Fairy lights, the broadband speed killer

Frustration at web-pages taking a long time to load or online films buffering seems more likely to hit broadband users over this month’s festive holiday, suggests an alert by Ofcom.

That’s because alongside viruses and hackers, home broadband speeds face a small and seasonal foe capable of slowing home Wi-Fi – “Christmas fairy lights.”

As well as these miniature lamps on Christmas trees, the regulator named microwaves and baby monitors as other electrical devices that can cause interference and reduce Wi-Fi speeds.

Networks being set up wrongly is also a big cause of slow broadband, which Ofcom said can now be quickly detected from a smartphone – and trouble-shooted – thanks to its new app.

Available as a free download, the app tests the set-up of Wi-Fi in the home and, if it finds a problem, will provide tips to help improve the speed.

But it seems there will only be so much that the software can do for about 8% of homes, as Ofcom says these 2.4m houses are still unable to receive speeds of 10 Mbit/s or above.

Similarly, about 130,000 SMEs in areas like business parks are still unable to receive speeds above 10 Mbit/s, Ofcom’s latest figures show.

The regulator is working to improve coverage but estimates that by 2017, when 95% of all UK premises will be superfast, about 18% of SMEs will still not have superfast services.

With government and industry, it is working to remove barriers for small providers to invest in new network deployments, which often serve areas with little or no coverage.

“Mobile and broadband have become the fourth essential service, alongside gas, electricity and water,” said Ofcom chief executive Sharon White.

“Our challenge is to keep supporting competition and innovation, while also helping to improve coverage across the country - particularly in hard-to-reach areas”.


Dec 4, 2015
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