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14 December, 2015
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Slow internet: Symptoms, causes & cures

By Editor

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Do your household members ever get SIC—slow internet connections? With 15.7 million[1] Australians now with a home broadband connection, this frustrating ailment is common. So read on, as we uncover the symptoms, causes, and possible cures to help your household get well again.  

What’s a connected home?

A connected home is one that has multiple internet-enabled devices connected wirelessly (or wired) to a modem router, which in turn is connected to the internet.

How connected is a typical Australian home?

If you don’t think your home is that connected, then think again—the typical Australian home currently has just over nine connected devices (up from eight in 2014).

And, it’s just the beginning … in five years’ time, it’s estimated that the number of connected devices per home may increase to a staggering 29.[2]

Currently, the most common type of Australian home internet connection is the Digital Subscriber Line (DSL). The most popular types of DSL are the Asymmetric DSL (ADSL), which typically offers maximum potential download speeds of 8 Mbps, and ADSL2+, which usually offers maximum potential download speeds of 20 Mbps.[3]

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The symptoms—how can you tell if you’re getting SIC?

Getting SIC in your connected home can be a real issue, and symptoms may include:

  • home-based businesses experiencing delays in downloading or uploading files
  • students having difficulty downloading or uploading school assignments
  • difficulty using virtual classrooms or watching online lectures or webinars
  • internet streaming services (such as Netflix) or VoIP services (Skype) being disrupted by buffering or experiencing lags.

The causes—what’s making you SIC?

With one internet connection per household, one modem router and many devices downloading (and uploading) data, here’s some reasons household members get SIC:

  • a slow home-internet connection (occasionally or frequently)
  • the home router being outdated (or not optimised)
  • many active users in the home (all using the internet at the same time)
  • simultaneous use of bandwidth-intensive services (such as video streaming or gaming)
  • downloading large software updates (for devices and appliances) during peak internet usage times in the home—for example, downloading iOS updates for iPhones and iPads in the evening
  • interference from other electronic devices—for example, according to Ofcom this could include: microwave ovens, baby monitors, lamps or even Christmas fairy lights![4]

It’s worth noting that a slow home internet connection may result from a number of factors, some of which you can’t control. But other factors, typically within the home, are more likely to be within your control.

The cure—here’s our advice

If you’re sick of getting SIC in your connected home, you could try to improve the performance of your home network, proactively manage use of your home network, or both.

1. Improve the performance of your home network:

  • Run a speed test on your devices to estimate the upload and download speeds experienced in your home. Try this at different times of the day to factor in internet usage patterns.
  • Try out the free app Wi-Fi Checker and have a look at this BBC article, which sets out 10 ways to make the wi-fi in your house more powerful.
  • If you think your internet speeds are too slow, speak to your internet service provider about potentially upgrading to a faster internet plan (if available). You could also consider upgrading to a better router.
  • If you’re a bit more technically inclined, you could optimise your home network—have a look at this CNET article, which explains how to optimise your home Wi-Fi network.

2. Proactively manage use of your home network:

  • Limit the number of simultaneous internet users in your home.
  • Prioritise internet usage and put essential internet activities before entertainment or gaming.
  • Wait to download large software updates until off-peak times, when fewer people are using the home network.
  • If you’re a bit more technically inclined, some modern routers enable monitoring and analysis of home network internet activity. To find out more, speak to your internet service provider or visit your local computer store.     

Further information

Not sure what the nbntm network is all about? nbn have developed a useful—and consumer-friendly—blog about what the nbntm network is and how you can make the switch when it’s available in your area.

  • Check the availability of the nbntm in your area—visit the nbn website.
  • Find out other factors that can affect the speed of an internet connection—see the ACCC’s fact sheet on Broadband speeds.
  • Know your consumer rights when it comes to an internet connection—see the ACMA’s fact sheet Problems with your internet service.
  • If you want to complain about your internet service, you should first contact your internet service provider. If you are dissatisfied with your internet service provider’s response, you can contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.


[1] Source: ACMA Communications report 2014–15.

[3] However, this is expected to change significantly as the nbn is rolled out.

Add your comments
  • David

    8/06/2016 9:10:54 PM

    Can anyone tell me who is really monitoring, Internet Network performance, technical compliance and quality of service provided to consumers by Australian Internet providers?? 
     In most developed countries as in Europe and US performance of networks is monitored by Government Communication Authority and if failure occurs or lack of performance the Internet provider pays heavy financial penalty up to several millions if network fails for several hours or loose license to operate if performance continuously degraded due to capacity increase. In contrast to Australia nothing has be done since introduction of Internet and most operators operate as they like.
    Here all operators operate unbalanced Internet where wireless broadband networks download speed can be anywhere from 05 Mbps to 5 Mbps and upload speed from 003 Mbps to 2Mbs and that is bad performance and as available in 3 rd. world countries. 
    What is worst Telstra and Optus are operating unbalanced internet for many years where download speed can be anywhere from 1 Mbps to 8Mbps and upload speed from 1Mbs to 5 Mbps and that is in a major city with good coverage area.
     In country at fringe area where reception is excellent but data download speed varies from 03 to 3 Mbps and upload speed vary from 002 to 1 Mbps is totally unacceptable Network performance especially for Internet Networks that charge per 1 Gb   $10 to $15. 
    Basics of good Internet network is to offer balanced Network where the download speed and upload speed is same and user don’t have feel of slow Internet. 
    Australian Internet Networks run unbalanced to deceive consumer more data allocated during download and less data during upload. Our networks are not dimensioned correctly for capacity and overloaded. To save on expansion operators provide unbalanced Internet that is slow and not meeting International standards of Internet. Australia need Network performance regulator and not someone writing rules not based on strong technical facts and specifications, our regulator has to be able to impose heavy fines on operators not meeting technical standards. So far we have regulator waiting consumers to complain and even than no action on performance taken against Internet Network and service providers.
    
