How do I improve my internet?

Marion Kozub

Table of Contents Can you get broadband internet?National Broadband Network (NBN) – first choiceInternet via mobile phone networksInternational satellite providersPrivate FibreWhat is NBN internet access going to cost?I have it – now can I test it?You have internet – how can users access itYou are entitled to guaranteed speeds, even […]

The number one question we are asked is, ‘How do I improve my internet?’. The number one response is, “It is a combination of your internet plan/provider, router type/strength/placement, oh and about a hundred other things’

We now rely so heavily on the internet, we would even go so far as to say an internet outage is worse than an electricity outage.

In this “How do I improve my internet” guide we will expose the complete picture – there is no one size fits all solution!

Can you get broadband internet?

Where do you live?  A farmer on a remote property may only be able to access the internet via satellite.  Someone living in a capital city will have many options – NBN, 4/5G mobile data or broadband, developer provided and more. The most likely internet connections available include:

National Broadband Network (NBN) – first choice

NBN, built by the Australian government, is the primary way for homes and businesses to connect to the internet. If needed, a landline telephone service can also be part of an NBN connection. 

NBN sells via CSPs (carriage service providers – retailers). Visit NBN to find out if you can a) get it and b) the connection type.  You will also find a link to retailers in your area. 

NBN technologies include:

  • NBN Wired:
    • Hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) – It uses Telstra’s old Foxtel cable for gigabit speeds.
    • Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) – A gigabit fibre optic cable only for the select few.
    • Fibre to the node (FTTN) – Fibre to the node (a big box on the street) and uses Telstra’s old copper phone wire to get to your house. The ‘last mile is via VDSL+ topping out at 100/40Mbps, although most won’t get half that speed.
    • Fibre to the building (FTTB) – Used for high-density apartment blocks and new greenfield developments. It is similar to FTTN, with the node located inside the building’s communications room and taken by Ethernet cable to each apartment. The developer becomes a mini-CSP and aggregates all apartments and bills you.
    • Fibre to the curb (FTTC) – Fibre connection to a communications pit on the street, then copper to your home. Not much better than FTTN, but the pit may be closer than the Node.
  • NBN Wireless:
    • Fixed wireless – where long distances are involved, a fixed antenna on your house pointing to a tower that could be 50km away
    • Satellite – high orbit Sky Muster telecommunications satellites.

Internet via mobile phone networks

Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone provide limited 4G, 4GX and some 5G coverage via your phone that acts as a Wi-Fi hot spot. It costs a lot more than NBN ‘unlimited’ data and can have very patchy performance. Best for itinerant dwellers. You can read more here.

Some offer a dedicated home internet solution – using bands not used for its mobile phone network.  Optus has a 4G and 5G home internet connection for $75 a month with a 50Mbps download guarantee and unlimited data.  Great if you a) have good mobile coverage and b) can’t get NBN.  This is also good for people who move house often.

International satellite providers

Today these services are expensive and slow. You will see significant improvements in the coming years from close orbit satellites that will offer fast internet coverage anywhere at a more affordable cost. This should cure remote area blackspots

Private Fibre

You always have the option to lay private fibre at your cost. It is not cheap but more home, and small business FTTN users are taking this option to get a reliable and fast NBN.

What is NBN internet access going to cost?

You will be offered a plethora of NBN plans. Consider these things:

How much you can afford to pay each month? NBN starts at about $60 for 12/1Mbps speeds – this is too slow for most users. More usable speeds with unlimited data will be closer to $80-100

How much data will you use? This is really hard.

  • Basic email, web browsing, social media will use about 100GB per person per month
  • Add music streaming and basic gaming for about 200GB per person per month
  • Everything in moderation – 500GB per person per month
  • The whole 9 yards with IoT, security cameras, lots of movies, work from home and more – unlimited

What speed do you need? Remember, you can always upgrade speed easily, so it is not a huge issue. Prices are approximate

  • 12/1Mbps – NBN 12 – $60 usually unlimited
  • 25/10Mbps – NBN 25 – 100/500/unlimited $60/65/69 for a single user
  • 50/20Mbps – NBN 50 – 100/500/unlimited $70/75/79 for two users
  • 75/20Mbps – NBN 75 – 100/500/unlimited $80/85/89 for small families
  • 100/ and 20 or 40Mbps – NBN100 – 100/500/unlimited $90/95/99 – for larger families or downloaders

Customer service costs a little more. The vast majority of cheap retailers only have online contact apps or overseas call centres. Look for a retailer with a local call and support centre to call because you will need it.

Hint: Don’t use the retailer’s free email address, as you will lose it if you change providers. Gmail is the easiest transferrable option.

I have it – now can I test it?

Using a PC, Mac, iOS or Android device, go to OOKLA Speetest, then press GO.  Three numbers will display.

Ping – milliseconds (ms), it is the time it takes for your computer to get a response from the internet server.  The lower the number, the better. You should expect less than 20ms in major cities and <100ms in rural and regional areas.

Download – Megabits per second (Mbps). An average Australian household should start at 50Mbps and scale up from there to 100Mbps if needed. If you are on HCF or FTTP, you can pay for 256, 500, 600 and 1Gigabit plans.

