Is your internet connection working at its best? | ACMA

Is your internet connection working at its best?

Did you know that factors inside your home can affect how well your broadband works?

Read on to learn about some common problems, as well as tips to help you get the most out of your broadband service.

Your broadband can be affected by the path your signal takes inside your home to reach your computer, tablet or entertainment device, and by what equipment you use to connect to your provider’s network.

Some common factors affecting your broadband experience inside your home include:

  • the make and model of modem you use to connect to your provider’s network
  • your home’s communications cabling
  • the type of Wi-Fi router, where it is placed and how it is configured.

Is your modem the culprit?

If you’re connected to the NBN using fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) or fibre-to-the-building (FTTB), your broadband service is supplied using a VDSL2 (very high-speed digital subscriber line) modem. Your modem might be supplied by your provider or you can buy your own modem.

For all other NBN technologies, you (or your provider) don’t need to supply a modem—NBN Co will supply a connection box inside your home.

Not all modems perform equally. The make and model of your VDSL2 modem can affect the speed and stability of your internet connection.

How’s your cabling?

The type and condition of your cabling can affect how broadband signals are carried around your home. This cabling may have been installed inside wall cavities, above ceilings or under floors when your home was built—so it could be quite old. Different types of communications cabling are categorised according to the data speed they’re designed to support.

Category of cabling

Typical use and maximum speed supported

Class A twisted pair (single pair)

telephony

Class B twisted pair (2 pairs)

telephony, integrated services digital network (ISDN)—a legacy data communications technology

Category 3 or 4

standard Ethernet (10 Mbps)

Category 5

Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps)

Category 5e

Gigabit Ethernet (1000 Mbps)

Category 6

Gigabit Ethernet (1000 Mbps) and limited 10G Ethernet (10,000Mbps)

Category 7

10 Gigabit Ethernet (10,000 Mbps)

Cabling issues that may affect your broadband include:

  • old cabling may have deteriorated over time or may have become damaged
  • your existing in-premises cabling may not be suitable for carrying high-speed data
  • unused segments of cabling (known as ‘bridge taps’) may cause issues with FTTN/B services.

There are a few things you can do to improve your in-premises cabling:

  • If your broadband connection is provided using FTTN or FTTB, you’ll achieve the best speed by plugging your modem into the first telephone socket in your home—although this isn’t always easy to spot and you may need to contact a registered cabler.
  • If you’re using your in-premises cabling to carry data around your home, make sure it’s fit-for-purpose—for example, CAT5 cabling or better.
  • If you think you may need to make any changes to your in-premises cabling or have new cabling installed, contact a registered cabler, who can also check if your existing cabling is fit-for-purpose.

What about your Wi-Fi?

The type, location and configuration of the Wi-Fi router that you use to distribute the broadband signal around your home can also affect your broadband speeds.

Types of Wi-Fi router

A Wi-Fi router is typically integrated with a modem as a single device or it can be a standalone device that can be plugged into your modem.

There are several standards or types of Wi-Fi, each of which provides different speeds and operating range. The two newest types are 802.11n and 802.11ac. We recommend looking for these types when choosing a new router. Wi-Fi uses either the 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz frequency band—or, in some cases, both.

Wi-Fi standard

Maximum speed

Frequency

802.11a

up to 54 Mbps

5.8 GHz

802.11b

up to 11 Mbps

2.4 GHz

802.11g

up to 54 Mbps

2.4 GHz

802.11n

up to 600 Mbps

2.4 GHz/5.8 GHz

802.11ac

up to 3,470 Mbps

5.8 GHz

Channel selection

The frequency band in which your Wi-Fi operates can affect your network’s speed and range. Wi-Fi that uses 5.8 GHz can support faster speeds and is often subject to less congestion than 2.4 GHz networks, so try using it if you can. You may need to log into your router configuration to change these settings.

Within each frequency band are a number of channels that your Wi-Fi network can use. Congestion is often caused by other Wi-Fi networks nearby using the same channel as your network. This is especially the case in densely populated areas, such as apartment buildings and city centres. If there’s more than one network using the same channel, there will be competition for the bandwidth.

Location

Where you put your Wi-Fi router can affect your coverage and signal strength. Building materials can also determine how well a signal can travel through your home.

Building material

Amount of signal loss

Metal

High

Concrete

High

Brick

Medium

Timber

Low

Plasterboard

Low

Glass

Low

Try placing your Wi-Fi router in the middle of the area where you want coverage and, if possible, away from furniture and thick walls that may block your signal. And make sure your router isn’t sitting on the floor.

If you’re experiencing coverage problems when using 5.8 GHz channels, try switching to 2.4 GHz channels. You may need to log into your router configuration to change these settings.

Multiple devices

Multiple devices in your home network all actively share your available Wi-Fi bandwidth. The more connected devices that use your home Wi-Fi router, the greater potential there is for your performance to degrade. If this is an issue in your home, try switching off a device’s Wi-Fi when you’re not using it. For a more advanced setup, set some devices to operate on the 2.4 GHz frequency band while other devices, such as smart televisions, can operate on the 5.8 GHz band.

Wi-Fi interference

Interference from electrical devices can also reduce the speed and coverage of your Wi-Fi network. This can come from a variety of sources, including:

  • Devices using the same 2.4 GHz band as your Wi-Fi router—can include microwave ovens, cordless phones, baby monitors, garage door openers and wireless cameras.
  • Power sources—such as electrical cabling in the wall—may cause interference if they’re positioned close to your Wi-Fi router.

Try the following steps to minimise Wi-Fi interference:

  • Temporarily switch off and unplug electronic devices to check if any are causing interference.
  • Move the interfering device away from your Wi-Fi router to reduce the amount of interference.
  • Look out for patterns such as when a microwave oven or cordless phone is used or if a neighbour/factory is operating industrial machinery.
  • Change the channel of your wireless device.

Last updated: 10 August 2018