Increase Broadband Speed Guide

Top 15 Tips to Speed Up Your Broadband

Logo for Increase Broadband SpeedWith this broadband speed booster guide, you’ll discover how to cost-effectively improve broadband speed to get the very fastest speeds that your line is capable of. We aim to provide the most comprehensive guide available online.

If you find it useful, please provide a backlink to the guide so others will benefit. Each recommendation links to expanded, more focused guides. You can choose to read all our tips (recommended) or just focus on the ones you are particularly interested in. If you think we have missed anything important, then please contact us so we can add it.

Speed test screenshotDetermine your actual speeds as they may be significantly higher than you think. Many online speed tests are inaccurate and, for many different reasons, may indicate that your broadband speeds are much lower than they are, and much more variable.

It’s vital that you measure your speeds when other applications are not being used, and other devices in your home and office are not accessing the Internet (e.g. doing an update).

You need to measure the performance of the broadband connection itself and not the speed of your Wi-Fi, which is often the ‘weakest link’. Online speed tests actually measure throughputs rather than connection or ‘sync’ speeds, so are always lower. For example, if you have a fibre broadband connection and are lucky to be able to connect at the maximum 80 Mbps connection speed, an online speed test/actual throughput will max out at 74-75 Mbps.

In our speed guide, we tell you how to determine your actual connection speed by accessing the statistics page on your modem/router.  Also, use our accurate online tester to determine what your throughput speeds actually are. You may be in for a pleasant surprise. More…

High speed broadbandOpt for the best superfast (>30 Mbps) or ultrafast (>100 Mbps) broadband service. To maximise speeds, opt for a broadband service faster than standard broadband if you can (and you could potentially save money too).

Over 95% of UK homes and businesses can now access superfast broadband, with speeds greater than 30 Mbps, but not all who could are currently subscribing to such services.

Follow our guide to get the best high-speed service as, contrary to what you may pick up from price comparison sites, not all broadband services are the same, and broadband is not like water or electricity.

According to Ofcom, there are about 8.8 million broadband customers who are out-of-contract, and could get a better service or save money by re-contracting with their existing broadband supplier or switching to another.

Be wary of the cheapest deals, as they can often introduce usage limits, set certain maximum download or upload speeds, reduce speeds at peak times or deliver poor customer service and support. They also may offer come with poorer included modem routers. More…

Use EthernetConnect devices using Gigabit (Cat6) Ethernet cable, and avoid powerline adapters. While most people tend to connect all the devices in their home or office using WiFi, this tends to reduce speeds and introduce delay (latency) and delay variability (jitter).

These can wreak havoc with high-bandwidth services such as streamed TV/video (e.g. Netflix) and delay-sensitive services (such as online gaming and Skype and Zoom).

Wherever possible, try to connect devices (particularly smart TVs, set-top boxes, media streamers, gaming consoles and desktop PCs) with an Ethernet cable as the approach often works wonders, for example immediately eliminating buffering/stuttering video and improving gameplay.

While using a cable may seem a hassle, please avoid powerline adapters as an alternative to Ethernet. Online reviews show many people have trouble getting these to work reliably. Using Ethernet is simply the best approach; it just works and cables are cheap. More…

Wifi logoOptimise WiFi for 5 GHz rather than interference-ridden 2.4 GHz and and try to maximise signal levels. In most households, WiFi is usually the ‘weakest link’ in the broadband chain, and performance in terms of speeds, reliability and latency (delay) take a substantial hit in the presence of interference and noise (due to low signal levels).

As 2.4 GHz WiFi is used so widely on so many devices, you would be amazed how much interference you will typically experience. While some devices only support 2.4 GHz, use the 5 GHz band in preference to the interference-prone 2.4 GHz band. As well as reduced interference (from neighbours, for example), the 5 GHz band also generally benefits from wider bandwidth and higher speeds than the 2.4 GHz band (although range is generally lower – see next tip).

We recommend that you give different names (SSIDs) for 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Otherwise, you won’t know which band you are using and won’t be able to ensure that you are using the 5 GHz band where you have the choice.

If you are using a single WiFi device in your home or office, try to locate your WiFi router/access point as close as possible and consider upgrading to a best-in-class WiFi router/Access Point that uses large external antennas and smart antenna technology (known as MIMO).

