Any internet connection is only as fast as its weakest link.
So it's no use if you have super-fast UFB fibre running into your home, but an outdated, badly setup wireless network beaming it around your home.
As many of us work from home amid the lockdown, it's a good time to make sure your home network is up to snuff.
The Telecommunications Forum, whose members include Spark, Vodafone, 2degrees, Chorus and Vocus, has just put out a guide to better home networking. Here are its key points - plus a few tips of my own.
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1. Plug in as close as you can get to your router
If you're working from home or doing online learning, either plug your computer directly into the router with an ethernet cable, or set up your workspace as close as possible to your Wi-Fi router to ensure you are getting the best speeds possible. Plugging in as many devices as you can with ethernet cables.
TIP: Make sure your Wi-Fi router is somewhere up high and central in your house and away from items that could cause electrical interference, such as halogen desk lamps, microwave ovens, electrical dimmer switches, and stereo and PC speakers.
2. Extend the range of your Wi-Fi
If you have a large house, a Wi-Fi extender or mesh system will improve your wireless signal throughout your house. Make sure you put your extender in a central place to ensure it will be effective (a Wi-Fi signal degrades with distance and obstacles). I don't have large house, but I do have a narrow and tall one. Broadband speed on the second and third floors improved heaps after I installed an extender kit called Google WiFi. You have one or more Google WiFi repeaters - we have three; one on each floor. They are a bit pricey - a three-pack costs around $550, but you do also get a family filter, and a smartphone app that lets you block specific devices as specific times.
TIP: Older devices can cause Wi-Fi performance to suffer so try to limit use of these or upgrade them, if possible. As with all things IT, Wi-Fi is constantly upgraded. The latest devices are based on a standard called Wi-Fi 6. If an older router is to meet with an accident, Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees are reopening stores as emergency distribution centres. The largest IT retailer, PBTech also has limited online sales during the lockdown.
3. Choose the 5GHz channel on your home Wi-Fi for fastest speeds
Most broadband routers broadcast Wi-Fi around your home using two different frequencies 2.4 Gigahertz and 5GHz (the latter is often abbreviated to "5G" but is not confused with the fifth-generation mobile network technology that shares the same abbreviation). That's why on your Wi-Fi network list, you may see your home network listed twice. 5GHz provides faster data rates at a shorter distance, while 2.4GHz offers coverage for farther distances, but may perform at slower speeds. So chose 5GHz option if you're sitting close to your Wi-Fi router, while 2.4GHz could be your best bet if you're at the other end of the house, without an extender.
4. Make sure you're on the fastest type of broadband for your area
InternetNZ - the neutral, non-profit that administers the .nz domain - has just updated its interactive NZ Broadband Map. Type in your address, and it will give you the options for the different types of faster internet technologies available in your area, such as UFB fibre or fixed-wireless.
5. Make sure you're on the best possible plan
If you think your family will need more data if working or learning from home, then consider upgrading your plan.
Most providers have temporarily removed broadband data caps and overuse charges to help customers during the rapidly changing Covid-19 situation (at least in urban areas), so get in touch with your provider if you have further questions.