Got my wi-fi up to speed

For a long time now (at least a year, but hard to say because I’ve been at home so infrequently) my home network performance has been abysmal. Today, I finally found out what was up – and I managed to fix it!

At first, I didn’t even notice the problem – I don’t use a lot of bandwidth-intensive applications. It was when I started working for BBC iPlayer that I really became aware of the problem. All those great streaming videos up there… and I couldn’t watch any of them. I would be lucky to get a few seconds, before seeing the dreaded buffering animation. Even listening to radio online, I often found the audio stream re-buffering every 30 seconds or so.

I assumed that there was some problem with my ISP, but I (eventually) did some detective work, and found that everything worked fine when I was hooked up with wires. It was only when I went wireless that the problems started. So I tried re-positioning my access point, fiddling with channels and other settings, I even bought a new top-of-the-range wireless router – a Netgear Rangemax Wireless-N DG834N. Things got a little better – I could now watch video up to about 15 seconds in before they would time out. I could even occasionally get Speedtest results of up to 1800kbps – the same as I would get using a wired connection (my ADSL line is 2mbps: pretty slow in this day and age, but I’m sticking with it because it’s with Demon – who I know and trust fairly well, having had an account with them for 14 years – has very low contention and comes with 15 free IP addresses [yeah, who uses them nowadays? But… you never know).

So I assumed that was as good as I’d get, and left it at that. But recently it’s been bugging me more and more. It seems that my bandwidth problems are intermittent – I can stream video for a little while with virtually no buffering times (it helps knowing the internals of iPlayer when diagnosing this kind of problem) and then suddenly it hits a brick wall. So I did a little more fact-finding online and… could it possibly be down to the fact that I’m trying to run my wi-fi connection too fast…?

I logged into my router and switched it from “up to 270Mbps” to plain old “g & b”. And suddenly… everything works! I can watch iPlayer programmes, in high quality, end-to-end without rebuffering! Such a simple fix, and so effective. As only two of my PCs have wireless-N cards, and my laptop (which I use 99% of the time) is on plain vanilla 802.11g, this has little or no negative effects. It just works, and suddenly the Internet’s become fun again!