While small WiFi devices with internal antennas may look aesthetically pleasing, you pay a significant price in terms of performance. You cannot change the laws of physics; go big with lots of large external antennas if you are trying to get the most range you can. More…

Wi fi access pointsUse multiple WiFi Access Points and connect them using Ethernet. WiFi has limited range and it was never designed to provide excellent coverage across a typical house or office with a single box. WiFi signals do not take kindly to going through walls.

WiFi range at 5 GHz is significantly less than at 2.4 GHz so please don’t throw away the performance benefits of less interference and higher speeds with the 5 GHz band by trying to cover an entire home of office with a single WiFi box. It just won’t work.

Even a single WiFi router or Access Point with huge external antennas and MIMO is no match for multiple, simpler WiFi devices located in rooms that are regularly used. For the best results, we strongly recommend that you invest in additional WiFi Access Points and, most importantly, connect them together using Gigabit Ethernet.

Make sure all Access Points are configured with the same names (SSIDs)  – one for 2.4 GHz and one for 5 GHz (as explained above) – but use different non-overlapped channels (as explained below).

In contrast to Access Points, WiFi extenders and, more advanced, mesh systems avoid the need to connect using Ethernet by using WiFi for the ‘backhaul’ connectivity and that’s why we don’t really like them! Wireless is not as good as Gigabit Ethernet. If you really must choose a wireless backhaul solution, opt for a more advanced mesh product and avoid an extender. More…

Optimum WiFi channelsMeasure WiFi interference levels and manually select optimum channels. There’s a WiFi war out there! With a proliferation of WiFi-enabled devices in most homes, your WiFi connection is generally being bombarded by lots of unwanted interference.

With the increasing number of devices in most homes and with a drive, by equipment manufacturers and users, to increase WiFi speeds (necessitating the simultaneous use of more and more WiFi channels), interference (particularly in the 2.4 GHz band) is getting worse and worse over time.

As explained in our WiFi guide, using one of a number of applications and software programs, it is easy to measure WiFi interference levels on a channel basis and manually configure your WiFi router or access point to use WiFi channels with the least interference.

While some equipment manufacturers claim that their equipment does automatic channel selection, we have found that such functionality generally does not work very well and you are out of control of the process.

Where you are using multiple WiFi Access Points, you should ensure that each device is manually configured to use a different channel so that they don’t interfere with each other. With 2.4 GHz, there are 13 channels available but it may surprise you to hear that most of these overlap (interfere with) each other.

There are only three discrete channels (1, 6 and 11) at 2.4 GHz that do not overlap with each other so the optimum configuration in a typical home is one with three WiFi boxes, configured to use channels 1, 6 and 11.

tip4Ensure you have a standard master socket or a pre-filtered master socket installed, or get one fitted. Many properties, particularly older ones, may not have a standard master socket installed, limiting your options to improve broadband speed by fitting a faceplate to split the broadband signal from the phone signal at the master socket (described below).

With standard broadband and fibre broadband, the broadband signal is carried along the same cable as voice telephony and has to filtered out so they don’t interfere with each other.

By splitting/filtering out the broadband signal at the master socket, you avoid the broadband signal having to travel round your home to multiple phone extension sockets, picking up noise and interference along the way. Avoiding this often substantially increases broadband speeds and makes a connection much more reliable.

Many modern homes have had a pre-filtered master socket fitted, which splits the phone and broadband connection so an additional filtered faceplate (as described below) is not necessary.

If you do not currently have either a standard master socket or pre-filtered master socket installed, we recommend having a pre-filtered master socket fitted. Then, you can sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge that you have the cleanest broadband signal possible. More…

Fit a faceplateIf you have a standard master socket (above), fit a filtered faceplate or, at the very least, ensure you use microfilters everywhere you should. A filtered faceplate (costing less than £10)  – that fits neatly on to a standard master socket – can substantially increase broadband speeds, particularly if you have telephone extension sockets in your home. The filters faceplate fits on the NTE5 master socket, and ensures that your broadband signal is not carried around your house.

In general, fitting a filtered faceplate can make a huge difference to speeds and reliability. It is important to note that telephone providers, such as BT, permit (and, in fact, positively encourage) users to fit a filtered faceplate. A great advantage of fitting a filtered faceplate is that you do not need to install those horrible microfilters throughout your home.

If you do not use a filtered faceplate or pre-filtered master socket (described previously) (and we cannot think why you wouldn’t), then it is absolutely vital that you use a microfilter for every phone socket in your home with any phone or broadband equipment plugged in (such as phones, set-top boxes and alarm systems).

