How broadband can keep you in touch with friends and family

With many of us staying at home a lot more, we’re relying on broadband more than ever to help us keep in touch during the Coronavirus pandemic. We look at ways you can stay better connected, from video calls to online games, and the broadband speeds you’ll need. 

With many of us staying at home a lot more, we’re relying on broadband more than ever to help us keep in touch during the Coronavirus pandemic. We look at ways you can stay better connected, from video calls to online games, and the broadband speeds you’ll need. 

Holly Niblett
From the Digital team
minute read
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Posted 6 JULY 2020

What are broadband providers doing to keep people connected?

Broadband providers such as BT and Plusnet have removed all caps on their broadband packages so every customer has unlimited data during the coronavirus crisis, to help them stay connected to friends and family. 
Networks are built to withstand peaks throughout the day, so services should be unaffected, but providers say they are closely monitoring the situation to make sure they can cope with the high demand. 
Find out more about what broadband providers are doing to help.

How can I stay in contact with my family and friends?

There are several ways that broadband allows you to stay in touch with the people you care about. You can:

Video call your family
Video chats are a great way for families and friends to keep in touch and see a familiar face. Apps such as Skype and WhatsApp enable anyone with a laptop or smartphone with a built-in camera to have a virtual face-to-face chat with one or more people.

For relatives who aren’t digitally savvy, you can also call a landline so they don’t feel left out of the conversation.

Video services can also be used for everything from streaming live yoga sessions to hosting family quiz nights.

Play games online
Smart devices, PCs and gaming consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation can all be used to play online games. Many allow you to connect with family and friends – or even new people – while you play.

Options range from Nintendo Switch’s new release Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which allows you to build your dream desert island and share it with other players, while serious gamers can battle it out with friends over Apex Legends or Call of Duty: Warzone, both of which are free to play.

Watch TV and films together
If you miss having friends and family over for a movie night, Netflix Party can help you watch films and TV shows together with people who aren’t in the same place as you. To use it, you’ll need a Google Chrome extension on your desktop computer or laptop. You can also chat about what you’re watching as a group.

Tips to boost your broadband speed

With more people at home using the same connection, it can be a drain on bandwidth. But there are steps you can take to improve the speed of your broadband if you find it’s too slow.

1. Move your router away from other devices
Keep your router as far away as possible from other electrical equipment and devices that emit wireless signals, such as cordless phones, baby monitors and computer speakers. Try to place your router on a table or shelf rather than on the floor and keep it switched on.

2. Test the speed of your broadband connection
You can run our broadband speed test. It’s a good idea to carry out multiple tests over a few days and at different times of the day to see if speeds vary. You’ll be shown both your download and upload speeds, and whether they fit into the ‘slow’, ‘good’, ‘fast’ or ‘very fast’ category. Also, you can compare your speed with those of your neighbours, simply by inputting your postcode. Check your broadband provider’s website if you need to improve your signal around your home. 

3. Turn off WiFi on devices you’re not using
If you have multiple devices such as tablets and smartphones running in the background, it can slow down your broadband, so try switching WiFi off on these when you’re not using them. You should also avoid carrying out data-heavy tasks like HD streaming, gaming or video calls at the same time as others in your household.

4. Give your computer a spring clean
There are many applications on your PC that could affect your broadband speed, some without you even realising it. A few simple quick fixes include:

  • making sure your anti-virus software is up to date
  • making sure you’re using the latest version of your web browser, such as Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge
  • clearing your cache and browser history
  • stopping apps running in the background

Find more tips to boost your broadband speed from Ofcom

5. Switch broadband provider
If you find your connection is still too slow, or you don’t have the capacity you need, you might want to consider upgrading to a new package or switching provider.

Many broadband switches remain unaffected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Openreach engineers are now working inside some customers’ businesses and homes again if necessary, following changes to the Government’s Coronavirus advice. Social distancing rules are still being followed. For more information, visit the Openreach Coronavirus advice page

Find out more about switching broadband provider

What broadband speed do I need?

The broadband speed you need depends on what you use the internet for, how often you use it and how many people might be using the connection at the same time.

You’ll usually see broadband speed measured in Megabits per second (Mbps).

Here are some examples of common online activities and bandwidth requirements:

Web browsing, email and social media
If you mainly use the internet to read web pages, shop online and check emails, you generally won’t need a very fast connection. Most pages will load quickly even on a slower standard broadband connection.

Instant messaging and voice calls (WhatsApp, Skype)
WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other messaging apps don’t require fast broadband, even if your entire family is chatting at the same time. Skype recommends an internet speed of 100 Kbps for a voice chat. That means you can easily make calls on a standard broadband service.

Video calling (Skype, Zoom)
Making video calls requires more bandwidth than making a voice call, so a high-speed connection is beneficial. Skype recommends a speed of 300 Kbps for basic video calling but at least 1.5 Mbps for HD video calls. To chat with five people, you should ideally have a download speed of at least 4 Mbps and an upload speed of 512 Kbps.

Gaming (Xbox, PlayStation)
For gaming without lags, you’re better off with fibre optic broadband. Not only will the greater download speeds help, but enhanced upload speeds allow near instantaneous responses. Microsoft recommends a download speed of at least 3 Mbps for the best experience when using Xbox Live.

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