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Upgrading your broadband for home working

Upgrading your broadband for home working

With the Government instructing us to stay at home to try and minimise the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, many people are working from home for the first time. But with the whole household indoors and relying heavily on your WiFi, can your broadband speed support home working? 

Holly Niblett
From the Digital team
9
minute read
posted 6 MAY 2020

What broadband speeds do I need to work from home? 

When you’re set up in your home working space, you may do more emailing, web browsing, video conferencing, and uploading and downloading files to online document sharing platforms.  
 
The minimum speed for web browsing is generally considered to be between 1 Mbps and 5 Mbps. In simple terms, this means if you’re using Skype, you’ll need a minimum download speed of 1.2 Mbps for video calls. 
 
With so many people accessing the internet at the same time – especially if several people are working from home in your household – you might find that your broadband connection struggles. But typically, if you’ve got a download speed of 16Mbps or more, you should be fine. 

Do I need business broadband to work from home? 

If you’re only working from home temporarily while the COVID-19 pandemic continues, or you only work from home once a week on a regular basis, your normal home broadband should be fine. 
 
If you run a business from your home, there might be some benefits to getting a business broadband package. This can give you things like better customer service, security, phone capability and a more powerful router. 

Do I need to be wary of usage limits? 

Most broadband packages offer unlimited data, but some have a cap on the data usage allowance per month. If your broadband has a cap, you’ll need to be aware of how much data you’re using by working from home. That’s so you don’t end up being charged extra for exceeding the limit.  
 
Due to the lockdown imposed by coronavirus, BT has removed the caps on their home broadband packages, so customers have unlimited data to work from home and stay connected. 
 
When you compare broadband deals with us, we’ll only show you unlimited data products, so you won’t have to worry about how much data you’re using. 

Find out more about broadband data usage allowances

What impact will sharing the connection with others have? 

With lots of us now working from home and using the internet to keep in touch with loved ones, the demand on providers is huge. 
 
The number of other people in your household who are online at the same time is one of the key factors that influences how fast your broadband is. Typically, the more people who are using WiFi to stream TV, play online games, browse the internet or video call, the slower your broadband will be.  

My broadband is slow, what can I do?

If you’re struggling with sluggish WiFi, Ofcom has some tips to help reduce the load and improve speeds, including: 

  • Download films in advance rather than live streaming them  
  • Avoid using things like microwaves, baby monitors and halogen lamps if you’re doing something important online, as these can interfere with the WiFi signal 
  • Try to position your router in an open space, away from other devices and windows 
  • Connect your computer to the router with an ethernet cable to minimise interference 
  • Make audio and video conferencing calls at off-peak times – for example, at quarter past the hour 
  • Disconnect devices you’re not using. Otherwise these can run in the background, even if you’re not actively using them 
  • Make calls on a landline rather than mobile where possible. 

What are my upgrade options?  

You may decide you want to look at upgrading if your current package isn’t working. Based on speed the best type of broadband is fibre. That’s because it can give you faster speeds and it should be able to handle multiple devices using the internet at once – although it’s not available in all areas of the country. 
  
If your contract is coming to an end, you could look at switching. A broadband and TV bundle will give you more entertainment options. Providers like BT, Sky and Virgin Media can give you access to more channels if you buy a TV package with them.  
 
If you just want to upgrade to make things a bit easier while you’re self-isolating, be sure to check the contract lengths, so you’re not stuck paying for the extra bits you may need now, when you no longer need them. 

Find out more about fibre broadband.

If you’d like to, you can check to see if you can get fibre broadband. 

Enter your postcode now

Can I improve my WiFi with a booster? 

There are a few bits of kit that can help boost your WiFi signal: 

  • You could upgrade your router – if your WiFi speed is slow, old or basic tech might be hindering it 
  • You might add a WiFi repeater to carry your WiFi signal further 
  • You could use a wireless range extender to help get around physical structures, or reach dead zones in your home 

Top tip: If your router has antennas, angle one up and one to the side to optimise where the WiFi signal is travelling.

How can I tell if there is an active phone line in my house?

If you’re with an Openreach provider, your phone/router should already be connected to an Openreach socket.
If you’re without home broadband, or you already have home broadband but it’s not supplied through an Openreach provider, you need to check if you have an Openreach socket in your home.