If you’re looking for the easiest, and most effective, tip to improve speeds, fitting a filtered faceplate is probably it for many people.  It’s a no-brainer. More…

Don't use long extension cablesLocate your modem next to the master socket and connect it with a short modem cable. The technologies used in standard broadband (ADSL/ADSL2+) and fibre broadband (VDSL2) are very clever and adaptive to be able to work with normal telephone cables.

Faced with interference and noise, they generally respond to poor line conditions to maintain a connection by: reducing speeds (as a result of increasing what is called the ‘target SNR margin’), and/or increasing latency (delay) (by introducing a technique called ‘interleaving’).

While there’s generally nothing you can do to control the quality of the cabling from an exchange or street cabinet to the outside of your home, you can control the quality of the cabling between the master socket and your modem.

You should locate your modem next to the master socket and connect your modem to the master socket with a short modem cable. It is very important that you avoid using long extension cables between the master socket and your modem (for example, placing the modem in a different room).

It is vital that you do not connect your modem to an extension socket; always, always connect your modem to the master socket. We recognise that, particularly if you use an all-in-one hub, it can be tempting to move the device to a ‘more convenient’ room (for example, to connect a desktop PC by Ethernet or to provide better WiFi coverage). However, if you to choose to ignore this advice, then the result will be poorer speeds than you could have obtained.

If you need to boost WiFi coverage in a particular room, use a separate WiFi Access Point or, if you need to connect devices using Ethernet, use a cheap Ethernet switching box. Just please do not sacrifice your broadband speeds unnecessarily by not following this advice. More…

Public DNS serversSpeed up DNS look-ups by choosing the best and fastest DNS servers. When you enter a domain name into your browser or click a particular link, it is necessary to first translate that name into a numerical IP address so that the contents of the website can be retrieved.

This process causes a delay in the web page being rendered, particularly if your ISP’s DNS servers perform poorly or are located a significant distance from you. You may substantially improve the performance by configuring your router and/or devices to use the best Public DNS servers such as Google (8.8.4.4 and 8.8.8.8), Cloudflare (1.1.1.1 or 1.0.0.1) or Open DNS (208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220). In our guide, we show you have to pick the optimum DNS server settings for your broadband connection. More…

Online gamerMitigate bufferbloat by implementing a quality of service mechanism on your router called Smart Queue Management. Bufferbloat is one of the biggest issues facing broadband users today and those with high-speed connections are not immune.

Bufferbloat is essentially latency (delay) under load and refers to the problem when bandwidth-intensive applications (such as video streaming, file transfers, online backups and software download) result in jitter and large increases and/or spikes in the latency (ping) of other applications being used at the same time, causing their performance to significantly degrade. This is because critical small data packets that have to be transferred in a timely manner (e.g. VoIP packets, DNS look-ups and TCP ACK acknowledgments) can be trapped in the buffers of network devices behind much larger packets associated with streamed video and file transfers.

These delays wreak havoc with online games, make web browsing sluggish and severely degrade delay-sensitive applications such as video and audio telephony (e.g. Skype and Zoom).

In our bufferbloat guide, we show how you can successfully address bufferbloat by upgrading to a router incorporating Smart Queue Management. We agree with Internet expert Jim Gettys that “bufferbloat is responsible for much of the poor performance seen in the Internet today”. The great news is that you can solve it. More…

Billion modemIf you can only access standard broadband (ADSL/ADSL2+), invest in a modem that allows you to tweak the ‘target SNR margin’ to boost broadband speeds. If you are stuck with basic standard broadband, all is not lost and there is a powerful feature available on some modems to squeeze out the very highest speeds from your line. Only a small number of modems support this feature.

Once you have invested in a modem that supports this capability, you can potentially increase your download speed by 1 Mbps or more if you are a significant distance from the exchange. If you are closer to the exchange, your line may tolerate a lower SNR margin and you may achieve a speed uplift of several Mbps.

Having said this, if you are able to upgrade to superfast (30+ Mbps) or ultrafast (100+ Mbps) broadband, we strongly recommend that you do this. Superfast broadband is now available to more than 95% of UK homes and businesses. More…

ADSl chartIf you can only access standard broadband, opt for ADSL2+ over basic ADSL for significantly higher speeds particularly if you are located close to a BT exchange. Basic ADSL broadband – which was launched in the year 2000, is now available to 99.8% of UK homes and businesses, and delivers download speeds of up to 8 Mbps. As standard broadband is delivered through telephone cables, speeds achievable fall rapidly with distance from the exchange so the highest speeds are only achieved for homes and businesses situated relatively close.

