Fairy lights can slow down your broadband

2 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 surprising things that can slow down your wi-fi.

Ofcom, the UK’s independent telephony regulator, has just released a Wi-Fi checker app for your smart phone. The head of regulator Ofcom has suggested that BT could be forced to sell off its Openreach business, to the delight of its rivals who claim the wholesale service, which supplies nearly every household, could be uncompetitive.

Holiday lights are meant to add some cheer to your day, but a British regulator has pointed out that they may have an unwanted side effect: interference with your WiFi network.SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — If the WiFi reception in your home is a little slow this holiday season, you might be able to blame it on the festive light displays. Regulator Ofcom warned, during the launch of a new app to test Wi-Fi in homes, that interference from electronic goods — which also include baby monitors and microwave ovens — can affect wireless networks, especially if they are not set up correctly. “Mobile and broadband have become the fourth essential service, alongside gas, electricity and water,” said Ofcom CE Sharon White.

Troubleshooting home wireless interference can be a nightmare at the best of times, but it’s certainly one hassle you could do without in the lead up to Christmas.Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, said that six million homes could be inadvertently affecting their broadband by stringing up Christmas lights, putting wi-fi hubs near microwaves, or close to lamps or by installing baby alarms. The regulator’s chief executive said she was looking at four options for the future of the broadband providing service, warning that keeping the status quo was “unlikely”. On Tuesday, Ofcom – an agency similar to the Federal Communications Commission – named holiday lights as one of many electronic devices that can trip up your Internet connection. While more than a quarter of homes in the UK have a “superfast” broadband connection of more than 30MB per second, about 8% of households cannot get speeds of more than 10MB per second, a figure that rises to nearly half of houses in rural areas.

When you run into wireless woes it’s worth starting with the usual suspects like the microwave oven and cordless phone base station, but it’s possible your innocent-looking Christmas lights are the culprit. Fairy lights, printers and lamps can create electrical interference in the home that slow down wi-fi signals while microwaves and cordless phones can use the same frequencies as routers.

Before the terrible jokes start and we all declare that this is a fit of “Bah Humbug!” from the telephone regulator, the warning correct – your fairy lights could indeed be a Wi-Fi downer. BT’s rivals have wanted Openreach to be split off from the former state-owned business as a condition of its £12.5bn mega-merger with mobile phone operator EE. The regulator’s advice to those who are dissatisfied with their broadband experience is to move routers away from electrical devices such as halogen lamps, electrical dimmer switches, stereo or computer speakers, fairy lights, televisions, monitors and AC power cords — all of which have been known to cause interference.

Chief executive of Ofcom, Sharon White, told the BBC one option was “the structural separation” of Opeanreach from BT, although this was one of four possible options being weighed up. According to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, Xi and President Jacob Zuma will engage in talks over the 5-10 year strategic programme for co-operation they signed in December last year. Since the country has, in fact, de-industrialised under the Zuma administrations — the rapidly declining steel industry stands out — it is of concern that his govern-ment appears to have outsourced SA’s manufacturing trajectory to central control by China.

Openreach is run at arm’s length by BT, providing and maintaining the infrastructure for the UK’s broadband network while the different operators lease the lines that lead into homes. Experts from Ofcom found earlier this month that lamps alongside fridges, speakers, baby monitors, cordless phones and garage door openers were responsible for interfering with a wi-fi signal as it travels to a computer. TECHNICAL terms for financial instruments and how they’re used conjured up some interesting mental images with the Rand Water Board’s latest notification on the JSE’s Stock Exchange News Service. • Do you have juicy gossip from the world of business or politics?

BT has said previously that it is the only company with enough scale to maintain the country-wide infrastructure, but rivals have claimed the company could either increase prices unilaterally or offer customers to its own service faster speeds, although this is protected by regulations. Modern day routers will try to choose the best and least congested one automatically, but sometimes that might mean you and your neighbour are operating on the same channel. Many Internet providers see complaints spike around the holidays, since networks can get congested when you’re all gathered for a family meal – but lights may be a contributing factor. The company has already been censured by Ofcom over the EE merger, which was approved in October, when it was revealed £1.7m of Openreach’s revenues was used to fund the deal.

This kind of interference tends to be short-range, so you might need to keep your Christmas lights a metre or two away from your other electrical gear. Your FM radio station may use 100 Megahertz, or 100,000,000 waves per second, while 2.4 Gigahertz, used by wireless, is 2,400,000,000 waves per second, making the radio waves used by Wi-Fi considerably shorter. If you’re really curious about how your lights are affecting your network, you could conduct your own home science experiment and see how your network performs with your lights on or off. If intermittent local interference is playing havoc with your free-to-air digital television picture then it might be worth upgrading the aerial cables which run from the wall socket and between your AV devices. Signal completely dropped when someone crossed into the path of the signal, and it scattered with the presence of human bodies in the room but not in the direct path of the signal.

Manufacturers tend to throw cheap aerial cables in the box, but upgrading to RG6 quad shield cable can make a big difference – I’ve found it’s essential in my lounge room. Some of the biggest culprits include Netflix, cloud services such as DropBox, online games and torrenting websites (not that you would you any of those against the law of course). If someone in your house is up to the third season during an Orange is the New Black marathon, you shouldn’t be surprised if your connection starts acting up.

If you’re getting speckles through the picture rather than pixelated break-up, the cause is more likely to be electrical noise than wireless electromagnetic interference. But while many different factors can dull your Wi-Fi signal, I can’t recall anyone yet getting miffed about their festive laptop watching of Dr Who being affected as soon as the Christmas lights go on. Moving your gear to different power points might help, or you could look at an isolator power board designed to filter the electricity going to your home entertainment gear. Most fairy lights have unshielded wires, which means there’s no radio frequency insulation to protect radio-based devices from the electromagnetic effects of the power cables trailing around your tree. The matter of the fact is that some areas will just have better broadband, therefore wi-fi, coverage than others as it depends on how well connected they are – there can be massive geographical differences in speed.

That’s particularly useful if your problem is other people’s WiFi networks, as is often the case in apartments or other close-quarter living situations. You can change this by heading to your router’s settings from any machine connected to the network, which you can find by typing your router’s IP address into the part of your browser where you normally type in Web addresses.

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