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Making your Internet connection and VC work better at home

Last Mile network delivery

In the current situation many people have started working from home for the first time and it presents a whole set of new challenges.  We’ve compiled some tips to help you get the best out of your internet connection and your online conferences.

General advice is to be mindful of where you put your wireless router/access points (high up and away from metal large metal surfaces, not too close or too far away from your working area). This will make make a big difference to the coverage you get, and gives you freedom to work where you want.

Wired vs Wireless connections
If you are having problems with your WiFi connection then consider using a wired connection to your PC or Laptop.  Usually your router comes with ethernet sockets on the back that you can use, and ethernet cables are pretty cheap to buy. A wired connection can make a big difference to how stable the connection is.  If you want to work in a room that is remote from the router then it’s worth looking at Powerline adapters.  You can use one of these close to the router, and one in the room you want to work in and they transmit the data over the mains power circuit in your house.

Don’t worry about working in the kitchen
There’s been a lot of comment online that the kitchen is full of loads of devices: microwaves, fridges, etc that cause all sorts of electrical interference the impacts your wireless signal.   Although this is true to an extent it can be exaggerated. Microwaves can leak a bit on 2.4GHz but its rarely so bad you would notice and if you have a modern router then you are likely to be on 5GHz instead.  If the kitchen table is comfortable/convenient for you then there’s no reason not to use it, just don’t put your router on top of the microwave or right beside the fridge.

Try and reduce the load when on a Video Call
If you are on a video or audio conference try and reduce the number of things your PC is doing.  Its worth shutting application windows and even turning off email while the conference is taking place.  Lots of applications periodically check for messages, update files etc and each time that happens it interrupts the Video Call slightly.  Also encourage other people in the house to minimise use of the Internet while you are on your crucial call.  That may not be easy if your children just “have to” watch a particular film or programme on Netflix, but it will help if you can.

Use a headset
If you have a proper headset then use it.  Although laptops have built in mics and speakers, these often produce an echo.  If you’ve got some wireless earbuds these should be able to be paired with your laptop, and give a much better quality to the sound.

Use your phone as a video camera
If you have an older laptop the camera on it may be poor quality, or in an awkward position.  (Some laptops have the camera at the bottom of the screen so that no matter how you adjust the screen it still looks up your nose!)   If that’s the case you can always join a conference using your phone for voice and video and your laptop for screen sharing and to see the other people.  Put your phone on a little stand and you get full control of how people see you.

More sophisticated options
If you have more technical skills there are another set of options worth considering:

  1. Turn off WiFi on your router, and buy a high speed WiFi access point.  Wire this to your router, and then use this instead of the original router for WiFi access;
  2. Upgrade your router.  The router your ISP provides often isn’t that great.  Replacing it with a better faster router can produce a significant improvement.  But not all providers let you do this, and it does take some skill to set it up;
  3. Deploy a Mesh network.  You can buy WiFi access points that can be deployed so that they create a mesh network.  You deploy one or more additional access points through the house and these create a WiFi mesh that gives you much better coverage through the house.

Consider upgrading your Internet package
If a lot of people are staying at home to work then you may need a faster internet connection.  Often this can be done by simply choosing an upgraded package from your provider.  It will cost more but if there is a continuous high bandwidth requirement because of your work and family needs it is worth considering.

Lastly when you setup the call check what’s in the background. You’ve probably forgotten about a picture or poster that everyone else will now be able to see. Not everyone may share your sense of humour or taste in art! And if you are doing the VC from your phone be careful where you walk to!

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