For several years, BT has been rolling out an enhancement to the original ADSL technology – called ADSL2+. ADSL2+ is now available to 98% of UK homes and businesses and delivers download speeds of up to 24 Mbps (when located close to the exchange). If you are not able to access superfast or ultrafast broadband services, opt for an ADSL2+ service if available to you.

Some broadband users who are located in urban areas close to their exchange who are able to achieve download speeds at or near 24 Mbps may not yet be strongly motivated to upgrade to superfast and ultrafast services. More…

Multiple connectionsIf you can only access standard broadband and have gone as far as you with our other tips, consider a second line. If you only have access to basic broadband and have squeezed out the maximum possible performance from your broadband connection by following all our tips, consider getting a second line.

Before you do this, please check that you have followed all our tips. For example, using a filtered faceplate, improving internal wiring, tweaking the SNR margin using a reliable modem, moving from ADSL to ADSL2+, implementing Smart Queue Management to prioritise certain traffic, improving WiFi and using Ethernet wherever possible all combine to make a substantial difference in many cases.

Also, please check that you cannot access higher speed services, as over 95% of UK homes and businesses are able to get download speeds of 30 Mbps or more, and this percentage will continue to climb over the coming months and years. As discussed in our guide, you have several configuration options with multiple lines.

The simplest approach is to run two separate networks e.g. feeding one device (e.g. a desktop PC used for work) with one connection and feeding another or other devices with a second connection. A more sophisticated approach is to use a router with load balancing capabilities, the effectiveness of which will depend critically on the capabilities of the router.

Finally, the most sophisticated, and expensive, approach is to use a bonded ADSL service (offered by a number of providers). This would allow, for example, two slower 3 Mbps lines to be amalgamated into a quicker 6 Mbps connection. More…

Photo of a new routerConsider upgrading your existing equipment (such as your WiFi router). The broadband speeds that you are experiencing may be significantly lower than you could achieve not because of your broadband connection but because of the equipment you are using.

Particularly, if you are using relatively old equipment (for example, a WiFi router supplied several years ago by your broadband provider) and if your broadband connection is capable of decent speeds, then your existing equipment could be letting you down. While upgrading may reap substantial rewards, there’s lots of equipment manufacturers out there trying to tempt you with their very latest products with incredible performance claims.

We’re here to help you identify where you will get the ‘best bang for your buck’. So, here are things to consider investing in, which are expanded in our dedicated guides.

  • If you are using a ‘ hub’-type device that combines a number of capabilities in one device (e.g. modem, router, WiFi Access Point and Ethernet switch) consider using multiple devices. Processing power and memory won’t be shared, you can get the best of each type without compromising on features and you won’t need to upgrade everything in future. You’ll also have much more flexibility in terms placement e.g. optimally positioning a WiFi Access Point to maximise coverage where it is required.
  • Consider deploying Gigabit Ethernet on a widespread basis rather than rely on WiFi or powerline adapters. The more devices that are connected by Ethernet, the faster and more reliable your broadband will be, and the less you will need the very latest WiFi technology. In real-life deployment, Ethernet is best for speeds and latency.
  • While upgrading to 5GHz-capable WiFi has substantial advantages, be wary of paying large price premiums for the latest WiFi 6 equipment with IEEE 802.ax technology and with fantastic performance claims. Real-life speeds are much lower and the best performance demands that all your devices are compatible with the latest WiFi standard. For now, more modestly-price IEEE 802.ac Wave 2 equipment is best for most people.
  • If you are using a single WiFi router in your home, consider investing in additional WiFi Access Points, and connect these using Ethernet. Multiple modestly-priced WiFi Access Points will generally deliver much better performance and reliability than a single, expensive WiFi device, which uses the latest ‘whizz-bang’ technology.
  • Consider investing in a router with Smart Queue Management to eliminate bufferbloat and that has the necessary processing power and memory to give good speeds with Smart Queue Management enabled. Ping spikes, which cause havoc to online gaming, browsing and voice/video telephony, will be a thing of the past.
  • Consider investing in a more powerful router that is suited to the task if you intend to connect to a Virtual Private Network (VPN), for example if you work from home. This is because traffic has to be encrypted.

More…

 

Thank you for reading our broadband guide and we hope that it has been useful for you. We want this guide to be the most comprehensive online so, if you think we have missed something out that is important, please do contact us. We would love to hear from you!

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