Why you’re not getting the 1Gbps speeds you paid for (and how to get it)

We have in recent years covered the importance of connectivity here in South Africa, with the pandemic highlighting the ever-widening digital divide, people having to adopt hybrid working models, and online learning proving more pervasive than ever before.

It means that many South Africans have had to upgrade their existing Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) packages in order to cope with connectivity demands necessitated by streaming, working from home, videoconferencing, online gaming, and other online activities.

In the case of households that can afford it, a 1Gbps line (1 000Mbps) offers the best solution in terms of bandwidth, but is often the case when dealing with service providers (ISPs), you do not always get what is advertised or indeed what you pay for.

Given that these sort of fibre packages range from R1 200 to R1 500 per month depending on the ISP and Mbps upload being offered, failing to get close to 1Gbps is simply not good enough in our books.

Acutely aware of this issue given that it is both an open access fibre network operator (FNO) and internet service provider, MetroFibre Networx has offered some insight into why consumers may not be getting the full 1Gbps speeds that they pay for, along with a few tips to ensure that they do.

Upgrade needed?

The first reason as to why you may not be getting the speeds to pay for is the age and compatibility of your hardware and the devices connected to your router.

“It’s very possible that the device you’re using to connect to the internet simply is not capable of handling the speed of a 1Gbps connection. It could be down to the network adapter, amount of physical memory, or CPU limitations. If your CPU is an older model, it may not be able to handle the increased speed coming from your ISP,” posits MetroFibre in a release sent to Hypertext.

“From the ISP to your device, your speeds will only be as fast as the slowest, link. This means that even with a 1Gig fibre connection and the best modem/router, an old or slow computer or device could see you experience an internet connection that is slow.  ‍When testing your connection, you need to be using a cable and network card/PC that has the capability to handle the throughput of a 1Gbps connection,” it advises.

Moving along the connectivity train, the next element to look at is your router.

If you recently upgraded to a 1Gbps plan from a lower bandwidth option, chances are that your router is not fully specced to handle or support the higher level of bandwidth.

It is also important to note that the router that ISPs often bundle with packages are often designed to meet minimum specifications and not necessarily deliver the full download/upload speeds advertised. It’s the reason why most, if not all, ISPs have a disclaimer stating “up to” when it comes to the speeds of fibre packages.

“Your ISP may also update your older router hardware to keep up to date with the latest technologies (and futureproof your connectivity). However, even with the best router, you will not be able to take advantage of these updates until you upgrade your equipment that is connecting to the internet,” notes MetroFibre.

The next element, and one that you’ll often be informed of when on a call with technicians to assist with your line, is the quality of your ethernet cable connection and where it is being connected.

Here you must have at least a Cat5e cable or higher in order to run at the speed you would like. A direct cable connection from your computer to your router is always recommended by ISPs, leading once again to the “up to” speeds mentioned earlier.

As MetroFibre explains, the reason for this is because, “it reduces the potential for any interference in the speed test and is the most direct route to the higher 1Gbps speed.”

“A wired ethernet cable connection is always more consistent than the Wi-Fi signal from the same router. For bandwidth intensive activities like gaming and high-definition streaming, consider using a wired connection instead. Also, by making use of a cable you will be redirecting traffic from the Wi-Fi router and reducing some of the Wi-Fi traffic,” it adds.

Location, location, location

Another important consideration is the sheer volume of devices that are connected to your router.

When testing out fibre speed on services like Ookla, according to MetroFibre, you should disconnect all other devices connected to the network. While that might yield a more accurate reading of the speed, in our view, that is a laborious task, and to be quite honest, most consumers expect to receive 1Gbps speeds regardless of how many devices are connected.

Here we suggest opting for a dual-band router that supports both the 2.4GHz and 5Ghz frequencies. A WiFi 6E (if you can afford it) or WiFi 6 router is also preferable, and should you not know if yours can support that standard, look for this designation – 802.11ax.

WiFi 6 is capable of handling device dense environments. As for the dual-bands, 2.4Ghz is better for range and less bandwidth-intensive devices, so use it for devices that are further away from the router. Conversely, the 5Ghz band is best for devices closer to the router.

Sticking with location, the fibre termination points in your home may not always be the best locations for improved connectivity. To tackle this issue, MetroFibre says a WiFi Mesh system is the best solution, especially as moving a termination point can prove an admin-intensive and costly affar.

“Mesh Wi-Fi is a system that eliminates ‘dead’ zones, providing uninterrupted Wi-Fi throughout your home, enabling your devices in your network to have faster speeds through a wider coverage and a more reliable connection,” the company states.

“Unlike Wi-Fi range extenders which broadcast Wi-Fi from a single point, multiple mesh devices can be chained to create a network of devices with minimal drop in Wi-Fi performance,” it continues.

In a perfect world, your fibre and WiFi should just work as advertised on the box, but expectation and reality very rarely meet. As such, it is often up to consumers to find solutions, and hopefully the above was elucidated why you’re not getting the speeds you want, regardless of whether it’s 1Gbps or not.

Happy troubleshooting.

[Image – Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash]


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