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Shock, horror: Wi-Fi makes broadband 30 per cent slower

David Ludlow
10 Mar 2011
Shock, horror Wi-Fi makes broadband slow
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Who'd have thought it?

A new research project has shown what we all knew to be true: Wi-Fi can cripple broadband speeds, reducing them by as much as 30 per cent.

Research firm Epitiro tested 14,000 Wi-Fi connections from November 2010 to February 2011 in Italy, Spain, the UK and US. It showed that, on average, internet connections run over Wi-Fi were 30 per cent slower than those using a wired connection.

In many cases the report found that people sacrificed speed for the flexibility of Wi-Fi - and why shouldn't they? If you've got a laptop, the last thing you want to do is have to trail a long cable from your router. Besides, part of the point of having a fast connection is to make sure that there's enough bandwidth for everyone in the house to use the internet at the same time, so each computer getting less than full speed actually isn't a problem.

Many people apparently weren't aware of the speed drop caused by using Wi-Fi, as standard internet tasks, such as web browsing and email don't need the full speed of broadband. In fact, in our experience there's very little that actually requires the full speed of broadband and you've got serious problems if you can't stream iPlayer or make a Skype call while using Wi-Fi.

The [a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12688839"]BBC[/] also mentions that the report has some recommendations for improving connection speeds, including changing wireless channels and plugging in a cable. Changing channel is certainly a good step, as interference isn't just caused by neighbouring networks but other devices using the 2.4GHz radio spectrum. Video transmitters are particularly bad at interfering with Wi-Fi.

It's for these reasons that the BT Home Hub 3 has Smart Wireless technology to automatically adjust the wireless channel when it detects any wireless interference, not just that of other Wi-Fi networks.

In addition to changing a wireless channel, we recommend that people turn off channel bonding on their routers. This technology uses two channels to boost speeds, but usually just causes more interference. For desktop PCs, it's worth running an Ethernet cable to the router and, if you can't, buying HomePlug kit instead.

If you're not running an 802.11n router, it's worth upgrading. You can read our reviews sections to find out which are the best wireless routers and HomePlug adaptors.

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