Home Telecoms & NBN ACMA asks 'is your Internet connection working at its best?'

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has added three new videos to its telco tips series focusing on the factors inside your home that can affect how your broadband works.

The ACMA. It's Australia's Communications and Media Authority, and it has a section on its website called "Telco Tips", with sections such as "Your rights as a telco customer", "Mobile network outages: tips for consumers", "Unexpected mobile content charges" and nearly a dozen more categories to help consumers.

Its newest section is called "Is your Internet connection working at its best?", with three new videos to help you determine whether you're suffering from fixable yet "common problems" that can affect home Internet speeds.

Within this article, the ACMA asks if you know that "factors inside your home can affect how well your broadband works?"

Some of these factors are asked as questions, and include:

  • Is your modem the culprit?
  • How’s your cabling?

What about your Wi-Fi?

The ACMA advises that "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".

It notes that "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.

So, is your modem the culprit?

Here we're told that "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", the ACMA continues.

Then we're asked, "how’s your cabling?"

Here the ACMA states: "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."

Then we see a list of the categories of cabling, and the typical use and maximum speed supported:

  • Class A twisted pair (single pair) – telephony
  • Class B twisted pair (2 pairs) — telephony, integrated services digital network — 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)

The we have a list of the "cabling issues that may affect your broadband", which 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.

Here we learn that "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, https://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/using-a-registered-cabler who can also check if your existing cabling is fit-for-purpose.

So, 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", advises the ACMA .

What are the "types of Wi-Fi router?"

The ACMA reminds us that "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 34,700 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

The ACMA says to "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.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

 

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