Fairfax Tech Talk Column

Fairfax Tech Talk Column

10.4.2020 Fairfax Tech Talk Column 193


NBN recently released information to demonstrate just how much additional data we have been using since the start of COVID-19 restrictions. In less than a month our usage in the evening has increased by 25 per cent; the early evening has witnessed an increase of 30 per cent and 21 per cent is how much more data we are seeing during business hours. This doesn’t include increased data on the mobile phone network. To give you an idea of the sheer volume of data, the evening now sees a peak download rate of 13.8 terabits per second (Tbps) on the NBN with 9pm the peak time for usage.

It would be easy to dismiss our slow Internet as another COVID-19 related issue and just accept it.

I think we can do better than that.

The first step is to understand what is happening when you use the Internet and where potential bottlenecks may be. I like to explain the Internet like a garden hose. When you turn on your sprinkler the amount of water that comes out is determined firstly by your actual sprinkler. But there is also your garden hose and your tap and the pipes in your home. Then there is the usage in the home. Are the kids in the shower? Is the dishwasher going? Then there is the size of your water meter and it then flows into your street where once again the pipes installed by your water authority control the volume. Your neighbours then play a part with their usage and so it goes all the way back to the water treatment plant. Each step can impact that sprinkler flow but you have less control the further away the issue is from your home.

The Internet can be thought of in a similar fashion.

Firstly download two apps. Speedtest to test speeds to the outside world and Wi-Fi Sweetspots to test your internal Wi-Fi.

Firstly, look at what devices might be generating Internet traffic. Do you have devices that are automatically backing up data to the cloud? Do you have computers infected with viruses or malware? The best method is to turn off all devices and do some Speedtest testing with just one device at a time turned on. If you notice a big drop in speed with one particular device on, have a closer look at that device.

Most devices in the house are connected via Wi-Fi and this is an area that is well within your control to potentially improve. Most Wi-Fi devices have the ability to work on two frequencies – 5GHz (not to be confused with 5G) and 2.4GHz. 5GHz should be faster but 2.4GHz will give you better range. The way to test is to use Wi-Fi Sweetspots as you move to different parts of your house. Try testing between both frequencies. Also experiment with different locations within your house of your actual Wireless Access Point or Router. Placing the device higher or in a location away from metallic objects (fridges, filing cabinets) will often give you better range.

Lastly there is your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to consider. They will often have different plans or speeds or even consider changing to a different ISP who may give you better performance. Even though different providers may quote the same speed they may not have the ability to deliver on that speed when traffic increases. As with life, it is usually a case of you get what you pay for. The dearer plans and providers usually provide better performance.

Tell me how much you have noticed your speed change at ask@techtalk.digital

Mathew Dickerson