WiFi router advice?

Hi all, hope you’re all keeping safe.

Under the current circumstances I’m finding our home wifi is getting painfully slow and I’m wondering if replacing/updating our wifi router would help. Not being at all techie myself, does anyone think this would be a good idea? Our current router is about 6 or 7 years old and is a Netgear N600 which supports 802.11a/b/g/n standards.

And if I should replace it, I’d be grateful for any suggestions on what is a good replacement to get!

Take care,

If possible, test with a network cable, see if its really the WiFi that is the problem.

Best website to test with is fast.com

Good luck!

Ah, thanks Tris, I should have said our computer (imac) is connected with a cable and its connection is slow too.

Just tried fast.com on the imac (while one daughter is skyping on her laptop), it says 6.0 Mbps (upload speed 430 Kbps), is that bad?

I don’t know if it’s still a thing but there used to be a contention ratio, the amount of subscribers to an allocated chunk of internet resource aka bandwidth. Providers have always oversubscribed, if everyone tried to get their actual share of the internet simultaneously the system wouldn’t cope.

So old router, potentially damaged local infrastructure and too many people at home using their internet at one time.

Also if you have a cheap tier service that won’t help.

Lastly… if Skype is being used with video camera then that will be eating a huge chunk of your available upload capacity, this creates slower response times when surfing the internet as there is a lot of handshaking that goes on during regular communications which take longer to occur with more time spent waiting for packets to be uploaded.

I can’t think of a more user-friendly way to describe the above, my apologies.

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6.0 Mbps is pretty poor for London but this is dependent on how far from the exchange you are.

The most you’d ever get ADSL2+ is 20-24 but that means you really are on top of the exchange. See:

If you are getting a lot lower than you’d expect and think it might be your kit you could try plugging into your BT master socket (to eliminate poor local wiring issues) or seeing if your filter is the problem (try another filter) to eliminate other possible sources of poor transmission/noise/low speed on the line.

If you want a new router you should be able to get a free one if you switch suppliers (read reviews!!)

Another tip is always power off your router before disconncting/after connecting the phone cable connections as yanking out / plugging in a live line can be interpreted by the exchange as a poor quality line and see it only attempt connecting with a low speed profile for a few days.

Tips Slow Wi-Fi

There are a number of causes of slow Wi-Fi including:

  • The wireless connection is disrupted due to interfecence from:
    • Living in a high population density area where there are a lot of other wireless users.
    • Interference from other wireless devices on the same frequency including:
      • Bluetooth wireless devices including headphones
      • DECT wireless home phones
      • Microwave
    • Distance from the wireless transmitter to your computer
    • Obstacles from the wireless transmitter to your computer, walls, doors, people, etc…
    • Weather patterns
  • Faulty component or software on the computer or router
  • Poor internet connection

All of the above can make your connection via Wi-Fi appear to be slow when loading pages. The major components you need to test are:

  1. Your Computer
  2. Your Wi-Fi
  3. Your Router
  4. Your Internet Provider

It’s quite easy to test these, but before you do to get the correct results, everyone has to stop using the internet.

1: Your Computer

To test your computer isn’t the problem, just run a speed test from another computer, if you get the same or similar results then the issue isn’t related to your computer or other factors related to the positioning or environment your computer is in, scroll down for answer A at the end.

2: Your Wi-Fi

To test your Wi-Fi isn’t the problem you again need to run a speed test, this time via an ethernet cable plugged directly from the computer into the router/modem provided by your Internet Provider.

At this point if your speed is still slow this indicates that the internet problem is with the router or Internet Provider.

If your speed is faster again this indicates the issue is with your Wi-Fi and there are some things you can try.

3: Your Router

Unless you have a spare router hanging about which with some ISPs like Virgin Media isn’t an option, you can’t swap out your home router to test, that being said it’s unlikely to be a hardware issue, so two things to try:

  1. Power off your router, wait 10 seconds, repower it and run a speed test, if it works, great, work your way back through steps 2, then 1, if not then move down:

  2. Reset your router, login to the control panel detailed on the box, or ask your ISP for help with resetting the device to factory settings, again work speed test, and work your way back through steps 2 and 1, else move down.

4: Your Internet Provider

Issues with slow internet connection are less common than they used to be as ISPs have had decades to improve their network, however certain ISPs like Sky / NOWTV have become very popular resulting in high demand in some areas which takes them time to catch up with.

The best thing to do here is contact your ISP and tell them you are having speed issues even on an ethernet cable, they’ll probably do this testing with you again, but they can replace the router, if this still doesn’t help it’s likely a local network issue with too many customers in the area.

ISPs in the UK all use something called a contention ratio to determin how many of their customers share a certain amount of network bandwidth, so while your connection from your home to the exchange may be a 52Mbps connection, after that it’s very expensive for ISPs to provide everyone with 52Mbps back to the internet, so they install slower but faster connections and share them amoung many customers. The ratio between sold broadband speed and actual backhaul is normally enough that no one really notices, but if you have a lot of customers in one area hammering the connection this will make everyone go slow.

Some ISPs such as Virgin Media are able to look at the network contention in your area and see if there are issues here.

If you are certain none of your home hardware is the issue and your ISP is saying they can’t fix the issue quickly, or maybe at all then you need to change ISPs, scroll down for answer B at the end.

FYI: Your ISP keep going round in circles restarting, resetting and replacing the router is effectively saying they can’t fix this, you can ask them after 1 loop of this to speak to a senior advisor but replacing a router repeatedly will not fix your issue.

Note: With internet provided over phone line it’s possible for your ISP to also verify if there are any line issues which might be causing the issue, they should do this automatically and if it is the line they’ll send out an Open Reach engineer to look at fixing this.

