How to get faster broadband

Industry regulator Ofcom has opened the door for companies to invest in super-fast broadband connections that can deliver speeds up to 10 times the level of today’s services.

However, these new services will take some time to implement meaning the growing number of us who enjoy watching high-definition TV through the internet, gaming online or streaming or downloading music or movies will have to wait a little longer before we can enjoy the internet at its best.

In the meantime however, there are steps you can take to vastly improve the broadband speeds you currently receive. Here are our top 10 tips:

Tip one: Run a speed test

Use the broadband speed test to determine your current connection speed – it’s worth trying it at a few different times during the day as speeds vary based on the activity on a line.

Once you get an approximate idea of your broadband speed compare it to the speed advertised on the package you’re paying for – the chances are it will be significantly below that advertised. If so it’s worth contacting your existing provider to see if it can do anything to help.

Moneysupermarket conducts quarterly broadband speed tests and millions of people are not getting the speed they signed up for – particularly those who have tariffs claiming to offer 8Megabit (Mb) download speeds. O2 has consistently come out top of our 8Mb tests – in the most recent one its customers received a typical speed of 4.16Mb compared with the average which is 3.04Mb.

Tip two: Switch to a faster deal

If, like many people, you’ve had the same broadband provider for years you may be able to upgrade to a tariff offering faster download speeds without it costing you any more each month.

The broadband market has changed considerably – increased competition has pushed prices down and technological advances means faster speeds are more readily available, whereas a few years ago most people opted for 1 or 2Mb deals because they offered best value for money.

However, the number of providers offering 8Mb access has increased significantly and you needn’t pay more for this quicker service. For example, O2’s Standard tariff gives unlimited 8Mb broadband access. The first month is free after which existing O2 customers are charged a £7.34 a month, while non-O2 customers pay a monthly fee of £12.23.

An 8Mb connection will be adequate for most people, but if you are a heavy internet user, Be offers speeds up to 24Mb from as little as £17.50 a month with a £24 connection fee. Alternatively, the fastest broadband connection in the UK is the 50Mb deal offered by Virgin Media. Virgin is the first provider to offer fibre optic broadband which allows users to download songs in just one second. However, this service comes at a price – it costs £50 a month, although you can cut this to £35 a month if you bundle your broadband with a Virgin phone deal. Also, the 50Mb service is currently only available in certain areas so you’ll need to check whether you can in fact get such a fast internet connection before you apply.

For more information on the switching process check out our video “How to switch broadband provider”.

Tip three: Could electrical equipment be interfering?

Devices with motors and pumps can cause interference which can affect the reliability of  your broadband connection. Ideally your modem and wiring should be kept well away from mains power cables and anything else that could cause interference.

Tip four: Install a BT I-Plate

The BT I-Plate is installed in the master socket. It reduces the interference if you have more than one socket connected to the same phone line, improving your speed and connection. They are easy to install so you should be able to do it yourself and in some instances improvements of around 4Mb have been reported – although 1.5Mb is more typical. The BT I-Plate costs around £8 but remember you will still need to use micro-filters once it is installed.

Tip five: Attach micro-filters

Ensure that all of your phone sockets have micro-filters attached. These are small devices that plug into your phone and socket and provide two connections – one for your phone and one for your broadband. They filter out the hissing noise on a line that uses a broadband connection and stops interference between voice and data information which uses the same phone line.

Tip six: Test for viruses

Make sure you run a virus check on your computer at least once a week, particularly if you use the internet regularly – you will need up-to-date anti-virus protection for this.

Your computer could easily become hit by a virus or be targeted with spy-ware. There will be numerous ways this could affect your computer but a dramatic decrease in download speeds is one of them. 

Tip seven: Optimise your software settings

If you want to get the most out of your computer it's not just about using the right software, it's how you use that software. There are numerous tweaks you can make to help your PC run more smoothly from using the right drivers to defragmenting your hard drive.

In terms of getting the most from your internet connection you should optimise your browser – such as Internet Explorer, FireFox or Safari:

  • Download the latest version of the browser you're using and then click into its options menu. There you should find a menu with a series of options from which you can choose the types of downloads you do and don't require – so for example, you can turn off the automatic downloading of pictures, you can stop videos from playing in web pages, as well as animations and sounds.
  • By restricting your options to the ones you want or need, your internet connection should run faster.
  • While you're there clear your temporary internet files and cookies so there is no backlog that could slow your connection down.
  • If you want to be really sophisticated you can download programmes which will help you tweak your settings so that you get the best possible performance – for example, if you have the FireFox browser, the FireTune and FasterFox programmes are available online for free and will help you speed things up.

Tip eight: Move your router

Extension sockets and wiring could be part of the problem so test this by removing the faceplate and plugging the router into the test socket underneath. You will then have a better idea if your wiring is causing any issues.

Tip nine: Make sure your router is properly encrypted

It could be that a neighbour is using your internet connection and slowing your own download rates so ensure your wireless router is encrypted appropriately. Our wireless security guide will explain how you can ensure no one else piggybacks on your internet connection.

Tip ten: Get a new modem or router

If your modem or router is more than a couple of years old ask your internet service provider for a new one. Many companies will exchange modems or routers for free if they believe it could be causing problems – so it’s well worth asking to see what you can get.

Disclaimer: Please note that any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.

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