Upload – Mbps means you are sending information back to the internet.  For example, uploading photos to the cloud, a security camera live view, or a remote worker accessing a work server. If you work remotely on large files or over a VPN, then 20Mbps is a good place to start.

You have internet – how can users access it

The default NBN connection point will be in a room closest to the street – probably the worst place for it. Ideally, the connection point should be centrally located where you have most devices to connect. You can ask NBN to locate it properly at install time (there may be a charge), or an electrician can run extra Ethernet points – currently about $300 per pair.

Your router has to ‘traffic manage’ the needs of the home network users and their access to the internet. The better the router (more raw power), the more efficiently it manages the bandwidth resource. Issues around internet quality – it is too slow – often are to do with the router speed, signal strength, and location. Hint: The modem/router usually supplied by your retailer is low cost rather than high efficiency.

If you are on FTTN internet comes from a standard phone point. You need a VDSL+ modem/router that may also have some phone ports. You need this but don’t rely on it to cover your whole home.

For FTTP, NBN will install an Ethernet port to plug a modem/router with phone ports or a router (no phone ports) into (the Blue WAN port above). For HFC cable NBN will install an ARRIS box that has an Ethernet port – ditto.

You are entitled to guaranteed speeds, even at peak periods

Before your installer leaves, they will run Speedtest to see if the router is getting approximately the internet access speed you are paying for. The retailer must remotely monitor this for at least 10-days to ensure that you get the claimed ‘average peak speed’, or you can cancel the contract without penalty or move to a lower speed/price tier. Interestingly only 24% of FTTN users can get reliable 100/20/40Mbps speeds, so it is a big issue, and retailers have copped huge fines for misleading customers over speeds.

We recommend running Speedtest regularly and if you are not getting close (say <10% variance), complain to the retailer.

How to get the fastest home network speeds

Believe it or not this has NOTHING to do with NBN or other broadband devices speeds to the router.

Location, location, location and raw power

The main Wi-Fi router needs to be smack in the middle of where most of your connected devices are – that is not where NBN typical place their access point. A router transmits the 2.4 and 5Ghz signal about 40/20metres in a line-of-sight circle around it. You can halve that distance each time the signal passes through cupboards, glass, walls or floors. Wi-Fi 5 AC is half-duplex (think of a single lane bridge where the oncoming car must pass first before you can). Wi-Fi 6 AX is close to full-duplex (the bridge is two lanes).

And Wi-Fi bandwidth is also shared among every device. When you add voice assistant speakers, security cameras, smart lights, climate control and more, you can easily have more than 30 plus devices in the house.

The adage – you need a V8 to tow a caravan applies to routers. We recommend Wi-Fi AX at least AX5400 for up to 30 connections and AX11000 for over that. We won’t get techy, but the AX routers have multi-lane bridges and overtaking lanes as well!

Please use Ethernet Connection for bandwidth hungry devices

Ethernet is 1000Mbps full-duplex, and these devices get priority over Wi-Fi for internet access. So use Ethernet cables to connect your TV, PlayStation/Xbox, Set-top box etc., to the router. Plus, you will be taking the bandwidth hogs off that congested network.

The disadvantage here is that you must use cables. If that is not convenient, get an electrician to hardwire Ethernet cables from the devices to the router. And you can use a 5-to-8 port Ethernet hub to plug in multiple devices and only run one cable to the router.

Or run Ethernet over your power point with a Powerline pass through kit

You need one Powerline adaptor at the router to get Ethernet into the power cables. You can plug in several other Powerline adapters to get upstairs, downstairs, to the shed or garage. Powerline is reasonably reliable, but you do end up sharing the 1000Mbps full-duplex bandwidth. And you can attach an Ethernet hub as well.

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi may be the most convenient – no wires – but it is the most likely to let you down. In short, unless you are within 10-20metres of the router, the signal strength and data transfer speeds are too variable to be reliable. If you see your smart TV ‘buffering’ when streaming video, you have several choices:

Buy the best router you can afford and locate it wisely – the top-of-the-range is about $800. The latest GadgetGuy reviews are here. Higher quality components, additional Wi-Fi channels (tri-band) and newer AX technologies will improve the range and quality of the connections.

If you still have black spots

Add a Wi-Fi Mesh extender to seamlessly extend your main router’s Wi-Fi network. Your main router must be Mesh compatible, and the extender still needs to receive a strong signal to retransmit good coverage. Some later Mesh extenders support Ethernet backhaul to the main router – these are best if you can’t get a strong signal to the extender.

Or set up a Wi-Fi Access point using an Ethernet cable to connect back to the router – no need to be in Wi-Fi range of the router but uses a separate network name and password – no seamless roaming.

See Gadget Guys guide to improving Wi-Fi coverage for a more detailed explanation for improving internet in your home.

GadgetGuy’s take:

Improving the internet is about finding the weakest link of the chain.  The issue could be your connection to the internet outside of your home, the internet plan you are on or connection or coverage issues within your own home.

For Australians, GadgetGuy recommends an NBN connection with a 50Mbps unlimited download plan. In your home, we suggest you invest in one of the latest Tri-band Mesh Wi-Fi routers.

The result is that Mum can be on a work video call, Dad can be watching Netflix, and the kids can be playing on the Xbox.

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