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Top Reasons for Slow Broadband

We’ve all been there before, watching a film or live football match and all of a sudden it freezes. A spinning circle appears and refuses to go away for a good 5-10 seconds. Your stream comes back on, and you can continue watching, hurray! But wait, It’s back again, that pesky spinning circle, argh! How frustrating!

Your broadband can be working fine, streaming and download with ease and then your left perplexed at why you can’t even get 5 seconds of your favourite program. There are many reasons why your broadband may slow down and understanding why they might be happening should help you diagnose the issue.

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Contention Ratio

Broadband ISP’s will have something called a contention ratio to allow multiple computers to connect to a server in your local area. The higher the contention ratio, the more computers that can connect at once. If there a lot of devices in the area with the same ISP and all connect to the Internet at once, you may notice a significant slow down. This sort of thing usually occurs at peak time, such as the early evenings during the week, when everyone is home from work or school and all wanting a piece of the broadband.

A lot of broadband suppliers will have high contention ratios of around 50:1 meaning that you could be sharing a broadband line with up to 49 other computers. Not ideal if you have some important work that needs doing. Some broadband service providers, however, will have lower contention ratios to prevent slow broadband issues, they may be as low as 20:1 which is significantly less. These sort of broadband packages are provided to business broadband accounts as standard usually. As they will generally be paying more for a premium service.

If you think you are noticing a slowdown at peak times of the day, then this is likely the culprit and it is worth checking with your broadband supplier what the contention ratio is on your package and if possible, ask for an upgrade.

Several Devices Downloading

As above, you may notice a slowdown in broadband speed if there are several devices in your house streaming or downloading at the same time. Just like contention ratio, you will have to share your broadband speeds within your household too. If there are several devices competing for traffic in your household you could notice a big slowdown if you are not on superfast fibre optic broadband.

It’s worth noting that broadband slowdown is specific to the activity being carried out, you should only notice a significant slowdown if you are performing data-intensive tasks such as streaming a HD movie or downloading a game. If possible, it may be beneficial to pause a download while streaming to prevent disruption and continue the download afterward. If that is not possible, it is worth looking at a higher speed broadband package like the fibre broadband deals offered by Virgin broadband.

Your Router Could Be a Problem

Sometimes the issue could be that your broadband router is struggling to work efficiently. This can happen for many reasons and sometimes no obvious reason at all. It may be a simple glitch that has caused your router to get stuck temporarily, or it may be a more serious issue with the hardware.

Routers are generally always switched on, and after periods of extended use they may get warm and cause problems for the hardware. The solution could require a simple restart to get things moving again and is something I would recommend you perform on a regular basis to prevent such problems.

If the problem is more terminal in nature and your router doesn’t seem to be responding correctly, it may be time for a new router. Most broadband suppliers will issue a cheap broadband router for cost saving measure, and while they generally do the job quite well, they do often struggle to perform. I would suggest investing in a more robust router, perhaps one that has dual band capabilities to spread the load and strain on the router. These routers can be purchased for as little as £20 in some shops, but it is worth doing some research to see which is best for you.

Broadband Line Issues

Very occasionally you may notice a slowdown of your Internet due to a line problem which could be affecting everyone in your area. A lot of phone lines still use telegraph poles to connect to houses which means that they are open to the elements. The lines could become detached during strong winds which may just affect your house or others in the area too. Other problems could be caused by lightening strikes, causing a surge to your local exchange and taking out a whole area.

While these are rare occurrences and infrastructure is designed to withstand most weather conditions, if you do notice issues during extreme weather it is likely this is the problem. If you can, ring your broadband provider and ask if they have had any issue reported in your area.

Slow Broadband Package

The problem may simply be that you are on a slow broadband package with slower speed limits. Some ADSL Broadband lines are still capped at 8mb per second in rural areas, and so it may be an issue that can’t be resolved simply, waiting for line upgrades may be a solution. If however, you haven’t upgraded in a while and have been on the same broadband package for a while you may be able to switch to a new broadband provider with fast line capabilities or even fibre broadband. Often for a lot less than you are currently. Take a look at our broadband postcode checker for broadband offers in your area.



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