Fixing things

Answer A - Wireless is slow in my house

This is likely caused by interference, while people including myself list DECT phones and microwaves as possible causes, the issue is almost always caused by other Wireless networks, both yours or your neighbours.

Wireless communication is a bit like a group of people talking on Skype, when everyone talks no one can be heard, so everyone stops, and they wait a bit and then try to talk again, if done right people take their turn and everything is fine, but when you have more and more people the chance that two people talk over each other again becomes increased.

Every time a person (wireless transmitter) broadcasts it looks out for ‘collisions’ with other transmitters, if this happens both transmitters stop, and wait a random amount of time then check again before transmitting, the problem is that this could mean no one talking for a long time, then both one starts talking as a third person kicks of, restarting the proceedure again.

On computers this happens very fast but it is still an issue that gets worse with more and more users.

Some moder wireless transmitters can fix this issue, and generally lowering the power of your transmitter can help but if Wireless is slow in your house, and your list of neighbouring wireless hotspots is massive then the best opition here is a cable.

Answer B - Change your ISP

There are four categories of options for internet providers in the UK:

  1. Internet via Telephone Provider (ADSL or similar)
  2. Internet via Mobile Provider (4G/5G/WiMAX type services)
  3. Internet via Cable TV Provider (Virgin Media)
  4. Internet via Dedicated ISP line (Hyperoptic/Community Fibre/FTTP)

Internet via Telephone Provider

The most common providers of internet are those which use your home phone line, in the past this meant all broadband providers used BT’s network regardless of the name on the bill, just like with Gas and Electricity, however this isn’t the case any more, your phone line goes back to an exchange where multiple companies can fit their own equiptment, this means in some areas you might be able to pick from a number of suppliers and get away from the aforementioned contention issue by switching to a different provider who has their own equiptment in your exchange.

To check this you can enter your postcode on SamKnows Telephone Exchange Check:

In the section titled ‘LLU operator presence’ you’ll see green checks next to the options in your area, for example in my area the marks indicate Edge Telecom, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone. If I was with Sky and having issues I could switch to Edge, TalkTalk or Vodafone and be pretty well guaranteed I’d move away from contention issues, unless those ISPs also have contention issues.

The positive here is that those ISPs would be under 14 day cooling off period clauses so you could cancel if you weren’t happy.

Internet via Mobile Provider

These types of services can be good for occasional use or mobile use but they’re not recommended for every day working, if you are using one of these ISPs you can switch but you should really consider moving to one of the other options.

Internet via Cable TV Provider

Virgin Media are really the only option here for most of the UK, and certainly London, if you can’t resolve the issue with VM then switching to one of the other options is your best best.

Internet via Dedicated ISP line

These services are pretty uncommon outside of new builds and blocks of flats, but if you are in a block of flats and don’t have this find some neighbours to register interest with companies like Hyperoptic, their services are incredibly fast, 1Gbps which typically results in less issues with contention as it’s rare for anyone to use their full network speed for very long. Downloading even an entire hard drive full of data would take less than an hour at full speed.

If you can, always pick this option.

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I would like to add, some times the slowness it’s about the DNS, switching to a different one, like from google helps

For balance and privacy reasons I recommend people avoid using Google’s DNS and instead use one of those listed here:

While there is not a massive invasion of privacy it does become yet another way for Google’s ad network to create and improve their data about people and they don’t need encouragement.

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How does a paid VPN service (I use NordVPN) handle DNS? Am I effectively using Nord’s DNS when I am connected? Just wondering…

It depends on the VPN provider. The straight answer is the DNS requests go back to your normal DNS ie. your ISP.

However I know some VPN providers change the DNS when you login.

Thanks Tom. Sure enough, in the settings of my VPN app:

So they let me select a DNS.


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If you are concerned about privacy you should look at a few tips + plugins below:

  1. Browser - I love Chrome but it’s another Google product that keeps you signed in to their system, consider using Firefox, it’s gotten better again.
  2. HTTP Everywhere https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere
  3. Facebook Container https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/facebook-container/
  4. AdBlock uBlock or similar, make sure to block social sharing links etc…
  5. DNS Use an alternative DNS like or others: https://www.techradar.com/news/best-dns-server
  6. DNS over HTTPS You can consider using this, I find it more of a pain that I want due to work’s local DNS.

To your original question, as other posters have said there are many possible reasons for slow internet performance, but I have to say that every time I have upgraded my router, there has been a significant improvement. Often this has coincided with switching to a new service - many used to offer a free router, as BT does, so it may be the service that improved, not the router. However, routers have improved a lot in the last 6 or 7 years, so it might be worth replacing.

You may want to look at a MESH router if your house is large. My Linksys Velop seems to work very well.

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Mesh routers are the simple answer to the complicated answer I gave above, basically to avoid Wi-Fi issues there are two options:

  1. Everyone switches to Wi-Fi 6 (not going to happen).
  2. You create lots of small pools of Wi-Fi that are linked together, this reduces the amount of issues with Wi-Fi interference because your transmitter isn’t blasting someone else’s house, but also your receiver isn’t listening for weaker signals.

Note that the Velop MESH router does NOT include an ADSL modem. You can simply plug the mesh router into your existing modem/router with an ethernet cable. Or you could buy an new adsl modem, which might or might not also improve performance. I went this route (geddit?) and found that the new adsl modem did not make much difference.

Also, you could try complaining to the phone company. Our adsl performance improved when I nagged bt into an on-site visit to improve the wiring into the home. If your computer is slow with its ethernet connection, mesh or other wireless improvements will not help. Call the phone company, or your ISP to do it on your behalf if BT is not your provider.

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Huge thanks to everyone for their advice and explanations of how it works. I’ll work through the suggestions over the easter weekend and see where I get to!
All the best