Most of us have been affected by poor internet speed at one time or another. Those of a certain age will remember the exasperation caused by dial up internet connections during the pre-broadband era.
Broadband technology upgraded Ireland’s internet network a lot. A newer type of broadband using fibre optic cables - fibre broadband - is the latest innovation. Both reliability and speeds have seen significant improvement because of fibre optic technology.
This is all great news. But it does not mean that everyone with a broadband connection enjoys superfast speeds.
There are many reasons why broadband speeds throughout Ireland sometimes appear inconsistent, slow, or cut out.
The aim of this article is to show you what steps you can take in your home to improve download and upload broadband speeds. This includes streaming videos and watching your favourite movies.
So what can you do today to speed up the broadband speed at your property?
Check the broadband speed and availability in your area
Before You Do Anything: Check Your Devices
The devices you are using to access the internet have a huge effect on the broadband speed you can enjoy. So does the way in which you are using them.
Tip #1: Antivirus software can slow your broadband speed
Most PCs make use of antivirus software. This software often runs silently in the background and it can significantly slow down PC performance at key points when scans are undertaken. The same is true when files are downloaded and when malware is checked. Some antivirus software runs additional antispyware and antimalware programs.
All of this can slow down your device - often without you knowing.
To stop software like this impacting your broadband speed, make sure you know when scheduled scans and updates take place. In many cases you can schedule these updates at times when you will not be using your laptop or computer. This means that when you do expect to be online your PC will not be running scans at the same time.
Tip #2: Is your internet connection slow because of your device drivers are not up to date?
The hardware on your device is another factor which impacts broadband speeds. But if you are not a computer engineer do not worry - there are still things you can do quickly and easily. Firstly, you can make sure that all your device drivers are updated. Device drivers are the software on your computer that makes hardware function properly. Some examples of PC hardware which needs device drivers would be:
- the laptop or device microphone
- the screen display
- video graphics array (VGA) hardware
- read Only Memory (ROM)
- DVD writers
- USB ports
- the motherboard
- The Basic Input and Output System (BIOS)
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.
Tip #3: Is the hardware on the device causing slow broadband speed?
When you know all device drivers are updated then the actual hardware in the device needs to be considered. Is the network card in your laptop, PC or other device up to date? Is the capacity of your network card compatible with the broadband package you purchased? You might need hardware upgrades within your device or even a new device.
Tip #4: Does your device have enough spare memory?
Where possible you should free up memory to improve broadband speed performance. Over time movies get downloaded and stored, photo albums grow in size, and other programs get installed. Many people forget how little spare memory is left on their laptop, PC or tablet. This can slow the device down considerably even if the broadband connection itself is lightning fast.
Here are some things you can do to free up disk space on your device:
- delete rich media files (movies, photos, videos) you no longer need
- move the rich media files you do need to an external hard drive
- work out what apps and programs on your device hog memory. Remove if possible
- close programmes and apps which you no longer need
- stop programmes launching automatically at start up
- minimize background synching (for example, iCloud or Dropbox storage accounts)
- empty your recycle bin regularly
- empty your downloads folder regularly
- clear caches on your Windows or Mac device
- perform ‘defragment’ operations on your Windows device (Macs defragment automatically and usually need no further action)
Programs and apps which hog memory take up significant amounts of Random Access Memory (“RAM”). Not having sufficient ROM or RAM can affect your broadband speed so it is good to be aware of both potential memory related issues.
Tip #5: A final resort when your device cannot handle your broadband connection
As a last resort, it might be that your device is out of date and requires an upgrade.
Second: Improve Device Connectivity
The way the device is connected to the internet within the property has a huge impact on broadband speed. Devices which are connected by a physical cable called an ethernet connection have far superior and reliable speeds compared to devices which are connected via Wi-Fi.
Tip #6: Use ethernet cables when you need the best broadband speeds
You should therefore where possible connect devices to your modem through a physical ethernet cable. This will ensure that the device is receiving the best speed available from the modem.
Tip #7: The modem location affects home broadband connections
Where wireless connections are required or preferred It is critical to consider where the modem should be situated. In most properties where all rooms need connectivity it should be kept prominent within the middle of the property. If only specific rooms need connectivity than the modem should be placed in a sensible and safe location close to rooms which need to be connected. In all cases, avoid thick walls or other obstructions which might impair the quality of the Wi-Fi signal.
Ultimately, the modem needs to be in a place where the Wi-Fi signal will not be affected. A surprising number of factors can affect Wi-Fi signal. Placing the modem near radiators, strong lighting, reflective surfaces, and electronic equipment can all have a dramatic impact.
Tip #8: Eliminate Wi-Fi interference for top broadband speeds
Household items affect Wi-Fi signals. This can in turn affect your broadband speed. Many items around the home can be problematic in certain situations. A good example is cordless phones. Care should be taken to ensure that the modem is at least 6 metres away from all cordless phones and other electronic equipment which might affect the Wi-Fi signal. CCTV, home automation systems other equipment based on Wi-Fi technology can interfere with your broadband reliability and speed. Even robotic lawn mowers, neighbouring Wi-Fi equipment and other devices outside can be problematic if competing Wi-Fi technology is close enough to your modem.