Typically, this is what an Openreach socket looks like (see image).

Next, you need to see whether your line is active.
The easiest way to do this is by performing a line check with an Openreach provider, when you click through to their internet site. Usually, you just need to enter your postcode, to check.

If your phone line is active, the switch can happen quickly.

How is COVID-19 affecting switching provider? 

If you’re switching provider and your switch is one of the few that requires a visit from an Openreach engineer, then it’ll likely be affected by the pandemic. That’s because Openreach is prioritising repair and maintenance services that support critical infrastructure, as well as vulnerable customers and those who don’t have a service.

Most switches don’t need an Openreach engineer, so shouldn’t be affected. But contact the provider you want to switch to, in order to check.

Currently, Openreach aren’t sending out engineers for new customers, so you can’t switch from Virgin to an Openreach provider as an engineer is required. However, you can switch to Virgin or Hyperoptic because they are still sending out engineers, while maintaining social distancing rules.

You can’t currently switch to BT Ultrafast broadband as an Openreach engineer is also required, and Sky isn’t currently offering new customers TV packages (triple play - with TV, phone and broadband) for the same reason.

However, an engineer isn’t required to switch between Openreach providers, so you should still be able to switch between the following (but always check with the provider first):

  • BT 
  • Sky 
  • TalkTalk 
  • EE 
  • Plusnet 
  • Vodafone 
  • Now Broadband 
  • Shell Energy Broadband 
  • Post Office 
  • John Lewis 
  • SSE 
  • Gigaclear 
  • Relish 
  • Zen 

Ordinarily, you should only have a tiny interruption to your broadband when switching, although this does depend on what you’re switching: 

  • just broadband – typically a few minutes downtime 
  • broadband and landline provider – there may be more downtime, but your provider can advise you if so
  • different types of broadband (for example, standard to fibre) – this can be a few hours to a day of downtime, as your connection has to be switched off and then your new service activated  

Your new provider will organise the switch and advise you on when and how long you’ll be without internet for. 
 
Find out more about switching broadband providers  

What can I do if I live in a rural area?

Broadband is usually slower in rural areas because fibre optic cable hasn’t yet been rolled out and homes are further away from telephone exchanges. The further broadband has to travel along the wire, the slower it will be. 
 
Mobile broadband can be a good temporary solution if you get a decent mobile signal where you live, or you could look into satellite broadband if you want something a bit more long-term. 
 
Our guide to broadband in rural areas has more information for you. 

What are broadband providers doing to help during the outbreak of coronavirus? 

The spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) has led to many of us either working from home, or staying in and streaming countless films and TV shows. With all this extra internet use, broadband providers are having to change how they’re operating to keep us all running. We’ve got some information about what some of the big broadband providers are doing to support you all. Please note, the information was correct as of 26 March 2020. We aim to keep this page updated. But double check with the providers to confirm any details. 

BT 

  • Unlimited Broadband for all – if you were previously on a data cap, this has now been removed 
  • If you have a mobile deal, you can check the NHS website without using your data plan 
  • Putting in a £5 per month cap on out of bundle charges for mobile 
  • Suppling 10x the usual capacity for everyday use, to maintain consistent performance for customers 

Sky 

  • Free Sky Sports – they are no longer charging for the subscription, after sporting fixtures were cancelled 
  • Releasing movies that are in the cinema early, available through Sky Cinema 
  • Free Sky Go Extra – allowing you to watch more TV and film from more devices 
  • Free calls 
  • A promise to prioritise existing customers, to ensure their service keeps running smoothly 

Virgin Media 

  • Taking extra measures to maintain consistent network performance while traffic is increased 
  • Brand new films to be available to watch through Virgin Movies 
  • Since 23 March, pay monthly mobile customers now have unlimited minutes to call UK landlines and mobiles, as well as a 10GB data boost, for one month 
  • Offering customers the ability to pause their Sky Sports package, while sports fixtures are currently cancelled or postponed 
  • Helping to support customers who are currently struggling to pay their Virgin Media bill 

Plusnet 

  • Taking measures to support the consistently high levels of internet traffic 
  • Anyone on an older data cap package will have their caps removed for the foreseeable future 
  • Support for customers who are struggling to pay their Plusnet bill. 

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