Fairy lights can slow your broadband

2 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 guaranteed tips to make your home Wi-Fi work better.

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.

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.But that’s not the only scourge draining our wireless networks – with anything from poorly positioned routers to wrong channels possibly killing your wireless speeds.

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. Some routers have an ‘auto’ mode that’ll do this for you – although it’s less likely to work on new routers which use the 5GHz range, as these are less prone to interference. 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. The watchdog says Internet service providers often receive complaints over the holidays about interruptions to Wi-Fi service, and the strings of lights may be a key reason. 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. Apparently the wiring in the lights can add to the radio frequency interference in your home, which in turn could confound the signals from your router. 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.

The warnings about common household devices causing service interruptions are nothing new, although consumers may not think of them as the reason a Wi-Fi signal goes down, says a white paper released by Cisco. 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. Wireless “repeaters” such as the Netgear WN3000RP Universal Wi-Fi Range Extender can boost range – plug into a wall (say upstairs), then log in via PC with the password, and it extends Wi-Fi network so people can browse etc in bedroom Powerline internet connectors, are worth having even if your wi-fi’s NOT on the blink, just to get the speeds you’ll need for streaming music and video without stutter.

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. 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. 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. That’s because Wi-Fi’s spectrum is on the unlicensed “industrial, scientific and medical” radio band, and shares similar frequencies with a range of other devices.

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. A running microwave oven, for example, uses microwaves at a frequency of around 2.4 GHz, which is in the same band as Wi-Fi, which makes it a virtual black hole for Wi-Fi signals, the Guardian notes. Other common offenders include speakers, water pipes — which can absorb energy from the radio waves that carry wireless Internet and even household insulation, which can also absorb the signals coming through the walls.

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. 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. To fix many of these problems, you can try switching the channel that the router is broadcasting on (often done via software made by the Internet provider or the router’s manufacturer) and using equipment that broadcasts on the less widely-used 5 GHz band. 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.

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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