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Don’t touch the microwave: How to boost internet speed

Slow internet can be soul-destroying, but there are ways to improve it. Image: Getty

As millions of people around the world begin to work from home, network connections are under extreme strain. 

YouTube will make standard-definition (480p) the default definition across the world now, while Netflix is cutting the bitrate on streams in Australia to try to lessen the load. 

But if these aren’t enough, there’s one other thing that could boost your internet speed: don’t use your microwave. 

That’s according to UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom

“Did you know that microwave ovens can also reduce WiFi signals? So don’t use the microwave when you’re making video calls, watching HD videos or doing something important online,” it said this week. 

Good to know, what else can I do? 

Move your router

Cordless phones, dimmer switches, computer speakers, stereos, baby monitors and halogen lamps can impact your WiFi if they’re too close to your router. So if you can, move your router away from these things or move these devices away. 

“Keep your router as far away as possible from other devices, and those which operate wirelessly,” Ofcom said. 

Additionally, if you can put your router on a table or shelf, as opposed to the floor, this can also help. 

Go direct

If you can, connecting your computer directly to your router using an Ethernet cable rather than relying on a wireless connection can make a difference. 

Turn your mobile’s WiFi off

Turning the WiFi off on some devices can lessen the load. Image: Getty

It’s simple maths: the fewer devices relying on the network, the stronger the connection. So if you’re working on your laptop, you could consider turning off the WiFi on your phone. 

I had two laptops running, as well as my mobile phone. I turned the WiFi off on my phone and my personal laptop and the connection speed on my work laptop went from “very slow” to “typical”, according to Google’s internet speed test.

Adjust your work-flow 

Another way to avoid frustration is to monitor your speed over a few days and see when your internet is fastest and when it is slowest. 

Then, plan your day around it. For example, don’t schedule a video call for a time of day when you know your internet tends to slow down. Instead, use that time to send emails or proofread a report. 

Similarly, if you’re using Google Docs to write, you could consider shifting to an offline text editor to free up some bandwidth. 

Negotiate

Is Netflix draining your speeds? Image: Getty

If you’re trying to get work done but your kids are hogging the bandwidth with Netflix and video games, it might be worth having a chat. 

Alternatively, you can try setting up a Quality of Service plan on your network. This essentially rations out the bandwidth to whichever uses have been prioritised and you can set this up online using your router details.

Check the channel

As Edith Cowan University experts James Jin Kang and Paul Haskell-Dowland noted, most devices will be designed to switch between around 14 different signal channels to avoid interference.

“A “channel” is a kind of virtual “pipe” through which data is transferred,” they said in a piece for The Conversation.

“It may help to check your router settings, as some are set to a single channel by default. When trying different options to reduce interference, it’s advisable to select channels 1, 6 or 11 as they can help to minimise problems (for 2.4GHz wireless).”

Switch to 5GHz

Another option is to try to switch to 5GHz wifi signals, if your router supports it.

This means you’ll get a faster data rate but over a shorter distance, so you’ll want to reposition your router to a central position if you haven’t already.

“The difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz wifi signals is they have different data transmission speeds. While 5GHz can transfer data faster (with 23 available channels), 2.4GHz provides a wider range. If you want speed, go for 5GHz. For better coverage, choose 2.4GHz.”

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