New research suggests that some Kiwis are paying for faster home internet speeds they can’t actually use – and the bottleneck is often within their own walls.

Testing carried out for the Commerce Commission has found speeds on faster plans could drop by more than 60% between the wall and people’s phones and computers.

Released recently, the testing analysed internet speeds to people’s devices, in addition to the traditional measure of testing speeds to a household’s wireless router or modem.

Responding to the results, Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson said “paying a premium price isn’t always necessary to get the speeds you need.

“While the top-tier plans delivered faster overall speeds to devices – and can support more bandwidth-hungry users in the same household – WiFi performance can be responsible for much of the speed consumers are paying for being lost,” he said.

For example, people paying for Fibre Max plans were provided with speeds of an average of 878 megabits per second (Mbps), but devices only typically saw 318 Mbps.

Gilbertson said: “It doesn’t matter how fast your connection is if your WiFi setup isn’t up to scratch or if you’re being slowed down by an older device. You don’t want to buy a Ferrari-level of broadband and find yourself stuck in second gear”.

Commerce Commission telco market performance manager Ben Oakley told 1News that consumers could consider downgrading, if they had bought into faster speeds that they couldn’t actually use or otherwise didn’t need.

“There may be options for people to downgrade, if they’re on plans that are performing to a level that they don’t need.”

If you have slow internet, there are several steps you can explore, before shelling out for a pricey monthly upgrade on your internet plan, according to experts.

Do you need super-fast speeds?

Before upgrading to a faster internet plan, the commission recommends people check whether they need the faster speeds, and to see if they’re taking advantage of the speeds they might already be paying for.

Learning online has become the norm for students around New Zealand in the past two years, especially in Auckland.

Higher speeds over 300 megabits per second are usually only needed for people doing large file transfers, gaming, or who have many users on one network.

Oakley said: “What we’re encouraging consumers to do is firstly, think about whether they’re on the right plan.

“Then, from this information, really look at where you’ve got your router in your house, the age of the router, and then the age of the device you’re using to use the internet.

“They can all contribute to maybe not getting the performance that you’re paying for”.

Ideal WiFi router placement

This step can become tricky because routers often need to be near copper or fibre connections at the wall, but the placement of a wireless access point will always play a role in the strength of a WiFi connection.

Person setting up a WiFi router (file image).

Ideally, routers should be near the centre of your home, away from the floor, and also avoid electronics that might cause interference – like a microwave.

If you use fibre, it can often be possible to move your router further away from the wall connection, as long as you can route an Ethernet cable to another room.

The impact of moving your router, of course, is relative to the size of your home and how many people are using the WiFi.

Doing things the old-school way

One cheap way of dramatically boosting speeds for devices around the house could be simpler than you think – switching back to wires.

“Using an Ethernet cable is a really inexpensive way of being able to get better performance for something like a TV or PlayStation,” Oakley said.

“It also takes that device off the WiFi, which is a shared resource depending on how many things you’ve got using the WiFi at once.”

Ethernet wall jack (stock image).

Buy a new router

One way to boost your internet, albeit a move that could get pricey, is to upgrade your router – especially if it’s an older model.

This is the device that broadcasts a WiFi signal around your home and is especially important for larger properties, where “dead zones” can impede internet speeds.

Newer routers often offer better range and support the latest WiFi standards for faster speeds.

For homes with multiple floors or a sprawling layout, a single router may not suffice.

A newer “mesh” system will utilise multiple wireless access points placed around a property, helping to boost coverage and the speeds that users can ultimately get.

An excuse for an upgrade

Another potential bottleneck in the way of internet nirvana could be the device you’re using, as older computers and devices may not be equipped to handle faster speeds.

For example, an old computer might be slower at transferring files even with a fast router and speedy internet plan.

Therefore, depending on your use case, you may want to also explore upgrading your device or the WiFi capabilities of a desktop computer.

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