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Slow internet? We help you identify and solve the issue
Our easy 4-step guide will help diagnose your slow Internet problems at home, plus learn some tips on how to make your Internet faster.
There are a lot of reasons why you might be experiencing slow Internet. It could be a problem with your modem or router, or there could be too many devices on your network clogging up your bandwidth. It might even be an issue with your Internet provider regarding service in your area. Whatever the reason, we’ve got four simple steps to follow to try to find the problem and tips for getting a better connection.
Slow Internet key points
- Slow internet could be congestion when customer demand exceeds the capabilities of an Internet provider. This is especially common during the evening when the largest proportion of customers are accessing the Internet at the same time.
- If you’re experiencing slow Internet, running speed tests and recording the results can help you present a compelling case to your Internet provider.
- Setting up and managing your home Wi-Fi correctly can also greatly help to boost your speed.
4 steps for diagnosing and fixing slow internet
If you’re experiencing slow internet, use these steps to diagnose and rectify the issue:
Step 1: Confirm whether you’re suffering from Internet congestion
Network congestion can affect the speed that you experience. For example, more people are using the Internet during the evening, so your service may be slower than it is in the early hours of the morning.
- Make sure your PC is connected directly to your modem via a cable – not via Wi-Fi or through a router, as this will leave your results open to debate.
- Make sure only your PC is active on your home network. Deactivate Wi-Fi devices like your mobile phone or tablet, turn off video game consoles and make sure nothing else is connected while you undertake the following tests.
- At regular intervals during the day over the period of a couple of days, perform a broadband speed test. It should take around one minute each time.
- When the test has run its course, record the details, preferably via a screenshot.
- Compare the recorded ping values, download speeds and upload speeds you’ve recorded to see whether they change dramatically throughout the course of the day. Some measure of slowdown at night is unavoidable (around 15% is reasonable) but if there is a dramatic difference then there’s a good chance you have a congestion issue. A high speed during the day proves your wiring and home infrastructure is not the problem and you are likely to be experiencing network congestion.
Step 2: Make sure the problem isn’t on your end
If your speed test results don’t show a significant decline in Internet speed during the evening hours, it’s time to rule out the possibility that the problem is on your end. Here are some quick tests to run.
Check your hardware
If you have multiple mobile phones, laptops and tablets connected to your home network, perform speed tests on all of them to see whether they all exhibit the same slowdown. If not, your Internet woes may be due to a problem with the hardware or software of a specific device.
When testing different devices, ensure that your testing process and environment is consistent. This might mean testing with a phone and a tablet, both on the same wireless network in the same room. If all tests turn out to be equally slow, then you could be looking at a problem with your modem or router.
In that case, the first step is to reset your modem and router. These are the “Internet boxes” that are most likely connected to a cable in the wall. If they have on/off switches, you can push that. If not, simply unplug them. Always leave the devices off for a minute or so before turning them back on, just to be safe.
If resetting your modem and router doesn’t help the performance of your wired devices, it might be time to call your Internet provider. If you’re testing wireless devices, there are a few more steps to take before picking up the phone.
Fix your Wi-Fi signal
- Locate your router. Wi-Fi signals have a hard time going through thick walls and travelling long distances. To make sure the problem isn’t the location of your wireless router, try moving it to different locations around your house. If things don’t improve, consider the age of your router, as it might lack the capacity to deliver consistently high speeds or may simply be malfunctioning. If moving the router does fix your speed woes but permanent relocation isn’t a viable solution, you might want to consider purchasing a Wi-Fi range extender to strengthen the signal around your house.
- Does your router need an upgrade? If you’ve switched to a new provider recently, you might have got a new modem as part of the deal. In this case, it’s probably not out of date. However, if you’ve had the same router for more than a couple of years, it’s possible that the router isn’t compatible with the latest network technologies or that it simply lacks the power to deliver the speeds you’re after. In this case, upgrading to a new router could result in a substantial speed boost.
- Try switching Wi-Fi channels. Wi-Fi routers communicate over wireless channels so as to avoid interference with other wireless devices. Most routers support quite a few different channels, but depending on your local network environment, some may be more crowded than others and can even overlap each other. You’ll need to dive into the settings of your router to change your Wi-Fi channel, but it’s worth testing performance across a few different ones to see if that makes a difference. Note that this is more likely to work with older 2.4GHz routers than newer 5GHz ones.
Step 3: Call your Internet provider
If you’ve thoroughly tested your home network across multiple devices and they all exhibit the same performance issues, it’s time to call your Internet provider to inform them of your slow Internet problem. Its technical support team may be able to offer further advice about identifying and resolving the issue. They’ll probably ask you to turn the modem off and on again, so humour them. It can’t hurt.
Step 4: Find a new Internet provider
You’ve tested, documented and discussed the issue of slow Internet with your ISP to no avail. It might be time to bite the bullet and think about switching to a new broadband provider.
It’s important to remember while browsing plans is that speeds are advertised as ‘up to’ the maximum speed for that connection type. For example, a plan can indicate speeds of up to 100Mbps, but you might not ever hit that number. This is because there are a number of factors that influence the speed of different connection types such as network congestion, environmental factors, hardware, wiring quality and distance from the exchange or cell tower.
Before you make the switch, be sure to check whether you’re on a fixed-term contract with your current Internet provider. If so, you may have to pay hefty termination charges to end your contract early. In this case, it’s worth presenting the results of your speed tests to your provider since it could help you get your termination fees waived, or perhaps a free or cheaper upgrade to a faster connection.
