Forget a bandwidth upgrade! Try these 4 things to make the home internet experience better

Seeking Better Connectivity

I work exclusively from home as a telecommunications consultant so a better home internet experience is critical. I made it better all despite having the smallest bandwidth package my ISP offers: 25 Mbps download & 2.5 Mbps upload.  I did have to upgrade at one point though. I initially had 0.5 Mbps upload. This is insufficient for video conferencing.

The house has two smart TVs, two workhorse desktop PCs & three tablets/smartphones. There can be concurrent sessions of Netflix running (Netflix running on HD only uses about 1 Mbps, Ultra-HD or 4K will require 15 Mbps – but that’s the future). I often use the internet for voice & video conferencing for work; connecting to the USA and abroad.

For all the techies out there, I should mention I live in western Canada, meaning all our internet traffic routes down to the USA (Seattle I think). All the Netflix and Google caching servers then are pretty far away. And if we need to reach eastern Canada the traffic routes down to the USA and then back up.

How To Have a Better Home Internet Experience

The principles I lay out here should work with any ISP and any geographic location. I need to stress this – Since I work from home my internet connection (and WiFi) must be highly functional. But only 25 Mbps? Here’s how I did it.

  1. We want speed not bandwidth. I wrote a separate article explaining the difference:
  2. Have the internet provider check the home’s internet’s signal levels. NOT bandwidth. They are required to repair any signal deficiencies, likely for free. This will help prevent packet re-transmissions (affecting speed) and is particularly important for voice & video. This kind of problem is unlikely to show up on internet speed tests.
  3. Make sure the home computer is connected via wired Ethernet for performance reasons; especially if you feel that you don’t know what you are doing. This is because wired is a closed system where variables can be controlled. Wireless is an open system and the environment (and performance) is constantly changing. WiFi is not the responsibility of the ISP, although often blamed. If you’d like to optimize your WiFi click here to read PixelPrivacy’s article “How To Find The Best Wi-Fi Channel For Your Router: A Step-By-Step Guide”.
  4. Make sure home routing/switching gear is top notch. $20 gigabit switches are fine, but routers under $200 will likely not function well. This is because routers are essentially PCs with purpose built software. They make them cheaper by putting in less expensive CPUs and less memory. A router above $200 will actually weigh more. This is a good thing. More CPU and memory takes more metal.
    • WiFi – If integrating WiFi into the router, purchase an 802.11ac (latest standard) even though the consumer electronics cannot use the better bandwidth. Do not use the WiFi from the internet provider, if it was included with the ISP modem. The new technology in 802.11ac makes sure there is better signal to the device. Also make sure the WiFi router has at least 6 antennas (meaning 3 internal radios). Expect 2.4 Ghz to work better than 5.4/5.8 Ghz. This is due to physics and also, I believe that developers have spent less time ensuring 5.4/5.8 Ghz work as well.
    • Seems I’m not the only one to recommend a better Router. Simon Batt explains “7 Reasons Why You Should Replace Your ISP’s Router“.
  5. Have a good computer (good hardware). The processor and memory affect how fast bits & bytes can be converted and put on the internet. The rule of thumb is that if the consumer pays less than $1000 for the computer (desktop / laptop, not tablet), it probably is not that good and will need to be replaced in 2-3 years. With a computer over a $1000 expect it to last 3-5 years. If using a laptop, ensure use of a laptop cooling pad (roughly $20) as much as possible. Laptops miniaturize components and there isn’t as much room for cooling. Heat is the enemy of both PC longevity and speed (CPUs run faster when the ambient environment is cool).

The Result

Prior to these changes I had problems all the time with Netflix. Now it is noticeably less frequent. I also had problems with video conferencing. Now when there are problems, I diagnose the problem as coming from the alternate party’s connection. That is, my audio/video is good on their end but their audio/video is bad on my end. It’s usually upload that is the problem and that is likely a result of each user’s upload rate with their ISP (asynchronous service). All in all, I now have a better home internet experience.

PS. This Cisco article nicely illustrates that really good CPU/memory are needed in the router, if not a specifically developed ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit).

About the Author

An avid writer, Trevor Textor has been quoted by Reader’s Digest, NBC News, and among others. As a freelancer Trevor has a “swiss army skillset” and has proven able to successfully assist many small, medium and large businesses in most areas of their business. Ask Trevor if he can help:

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