Virgin Media tries to rustle up the broadband bandits
Sadly while WiFi was brilliant and fast in the home a few years ago for many people they are now finding that the old 2.4GHz band is becoming congested and giving very variable speeds particularly in more densely populated areas. The clever people have for sometime bought broadband routers that add the 5GHz band to their network, and Virgin Media will soon have available its new superhub model that supports both bands (and BT Retail has its own dual band HomeHub 4).
To highlight some of the problems and maybe help people work around the issues, Virgin Media has put together a tongue in cheek campaign around the Broadbandits who are chasing after your WiFi.
The broadbandits are identified as:
- Crafty cordless phones
- Broadband-blocking baby monitors
- Malicious microwaves
- Wiley wireless absorbing fish tanks
We are not too sure how bad the cordless phone problem is in the UK, as UK DECT handsets are not in the 2.4GHz band, and even old analogue cordless phones should not be, though imports from USA and elsewhere may be using the band. A big area missed out and this can be a major issue in cities is that some older CCTV cameras used the 2.4GHz band, as well as people using wireless video senders.
The advice to people is of some help, but we have modified it slightly based on our experiences and that of users on our forums.
- Wanted - more space: Don't hide your wireless router behind things or in a cupboard, they prefer to be higher than people (our high water content blocks the signal).
- Aim high: See number 1.
- Avoid other electrical devices which could hold your signal to ransom If you know you have devices that also use 2.4GHz and wireless is important, make sure the devices are as far apart as possible, or upgrade to 5GHz or buy a device that does not interfere e.g. repace a video sender with something like a Slingbox.
- Don't give up! Saddle your router to a few different locations and see which one works best for you. Given the Virgin Media connection is reliant on access to the coax feed this is a bit odd, but yes if you can locate your wireless router at an optimum location it will work better. A good option is to add a wireless access point to cover the black-spot in the home and reduce its power level to avoid interference.
- Change the channel Channel hoping can sometimes help, but if you can see four or five networks the chances of finding a wireless channel that does not overlap is rare. Some devices actually work better if sharing the exact same channel, than they do with overlapping, so put your lab coat on and experiment.
- If all else fails: Try the old switch off and on game. We know that some wireless network cards in laptops can be fickle and a kick helps.
At the end of the day, it is still difficult to beat an Ethernet cable for reliable and stable connectivity. The new devices with 5GHz do appear to offer better speeds, though this might change in a few years once a few more million WiFi devices are using the band. The downside to 5GHz is that it has a shorter range than 2.4GHz, so people may find they need two wireless routers to cover a property at decent speeds.
At the end of the day there is a good reason why our speed test recommends you use an Ethernet cable if testing your broadband connection and the graphs showing the speed over time should people to see if a wireless glitch might be behind a slower than expected average speed.