Ofcom is launching a national information campaign, backed by Government and industry, to help broadband and mobile users get the most from their connections as millions of families work and learn at home.
The campaign, Stay Connected, explains a range of practical tips and advice to help people get the speeds and reception they need, at a time when broadband and mobile have never been more important in helping everyone communicate.
Broadband and mobile networks are seeing shifting patterns of demand as a result of the response to coronavirus (Covid-19), with many families online together during the day for home working and schooling. Telecoms companies are constantly monitoring traffic on their networks, taking steps to ensure it is managed effectively and customers continue to receive a normal service.
Network operators are confident that they can meet increased demand; and we can all play our part in helping to manage how we use our broadband, home phones and mobiles.
As more people within the home use the same connection, householders can take their own steps to manage their data use and help everyone in the home get the bandwidth they need – whether it’s for video streaming, virtual meetings or voice calls.
Ofcom has identified a range of simple measures, which we are encouraging people to share on social media to help others stay connected.
Melanie Dawes, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, said: “Families across the country are going online together this week, often juggling work and keeping children busy at the same time. So we’re encouraging people to read our advice on getting the most from their broadband, home phones and mobiles – and to share it with friends, families and colleagues, to help them stay connected too.”
Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “Right now we need people to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. Reliable internet speeds will be crucial so we can work from home where possible, stay connected with our families and keep up to date with the latest health information.
“I urge everyone to read Ofcom’s helpful tips and advice to ensure they get the most out of their broadband and mobile internet connections during these unprecedented times."
We’re starting today with seven tips that people can follow. Most can be followed straight away, for free.
More people are making calls on their mobile network during the day. Because of this high demand, you may find you get a more reliable connection using your landline. If you do need to use your mobile, try using your settings to turn on ‘wifi calling’. Some smartphones and mobile packages allow your phone to make calls over your broadband network, which often provides the best sound quality and also helps reduce demand on the mobile network. Similarly, you can make voice calls over the internet using apps like Facetime, Skype or WhatsApp.
Keep your router far away from other electrical devices, and those which work wirelessly. Halogen lamps, dimmer switches, stereos and computer speakers, some types of baby monitors, TVs and computer monitors can all affect your wifi if they’re too close to your router. Did you know that microwave ovens can also reduce wifi signals? So don’t use the microwave when you’re making video calls, watching HD videos or doing something important online. Also, place your router on a table or shelf rather than on the floor, and keep it switched on.
The more devices attached to your wifi, the lower the speed you get. Devices like tablets and smartphones often work in the background, so try switching wifi reception off on these when you’re not using them. If you’re carrying out video calls or meetings, turning the video off and using audio will require much less of your internet connection; or try starting them at less common times, rather than on the hour or half hour. You might also want to manage your family’s online activity, so that different people aren’t carrying out data-heavy tasks (like HD streaming, gaming or video calls) all at the same time. Downloading video in advance, instead of streaming it, can also help.
For the best broadband speeds, use an Ethernet cable to connect your computer directly to your router rather than using wifi. This is a computer networking cable which should give you a faster, more reliable connection. They’re available from as little as £3.
Where possible, try not to use a telephone extension lead, as these can cause interference which could lower your speed. If you have to use an extension lead, use a new, high-quality cable with the shortest possible length. Tangled and coiled cables can also affect speeds. So can interference from your phone line, so try plugging ‘microfilters’ into every phone socket in your home. They look like little white boxes and split the phone and broadband signals so that they don't affect each other. Different providers have varying setups in the home, so always check their website before unplugging any cables.
Find out what speed you’re actually getting. You can run a speed test using Ofcom’s official mobile and broadband checker. If possible, carry out tests over a few days and at different times of day. A number of in-home factors can affect wifi speeds, so look on your provider’s website for guidance on improving your signal around the home. You can download Ofcom’s checker as a smartphone app (search Ofcom in Apple’s app store or Google Play) or use it through your internet browser.
Then, if your connection isn’t working as well as it should, you can find advice on your broadband provider’s website – which is also available on mobile phones. If you need to contact them for help, please be aware that, because of coronavirus, some companies have many fewer people to help with your queries. Most are prioritising vulnerable customers and essential public services, so please take this into consideration.
You can get further, more detailed advice on maximising your broadband and mobile connections at ofcom.org.uk/stayconnected. We’ll be offering new tips each day, so follow us on social media.