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Why is my WiFi slow?

The first factor to consider when you’re experiencing slow WiFi is – is it actually slow? Or could it be something else? With so many people now working from home it’s important to understand what could be causing internet speeds to appear sluggish.

So, to start – where are you testing from?

Most home setups involve a line coming into your house and an ISP (Internet Service Provider) router connected to it i.e BT home hub or Virgin hub. These hubs have WiFi enabled on them & usually a 4-port switch that you can connect an ethernet cable into.

So, the first thing to test is what speeds you get when connected by ethernet straight into your home hub. There are many sites that allow for speed testing, here are a couple are listed below:

Top Tip

Do a few of these tests at different times of the day and record the results – obviously if these don’t show what you’re expected then raise a ticket with your ISP*. If they look ok, you now know what speeds you should be getting.

Now you can test the WiFi, using one of the speed testers.

First, disconnect the ethernet cable. Then test from the same room over WiFi.

Top Tip

Ensure it’s just you on the WiFi at this point (if you can!), so no kids on video games or streaming films whilst testing as these are big bandwidth killers).

You should test in that room using two or more devices (not simultaneously) if possible and ensure they are going over WiFi and not 3/4G. This ensures you don’t have a problem with one device**.

What are your speeds like? The same? Or worse?

Next, use the same testing in all rooms of the house and record the results.

The speeds should decrease as you go further away from the Hub/Router. But if the signal or speeds are too slow in one room then you may need a second WiFi access point (AP). There are many “mesh” solutions out there, but all can have issues. The best solution is to run an ethernet cable from the second AP back to the ISP Hub.

The other factor to consider is WIFi interference – the worst of which usually comes from neighboring houses as it is likely that they are using the same spectrum (channels). All ISP hubs will be using channels 1/6/11 on the 2.4GHz band and channels 36-48 on the 5GHz Band.

Most UK ISPs WiFi settings are far from optima and appear to have been setup more from a marketing perspective (to say they can achieve really high speeds) Yes, they could if you were using it on its own in a LAB environment.

So, unless you install an enterprise grade WiFi system (these can use many more channels – so one that isn’t being used) you will see some level of interference. Enterprise grade hardware can also handle more WIFi devices, whereas home grade kit might not handle more than 15-20 devices.

Top Tip

Is your WiFi slower at certain times of day, or when more people are in the house? It stands to reason that you will get slower speeds per device as more devices are connected. If not then it may be the ISP, but the earlier testing you did via the ethernet cable should have highlighted that.

Bear in mind that this list is only the tip of the iceberg, and there are many other factors to consider. The link below shows how bluetooth headsets, and household appliances such as microwaves can all negatively affect your WIFi.

* Please ensure you do not have a connected VPN when doing these checks. As this may degrade your speed tests.

** If you are seeing issues with just one device, then look to update firmware. Dodgy firmware updates have killed WiFi speeds or functions – this has happened many times to Chromebooks/Laptops/IOS and Android devices.

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