Must-have advice for BT, Sky and Virgin Media customers to boost their broadband

As millions of people stay inside in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus and ease the strain on the NHS, broadband connections are more crucial than ever to help people stay in touch with friends and family who are also practising social distancing, order food and medication, and enjoy some escapism with Disney+, Netflix or Sky TV.

Thankfully, help is on hand. Companies have announced a slew of new measures to help keep everyone connected. From Netflix, Disney+, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video all pledging to drop streaming quality for people nationwide to reduce the stress on broadband networks, to Sony slowing downloads for PS3 and PS4 owners, and Vodafone pledging to upgrade 500,000 people to its unlimited mobile data plan in order to help them stay connected with friends and family.

If you are struggling to work from home, or call friends and family over messaging services, there are some useful tips to keep you up-and-running from Amazon-owned mesh router system Eero. Inevitably, one of the tips from the company is buy the latest Eero routers. And to be honest, that’s not a bad tip at all. In our Eero review, we were very impressed by the coverage provided by the extra nodes, which are placed at strategic points throughout your home to ensure you get full bars wherever you are.

But before you splash the cash, it’s well worth trying some of the tips recommended by the US technology firm.

Move It

Wi-Fi signal isn’t the smartest of technologies and doesn’t know where exactly in your house you like to work or stream Disney+.

That means the placement of your router is crucial. If you’ve got it hidden away – let’s be honest, they’re not always lookers – at the bottom of a cabinet, or stuck in the hallway, relocating your router to a more central spot in your home will do wonders for your network.

This can be a challenge since you won’t always have a say over where your Internet Service Provider (ISP) plumbs the cable into your home. If you can’t move your router, elevating it on top of a table or shelf can help the signal spread more efficiently throughout your home too. Just keep in mind that concealing your router can affect the quality of the signal, so aim for a minimalist approach if you’re building a DIY solution to raise your router.

Change The Channel

Channel surfing doesn’t just apply to TVs.

Routers are built with several channels. As such, it’s possible the channel setting on your router could be interfering with the one used by your neighbour’s – or vice versa. If you’re running your Wi-Fi network on an older router, it most likes uses the 2.4GHz band, which is divided into 13 different channels – like radio stations.

Just like a radio, channels can mix with other frequencies making them weak and unusable. If your router is being forced to compete with other signals in the nearby vicinity, your Wi-Fi takes a huge hit. For sardined city dwellers who live in buildings with a lot of bandwidth-hungry neighbours with homes brimming with smart home gadgets, this is a big issue.

So rather than forcing all of your devices to compete across the length of the spectrum, set your router to a different channel. Here’s how to manually change your router’s channel:

Channel surf. The first step is to determine what channel you’re on, as well as router channels in your vicinity. To do this, try a free scanner like WiFiInfoView or inSSIDer. Channels 1, 6, and 11 are the most common and most routers use one of these by default.

If you’re looking for a faster signal, stay well clear of these overcrowded channels.

Locate your IP address. This should be printed on the bottom of the router itself. It’ll likely look something like this: Next, access the web interface of your by inputing that IP address into a web browser window on your smartphone, tablet or laptop while connected to your Wi-Fi network. You’ll be prompted to enter the router’s name and password  – if you haven’t changed these details before they will most likely be found printed on the router too.

From the web page, look for Wi-Fi settings . This menu should let you choose the channel used by your router from a drop-down menu. Your router will likely reboot to apply the changes.

Avoid interference

Radio frequency emitting electronics like microwaves, cordless landline phones, Bluetooth headsets, Wi-Fi powered baby monitors, and a number of other common household items will all crowd signals on the 2.4GHz band. With all these gadgets competing for the finite amount of spectrum available for everything in your house, it can cause a drop in your speeds.

To boost your connection, it’s worth relocating your router away from any devices that might interfere. Another tip – metal is especially detrimental to Wi-Fi signal strength, so don’t place your router near any large metal appliances, like fridges and microwaves.

Unplug and Replug

Your router is a working machine – just like your brain. And just like your brain, it won’t perform at its peak after a week of sleepless nights? Rebooting your router at off-peak times when you’re not relying it can prevent you having to unplug it at less convenient times, like in the middle of the exciting season finale of The Mandalorian.

Yes, we realise that “have you tried turning it off and on again” is a running joke in The IT Crowd, but it does have a habit of sorting out issues with gadgets. And let’s face it, if you ring your ISP – it’s the first thing they’re going to ask you to do, so you might as well beat them to the punch and see if it makes any difference to your signal.

Make sure you’re counting to 10 before plugging the router back in to give everything time to wind down and cool off.

Stay Up-To-Date

This isn’t a quick fix. But it does definitely work.

Ensuring that your router is running the most up-to-date software available can not only work out any quirks in the system that might be preventing you from getting the best possible connectivity, but also shields your network from security threats.

To upgrade the firmware running on your router, you’ll need to determine the make and model of your router. Like the IP address, this is probably printed on a small sticker on the bottom of the box itself, or in a users manual that shipped with the device.

Using a laptop or desktop, you’ll need to head to the manufacturer’s website. Find the “support” or “downloads” section and select or enter your router’s model number. Download the update to your desktop.

Head back to the router settings page (by entering the IP address into a browser window) and then navigate to the firmware upgrade option within the web interface – usually found under an intimidating-sounding sub-menu called “Administration”, “Advanced” or something – and then a dialogue box will prompt you to select the file from a location on your computer.

Once you have located the file, click “Upgrade” or “Update Firmware” and wait for the firmware process to complete. You may need to be connected to the internet via Ethernet for this process.

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