    Reply
    • In reply to David

      The ACMA

      16/06/2016 2:59:34 PM

      Hi David, thanks for your questions about monitoring the performance of Australia’s broadband internet infrastructure. Although there is currently no overarching body which ‘monitors’ the quality of Australia’s internet performance, there are a number of recent initiatives. For example:
      
      ACCAN has identified five communications consumer priorities for 2016, one of which is: ‘Broadband monitoring – an independent broadband monitoring program to allow consumers to compare broadband service performance by retailers’. Further information about ACCAN’s 2016 communications consumer priorities can be found at 
      https://accan.org.au/election-2016/media/1237-accan-identifies-communications-consumer-priorities-for-the-2016-election 
      
      In December 2013, the Government examined the nbn™ project (via a strategic review) and investigated the state of broadband availability and quality across Australia. The purpose of this review was to help guide the nbn™ rollout. A copy of the Government’s full report and summary report can be found at
      https://www.communications.gov.au/what-we-do/internet/national-broadband-network 
      
      In September 2015, the ACCC completed a pilot broadband performance monitoring and reporting program to ‘provide visibility over the performance of fixed broadband access networks such as the nbn™ and give consumers reliable and independent information on which to base their purchase decisions’. Further information about the ACCC’s pilot program can be found at
      https://www.accc.gov.au/regulated-infrastructure/communications/monitoring-reporting/broadband-performance-monitoring-reporting-program
      
      ACMA regularly undertakes consumer education initiatives focussed on new and emerging technologies, such as the one you have commented on, streaming services and Public Wi-Fi hotspots. In fact, feedback and comments such as yours helps to inform future ACMA consumer education initiatives. More info on these new and emerging technologies can be found at
      http://acma.gov.au/webtips 
      
      Finally, the Department of Communications and the Arts (the DoCA) is responsible for, among other things, developing policy focussing on the Internet and advising the Australian Government ‘about all Australians having access to high-quality, reliable and affordable Internet Services.’ Further information about what DoCA does, and in particular its Internet focus, can be found at
      https://www.communications.gov.au/what-we-do/internet 
      
      Reply
  • Christian

    16/01/2017 5:14:24 PM

    I have had my ADSL services cut and my only option to run my business is Skymuster satellite. It is not cheap, its not fast, it was not installed on time, data is not available at peak times, two users are unable to load data at the same time, you can't buy more data when you run out you just have to wait till next month, service providers are under resourced to deliver technical support, incompetent at any level of customer service and the network is regularly dropping out. NBN co opened a case and made contact to hear my concerns to close my case four days later, following another long service disruption. My Service provider Harbour ISP has not responded to two complaints, The first on 21st November 2016. My previous service provider iPSTAR promised a months refund for the poor service and long phone delays but debited the amount and cut my service instead. 
    Reply
    • In reply to Christian

      The ACMA

      17/01/2017 4:33:20 PM

      Hi Christian,
      Thank you for getting in touch with us and sorry to hear about the issues you are having with your providers. If you’re not satisfied with the response you have received from your service provider, you can lodge a complaint with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) on 1800 062 058 or by visiting http://www.tio.com.au
      We appreciate you raising your experience with the ACMA. Our role is to monitor industry compliance with the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code and nbn services is one of our compliance priorities for 2017.
      
      Reply
  • jeni

    27/01/2017 2:27:23 PM

    What has happened to the Digital TV reception in Cardup and surrounding areas on 25th Jan j2017 it just went out!  I was getting intermittent receptions with limited stations on all my TVs being so close to Australia Day it was impossible to find someone to come out, today a tech comes out and he couldn't understand it either stated it looks like either interference from something or the Tower has turned off its HD  10 min later it all came back on again after 3 days being out.   What was the reason can anyone tell me?  (I am in WA have the Mandurah and Perth towers its not the first time HD has been switched off on the Mandurah Tower) 
    Reply
    • In reply to jeni

      The ACMA

      3/02/2017 12:41:02 PM

      Hi Jeni, 
      Thank you for getting in touch with us, and sorry to hear about the TV reception issues you are experiencing. The Mandurah and Perth broadcast sites are operated by TX Australia, who are responsible for the ongoing operation, maintenance and quality of the digital signal broadcast from these sites. We have contacted TX Australia about these sites and they are not aware of any problems with TV transmission from either of these sites. To contact TX Australia about TV reception, visit https://www.txaustralia.com.au/digital-content-delivery/tv-reception-feedback
      
      Please be aware that some areas of Perth can receive signals from multiple TV transmitters. Residents need to ensure that their antenna is pointed to the TV transmitter which provides them the best coverage, and their TV set is tuned to the correct channels. More information about TV reception is available from the ACMA TV Reception Hub: www.acma.gov.au/tvreception
      
      Reply
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