Next: Consider Modem and Router Changes
The type of modem being used, the hardware contained within the modem, and Its compatibility with devices are all factors which can have a dramatic impact on broadband speed.
Tip #9: Choose the right modem frequency range
Modems can be configured to different frequency ranges. This can improve broadband speed significantly because it can reduce or eliminate broadband signal interference with other devices in the home. There are a number of different radio frequency ranges which can be used for home and office Wi-Fi in Ireland:
- 900 MHz
- 2.4 GHz
- 3.6 GHz
- 4.9 GH
- 5 GHz
- 5.9 GHz
- 60 GHz
Each range is divided into different channels. 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz are commonly used for broadband connectivity in Ireland. Selecting between these would be a good starting point.
By choosing a channel and a range which does not conflict with other Wi-Fi technology in your home or office you can minimise broadband disruption and optimise the speed you can enjoy.
Often it is not obvious which is the right channel to set for your modem. You may not be aware of technologies in your home which make use of Wi-Fi. Even if you do know which technology in your home makes use of Wi-Fi you may not be aware of the ranges and channels they operate on. In such cases there may be an element of trying different modem frequency channels until you find a combination which works in your particular situation.
Tip #10: Decide which rooms need high speed broadband the most when booster solutions are not available
In some cases the modem might not be able to serve sufficient broadband speeds or reliability to every room in a property. This is often the case in older property, rural property and large premises including offices.
In these situations Wi-Fi booster devices can be used to strengthen or extend the signal provided by the modem. Wi-Fi boosters can work incredibly well if they are compatible with the modem and the devices which are accessing the internet. If the compatibility is fine and if the Wi-Fi booster has adequate hardware then broadband speeds can be improved.
As a last resort, however, you may need to choose the rooms you most want Wi-Fi to be available in. You might then need to find a suitable location for the modem closer to these rooms.
Finally: See What Broadband Connection Types Are Available
Different types of broadband connection are available for most properties in Ireland. They are often all called ‘broadband’ online and in advertisements. In reality, however, the technology can be completely different.
Tip #11: Check to see if your broadband speed is limited by installation type
Different broadband technologies provide widely different network speeds. So you might have a certain type of broadband connection which is hard or impossible to speed up.
Tip #12: Use free online broadband speed test tools
Some steps you can take to establish your broadband connection speed include:
- Take a broadband speed test using a reputable speed test tool online
- Take multiple tests at different points of the day and week to compare scores
- Compare scores across multiple speed test tools with Ireland servers to assess patterns
Tip #13: Consider upgrading or switching to a new broadband deal
Check what broadband speed you could be getting and compare this to what you are currently seeing from your broadband speed test recordings. If you feel there is a better option available then you can proceed and switch deals for better broadband speed.
Tip #14: Get organized as you prepare for lightning fast broadband speed
Bear in mind that switching broadband is frustrating if you are not organized. It is a great idea to get some details ready in advance. You might not need all of it, but if you do not have these details then you might have problems signing up for a new broadband package depending on the provider.
These details are:
- Your IBAN banking number. This is different from your SWIFT code. You can usually find your IBAN number on your bank statements, when you log in to online banking or in your banking app. You may also have made a note of your IBAN number when you opened your account.
- The property UAN number. The UAN number is a broadband identification code. It is specific to the property being served broadband, not to the customer. So when you move house, for example, you need the UAN for the house you moved to and not the UAN you had at your old address. The UAN is usually on any broadband bills previously sent to the property. If renting, letting agents often have this information.
- The property CRN number. This is a different type of broadband identification number for some types of broadband installation. It is usually on the bills sent to the property. This code again relates to the property and not to the customer. So when you move house you need the CRN for the house you moved to and not the CRN you had at your old address. If renting, letting agents often have access to the CRN number. If your type of broadband connection does not have a CRN number, then it is a good idea to have the property landline number to hand instead.
- Your diary. In some cases, you will need to know what your availability is for a technician to come to your property and install broadband. This involves you or someone adult in your premises being present for the appointment.
- Your current broadband provider’s details. It sounds simple, but some people get new broadband installed without cancelling their existing contract. It is easier to switch and cancel broadband at the same time. Having current details handy before you start is a smart move.
Key points when it comes to speeding up your broadband
There are many different factors which can affect the speed of broadband connections. Often, the broadband connection itself can be fine but broadband speeds seem slow for other reasons.
A major factor which slows down broadband speed and affects accessibility is the device used. There are many things you can do to improve device performance if this is slowing down your internet connection speeds.
Whether Wi-Fi is being used, the programs and apps on the device, hardware, spare memory and the age of the device are also key points to consider. Again, there are practical steps you can take to improve all of these things. As a worst case scenario you can consider replacing or upgrading your device.
The modem, the broadband installation and other external factors can all affect the broadband speed you enjoy in your home or office. Careful configuration and placement of the modem can improve broadband speeds significantly.
Finally, sometimes the broadband connection itself is either part of or all of the issue. This could be because of the connection type. It could also be because of the package you purchased or other technical reasons. By testing your connection and considering your specific location there might be an opportunity to switch to a superior broadband package.