It’s OK to be wrong

Santiago Borrazás’ Blog

Tips to improve internet connectivity issues

Millions of people are working from how now because of the COVID-19 situation. This means that a lot more people are reliant upon a solid internet connection to do their work from home.

I helped improve Wi-Fi connectivity issues in several places and I want to share my knowledge to help people improve their current situation with their internet connectivity.

Start diagnosing where the problem is.

The easiest way to diagnose your problem is to go next to your router and open fast.com and check your internet speed. Then go and sit where you normally do and check again. If you’re using your phone don’t forget to disable phone data.

These are common places to find issues: 1. Your Internet service provider. 2. How polluted is your signal? 3. How far away are you from your router? 4. How strong is your router to handle lots of traffic? 5. How good is your device?

Your Internet service provider.

So if you have a bad ISP, then even if you’re directly plugged in with an ethernet cable to your router, your speed will be slow.

The only way to know if you have a good or bad ISP is testing. How do you test your ISP? The most basic test is to go with your device next to the router and visit fast.com.

Check what number your get and write it down. Also what day of the week and what time. You have to run the same test at different times of the day and week.

If possible, test with an ethernet cable as it removes the overhead and issues added by Wi-Fi (e.g. your neighbor has another router on the other side of the wall, etc.).

What to do with a bad ISP

If your ISP is bad you might want to know how bad it is. It could be that your ISP is ok for servers near your area but really bad if you have to go to the other side of the globe.

For this you can measure using different services such as https://www.speedtest.net/ or http://www.bredbandskollen.se/en/

You also want to see about the details like where the server used to measure the speed is located, latency times (response time) and upload speed.

But many people have a reasonable internet speed and they still have a slow internet.

If you want even more testing you can use a command line tool such as mtr.

How polluted is your signal?

Maybe you’re not too far away from your router but you have slow internet. A very common problem is that there is a lot of Wi-Fi signals around and you get interference.

If you have a 5GHz network available and you’re not too far away from the router, then try using that connection. 5Ghz Wi-Fi is faster and has less pollution as less people use this band and the band doesn’t reach so far, causing less interference to others.

You can also try the app Wi-Fi Analyzer to see how much interference you get from your neighbors. If you see that your network is using the same channel than other routers, then see about changing Wi-Fi channel and testing again.

How far away are you from your router?

Let’s say your ISP is not so bad (at around 10 Mbps I have acceptable video-calls) but you still have a slow connection.

Then use the same device that you used to measure next to your router and measure again in that place.

You might notice a big difference.

The simplest solution is then to go closer to your router.

The other is to move the router closer to you.

You could check if moving the router around the house/apartment helps. The only way to do this is by trial and error. Move it and measure again.

The next step is to buy a Wi-Fi extender. After you have your Wi-Fi extender, measure again. If your Wi-Fi extender supports 5GHz network that is also going to help. If you can, connect the Wi-Fi extender via Ethernet to the router to get even better results.

In my current house I needed an extender and also to move the router closer to the extender (by using a RJ45 extender so I could make the ethernet cable connected from the modem to my router longer).

Finally, another common problem is that many of the modems given by internet providers are not very good, so you could try getting a good router with lots of antennas.

How strong is your router to handle lots of traffic?

I have also noticed that by replacing the crappy modem/router provided by your ISP, you can get faster internet speed. Buy a good router and then plug it into the modem via an ethernet cable. Then you let your fancy router deal with Wi-Fi and handling the traffic between multiple devices.

I have seen ISP modems that do ok with one connection but can’t handle many devices using Netflix. Just by changing the router, the situation improved with the same Internet connection.

How good is your device?

If I run fast.com from my phone I get 50 Mbps. If I run fast.com from my computer (same Wi-Fi connection and same location) I get 60 Mbps. This might have to do with the different Wi-Fi antennas of each device and/or how fast the software can handle the connection (while doing other processing at the same time).

So it might be a good idea to test with different devices to see if the problem is your device.

When you’re testing your phone, remember to disconnect your computer from Wi-Fi to reduce interference.

If possible, test the internet speed with different phones (Android vs. iPhone) or computers. Remember to disable phone data and to use the same Wi-Fi network.

You can even try with an external Wi-Fi adapter.

Conclusion

If your ISP is bad then talking with customer support several times can be frustrating, and changing ISP it’s difficult because they have to physically go to your area and do the installation, not to mention that you might have to pay more every month, while buying a router it’s a one time investment that last several years.

Also, often there are only one or two ISP availables in your area.

If you ISP is decent, then almost for sure you can fix connectivity issues by buying a good router, longer ethernet cables, Wi-Fi-extender, etc. It just a matter of budget and trial and error.