Slow internet: Symptoms, causes & cures | ACMA

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14 December, 2015 03:15 PM

Telco

Slow internet: Symptoms, causes & cures

By Editor

.

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  • the home router being outdated (or not optimised)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.