Avoid slow internet: Tips for a better connection
Above we’ve given you an overview of the reasons why you are experiencing slow internet. Unfortunately, the reason could be out of your immediate control. If your area is suffering from internet congestion, then most of your options will take some time to execute and may not fix the problem.
However, there are some things you can do that are within your control. Changes you can make within your home that can help alleviate issues you’re having with congestion. Or if congestion isn’t the issue, may fix your problem outright without needing to change providers at all.
If you are working from home or have a household of streamers, gamers and Internet TV fans, it’s smart to make sure you’ve set up your home Wi-Fi network and equipment to be efficient. So, what steps can you take to reduce having to experience slow Internet? Let’s go through the checklist.
Is your router 802.11ac enabled?
Make sure your router is broadcasting Wi-Fi on the latest 802.11ac standard. Just like USB 2.0 became faster with USB 3.0, the Wi-Fi 802.11a and 802.11b standards we used during the 2000s have long since been upgraded to 802.11n (2009) and then 802.11ac (2013). If your router is out of date, then you could be bottlenecking your speed on an older standard. Check on the back of your router to see what standard it uses, and if it’s old, consider upgrading to make your internet faster.
Does your router have good specs?
Even if your router is of the latest 802.11ac standard, it may still be lacking in features that can help if you’ve got a large coverage space requirement or want to prioritise certain equipment. This can get quite techy, but here is a top-line overview of things to look at.
- Routers that offer multiple bands (dual-band or tri-band, for example) provide less interference in homes with multiple connecting devices.
- Multiple antennas can provide a more expansive sending and receiving signal.
- More powerful hardware inside the router allows it to encrypt and decrypt data faster and provide more control and features.
- Some routers can allow you to control signal direction (called beamforming) or prioritise bandwidth to certain devices (like your work computer).
Are your devices using 802.11ac Wi-Fi?
Make sure your devices are also using the maximum standard allowed by your router. If you’re using an old laptop that connects via 802.11b Wi-Fi, then it doesn’t matter if your router works on 802.11ac. Your device is bottlenecked to speeds offered by the limitations of 802.11b. Outside of buying a whole new laptop, you may just need to connect it directly to your modem via an Ethernet cable.
Where is your router placed in your home?
Once you’ve got the right router for maximum speeds, you still want to think about where it’s placed in your home. Thick walls, metal, bodies of water, appliances and the like will impact the Wi-Fi wave penetration as it spreads its way through your home. Ideally, you should place your router in a central location to the devices that are going to connect to it, with as direct line-of-sight as possible. A good idea is to mount your router to a wall up above head height, if you can manage it.
Do you need a Wi-Fi extender?
If you have a large home or one with a complicated layout where it’s hard to avoid weakening your signal with metal or appliances, you may want to consider a Wi-Fi extender. These devices pick-up your existing Wi-Fi and give it a kick in the pants, amplifying it so the strength of the signal is maintained over a larger distance. Particularly handy in multi-story homes.
A more advanced extender system is known as Mesh Wi-Fi. It’s effectively the same principal, but you place multiple extenders – known as nodes in this context – around your home to create a Wi-Fi blanket that covers the whole area. This is sometimes also referred to as Whole Home Wi-Fi.
Do you know what is connecting to your internet?
Many New Zealand homes have close to 20 devices that connect to the internet; a figure that’s set to grow even more over the next few years. The trending term for this growth is called the Internet of Things or IoT – perhaps you’ve heard of it? Each device that is poking and prodding your internet is adding to the demand on your bandwidth.
Some of it; like your air-conditioner, is negligible. However, if you’ve got a video game console downloading an update in the next room. Or a laptop you forgot to power down that still has Netflix running, and things of that nature, it’s bogging down your internet speed for no good reason. It might be worth exploring through your home and powering down devices you’re not using.
Understand what consumes bandwidth and mitigate the impact
Different actions demand more of your internet. Sending a text message, for example, is but a blip on the radar. Video chats, Netflix streams, multiplayer video games and big file uploads/downloads, however, take up a lot of space in your pipe to the outside world. It’s important to understand this so that you can act at important times. For example, if you have an important meeting to undertake over Zoom, tell the kids to turn off Netflix.
It’s worth noting that some TV streaming services have an offline mode where you can download the content and watch it later. Also, video games that are offline – such as single-player adventures or local co-op experiences – don’t require any internet bandwidth. With this in mind, you can prepare in advance with movies, or ask the kids to switch to offline play, during peak usage times.
Consider a faster plan with your ISP
If all the above actions are still not resolving your issue, you might be able to upgrade to a faster plan if you’re on fibre. Your ISP controls how big the pipe is coming in and out of your house, which in turn controls how much data can fit down it at any one time. Upgrading to a wider pipe will therefore ensure you can do more in your home without bottlenecking the speed.
Switch to 4G mobile broadband in times of trouble
If all else fails and you’re still experiencing slow internet, you can use the data from your mobile phone. Comparing current mobile plans shows that there are some handy-sized data allowances nowadays, and while you wouldn’t want to run your whole home off 4G for a month, it can get you out of a sticky situation.
Mobile internet doesn’t suffer the same terrestrial cabling concerns as home broadband and you’re not as impacted by your neighbours’ activities. By hotspotting your mobile to your laptop, TV or other device, you can effectively turn your phone into a router. This can allow you to get that job done regardless of home broadband issues. Just don’t forget to keep an eye on your data usage, especially if you don’t have an unlimited mobile data plan.
Compare broadband plans
If you’ve been unable to rectify your slow internet issues and have decided to switch providers, check out the latest broadband plans in the table below.