How to improve your broadband speed without upgrading

Laptop on a coffee table

Even with a good fibre broadband connection, we all have times when we wish that our internet speeds were just that little bit faster.

The obvious answer is to upgrade to something better, of course. But that's not always convenient. You might be halfway through a contract, or maybe you don't want to pay extra.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can try to improve your broadband speeds without upgrading. Let's take a look.

First, test your speed

The first thing you need to do is test your broadband speed and see how it compares to what you should be getting. While you can take steps to optimise your connection, you can't get it to run faster than what you're actually paying for.

You should have been given a speed estimate when you first signed up. Head over to our Speed Test page and run through the test a couple of times to get an average of your connection's performance. Now compare it to that estimate.

If it's broadly the same then there's not much you can do to improve it. If you want faster broadband, upgrading may be your only option.

But assuming there is room to eke out a little bit more speed, there are a few things you can try.

Reduce interference

Most of us get online via a Wi-Fi router that is plugged in to a phone socket. This is prone to interference which can affect your broadband speed. For best results, try and make sure that your router is connected to a microfilter (which reduces interference) and that that is plugged in directly to the master socket, not any extensions or splitters you may be using.

You should also have microfilters on any other phone sockets around your house. Some broadband suppliers will provide you with these for free, so contact them if you don't have any. If not, they only cost a few pounds each.

Also, try and keep the phone cable that connects your router and phone socket as short as it needs to be. The further a signal has to travel, the worse it may get.

Perfect your router position

The position of your router in your house is really important in affecting what speeds you'll get. Many of us will simply plonk the router down near the phone or cable socket that it's connected to, and as long as the signal reaches all rooms of the house, that's good enough.

Expect it might not be good enough. The input socket is likely to be attached to an outside wall, while the best position for a router is somewhere central.

Experiment with different places to keep your router - a central area and raised some way off the ground would be a good start, but don't put it near other electronic devices like cordless phones or microwaves which can cause radio frequency interference.

If your signal doesn't cover your whole house, you can try positioning the router closer to the areas where it's most important to have a connection. Or you could consider installing a powerline or mesh network to extend the range of your Wi-Fi.

Manage your traffic

Some modern routers automatically manage your internet data use, to give priority to certain activities. For example, video calls or streaming TV need a steady consistent connection, so they may get greater priority than something like file downloads, where it doesn't matter if the speed fluctuates.

You can do this manually as well, just by being aware of who's online, what they're doing, and when. You can schedule Windows updates and other big download to happen overnight, for instance, or if you need to upload a large file for work you could ensure that no-one else in your home is performing bandwidth-intensive tasks at the same time.

These kinds of things are most likely to show benefits on slower connections. Most decent fibre services have enough headroom to enable several people to be busy online at the same time.

Check your hardware

Broadband speed is only one part of the story - the devices you're using are the other part. You can make big perceived improvements to your internet speed by improving the performance of your hardware. An overburdened laptop, for example, might struggle with 4K streaming even if your broadband connection is up to the task.

A few things you can try are making sure that your devices are all fully up to date, including both the operating system and apps. Run a virus scan, shut down any programs running in the background that you don't need (and watch for those that set themselves to launch automatically when you start your computer), and restart your kit regularly - including your phone, which is often overlooked.

If you're using a particularly old laptop, treating yourself to a new one is likely to make everything you do online seem a whole lot more snappy and responsive.

Consider upgrading after all

By taking a few simple steps you can make sure you are fully maximising your broadband performance. But there's only so far that will take you. While you can squeeze out a little more speed, it's also possible that your needs have simply outgrown the deal you've signed up to. In which case, it may be time to upgrade after all.

If you're at the end, or coming to the end, of your existing contract, then it's the ideal time to shop around and see what else is available. And even if you've still got months to go on your deal, most providers will be more than happy to let you upgrade to a faster plan if you sign a new contract with them.

Use out postcode checker to find the very best broadband deals available where you are.

Posted by Andy Betts on in Features