB. At present the fastest internet download speeds available in Ireland are 1,000Mbps. This equates to 1 gigabit (often written as “1GB”).
It is important to understand that the numbers quoted are a best case scenario. They are not speeds you should be expecting on a consistent basis, nor are they guaranteed. The device, modem, connection and other factors may make these best case speeds impossible in some cases.
Speed for broadband packages cannot be calculated with 100% precision and guaranteed on that basis because of a range of variables unique to each installation. For example:
- The physical location of the real estate from the nearest exchange has a direct impact on the speed which can be enjoyed from any fibre to the cabinet connection.
- In the case of fixed wireless and satellite connections local geography could impact consistency and reliability of the signal. Hilly areas, mountain ranges, forestry and even heavy rain have been known to have a direct impact on broadband speed.
- Fibre to the cabinet connections are also known to have higher latency than fibre to the home connections.
The network supplying broadband to a property is often used to supply broadband to other properties in the same area. this means that broadband speed can be affected when volumes of people use the same network at any one time.
At specific times of the day (evenings and weekends, for example) downloads of movies and streaming of rich media are higher than usual. This can limit broadband speed for people online within that network.
There are many factors which can directly or indirectly affect broadband speed. Some of these are connected with the broadband service which is being delivered to the property. Some of them are more to do with the connection between the device and the Wi-Fi signal. The devices themselves are very important if you want lightning fast speeds in your home or office. Usually slow broadband speeds are a combination of issues from the above factors. If you discover that in your particular case slow broadband speeds are happening because of the service being provided to your property then you should investigate what packages are available in your area and the broadband speed which can be served to the property.