The Bigpipe Big Guide To Improving Your Broadband

Everyone wants a good internet connection, but what’s the best way to make it happen? Find out with the Bigpipe Big Guide To Improving Your Broadband!

Before you check out our guide, it’s a good idea to use the handy Chorus broadband checker tool to see what speeds it’s currently technically possible to get at your address, and then do a test to see what you’re actually getting. If the checker shows your address is only capable of 5 Mbps download speed, no amount of internal optimisation is going to improve that. But it’s often the case that your home connection is not getting the speeds that it should be capable of – and if that’s the case, read on. 

1. Choose the fastest possible broadband plan for your area

This is what fibre looks like - it's a big tube, filled with ones and zeroes. Technology!

This is what fibre looks like – it’s a big, glowing tube, filled with ones and zeroes. Technology!

Fibre is the best internet there is in New Zealand, and it’s much, much faster and more reliable than a standard ADSL or even a VDSL connection. Get it if you can. To find out if it’s available in your area, use the handy address checker on Bigpipe’s address checker will even tell you if your property is fibre-ready – if it is, you’ll see a message that looks like this

Screenshot 2016-03-24 13.32.34

You can also try the Chorus address checker. Fibre can take a while to get, if it hasn’t been installed on your property before, but once you’ve got it, it’s so worth it – and Bigpipe’s Starter fibre plan is the exact same price as our most popular ADSL plan, so you’ve got nothing to lose. If you can’t get fibre, it’s worth checking if you can get VDSL, which is quite a lot faster than ADSL – but it won’t work everywhere.

2. Use a good router

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 3.28.18 pm

The Netcomm NF8AC. It’s a damn good modem.

Having a good modem/router is essential to a good Internet experience, especially if you have a lot of people online at your place. A huge percentage of speed related problems come down to an old, cheap or otherwise dicky router. If you get a good one, it’ll eliminate a huge range of possible problems and make your Internet experience much better. The expected lifespan of a cheap router is one to three years, but if you invest a little more, you can expect your router to last you five years or more. You can purchase recommended routers here A good all-round router is the Netcomm NF8AC, which works great on our ADSL, VDSL and all our fibre plans. Check out our Bigpipe modem guides for all recommended models (and a few more besides) to help you get your gear going.

3. Make sure your home wiring is sorted

home wiring

Winners don’t have home wiring like this

If you’ve got ADSL or VDSL, you should check that your wiring is up to scratch. (If you’re on fibre, you won’t have to worry about this.) Many homes, especially older houses, often have wiring that doesn’t provide a good broadband connection. Over time, wiring in your home can corrode or get damaged. This can seriously inhibit the speed you get from your connection. If you notice that your internet sometimes slows down or cuts out from time to time, get in touch with your ISP. They’ll check your connection, and let you know if you should get a technician to have a look at your internal wiring. If needed, they can arrange to fit a ‘master filter’ to bypass any bad wiring, or you can arrange this yourself. There may be an additional charge for this, but if you’re having connection trouble and can’t get fibre, it’s well worth doing.

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Depending on your situation, it might cost ~$200 to get your internal wiring sorted. Sometimes people ask why the ISP doesn’t pay for this. It’s because the internal wiring belongs to the householder and we don’t have any direct control over it. It’s a bit like how, if you get a leaky tap, you need to call in a plumber to fix it, rather than the company that provides your water.

4. Get wired

This little blue cable is your low-latency friend

This little blue cable is your low-latency friend

WiFi is among the greatest inventions of all time, but it can cause a lot of problems when it comes to getting a steady connection. It’s vulnerable to interference and other problems that can cause drop-outs. This usually won’t matter if you’re just browsing, but if you’re doing something dependent on a really steady connection, like online gaming, you’ll be much better off with a wired (Ethernet) connection from your computer or console to your router. If you want to test the theory for yourself, it can be worth doing two speedtests – one from a wired / Ethernet connection, and another from a WiFi connected device. Quite often you’ll see a significant difference in speeds.

Also, if it’s difficult to run Ethernet wires all over your house, you might want to check out an alternative – like Powerline adapters, which allow you to (safely!) run a wired connection using the power cables in your house. Nifty!

5. Don’t let anyone steal your precious WiFi


don’t let this n00b steal your wifis

This is important. If you don’t have a secure password on your home network you open yourself up to people leeching your connection. Don’t let this happen. It’ll slow your connection down, and there’s even the possibility that people will use it for shady stuff. Most routers come with the wifi connection already secured with a default password, but it’s a very good idea to dip into the settings to change it to something stronger. The best way to find out how to do this is to look it up in your router’s manual, or Google your router model number – you’ll find any number of guides that can help you out.

6. Place your router carefully

WiFi propagation

This is what WiFi looks like in your house. Walls are the enemy.

WiFi needs good Feng Shui to work properly. If you place it poorly, it’ll limit the wireless connectivity of all your devices, which will give you slow internet and intermittent drop-outs. Place your router somewhere with good line-of-sight to the devices you want to use the internet on, and keep it away from other electronics if you can – they can interfere with the WiFi signal. The fewer walls/floors between your device and the router, the better!

Also, if you find your WiFi speeds are slow or the signal’s weak, it could be interference from your neighbour’s Wi-Fi. Try logging into your router and changing the WiFi channel to see if that helps. Try channels 1, 6 or 11 for the best chance of avoiding interference. Every modem is different, but you should be able to change the WiFi channels in the modem settings. Again, Google is your friend when it comes to finding guides on how to do this – just search “WiFi channel [your modem model number.]”

7. Choose an ISP that doesn’t throttle your connection


Some ISP’s throttle customer’s connections to keep bandwidth costs down. This occurs during peak times on their networks (usually between 4pm and 10pm). Bigpipe believe in providing enough bandwidth for all our customers to use, all the time, so we don’t throttle your connection.

8. Schedule updates for sleepy-time


You don’t want to get home in the evenings, ready to stream your favourite series online, only to realise that your laptop needs to update a million programs at once. The solution? Set your devices to update at night, when you’re asleep. Another tip is to make sure that other devices around your home aren’t running programs in the background – this will help ensure that they aren’t sucking up your precious bandwidth.

9. Don’t cross the streams

torrents and streams

Picture this: you’re finally settling down to a nice, chilled-out Netflix session, when suddenly – buffering! Nothing spoils the mood like having someone in the house downloading a hefty file while you’re trying to stream. It works the other way around as well, so try to prioritise for particular internet activities. Gaming will work best if no-one else is streaming, streaming will go better if no one is downloading, and so on. If you’ve got some big files you need to force through your pipes, we suggest you do it at night.

Advanced Tips

Use 5 GHz if possible.

A lot of newer routers support 5 gigahertz (GHz) WiFi networking. Use this if you can. Most people use a 2.4 GHz signal for their WiFi, and – if you’ve got a lot of nearby local WiFi signals, this leads to congestion, making it impossible to get good speeds. Another good reason to switch is that many other devices, like baby monitors and cordless phones, use 2.4 GHz, which adds to congestion and interference. Even discounting these good reasons to switch, 5 GHz is much faster! If you want to find out if your device supports 5 GHz, just Google your modem model number plus “5 GHz” – you should be able to find out everything you need.

And that’s it! If you try all of these tips and still feel like you’re not getting the speed the Chorus checker suggests you should, get in touch with your ISP.  Got any tips for improving your home networking setup? Let us know at Geekzone or Twitter and we might add them to our guide. And don’t forget to Like Bigpipe on Facebook!