Broadband & WiFi FAQs
· Is my internet connection & WiFi connection the same thing?
o No, WiFi is a totally separate connection to your main internet connection. Your internet piggybacks on your WiFi but your WiFi exists with or without an internet connection. WiFi distributes your internet within your property so you need both good internet and WiFi for a satisfactory experience online.
· What is a mesh WiFi system?
o WiFi is a wireless technology, which utilises various frequencies to distribute network connections to your devices. A mesh WiFi system creates a “net” of wireless energy by using a number of “nodes” which connect to each other. One node is the master node, which must remain wired to your main internet connection point – this can be a router or fibre connection point. The other nodes are distributed around the property to provide whole home WiFi. These nodes only need a standard mains socket connection point.
· What is mobile broadband?
o Internet can be provided to your property by a number of different methods. Traditional broadband was typically supplied via your phone line along with your standard voice calls. This is largely being replaced by cable or fibre connections. Mobile broadband is using the same infrastructure your mobile phone uses to connect. Within that connection is the ability to make/receive voice calls and also to access the internet. The mobile networks use various data connections from their broadcasting masts.
· What data connections do networks use for mobile broadband?
o The most common types are 3G, 4G and, most recently, 5G. The types are based around the frequency the signal is broadcast on. Mobile broadband uses either an internal router with built-in antennas or an external antenna/router to capture this signal and utilise it for internet. The routers use the same type of SIM card that is in your mobile phone. The difference is you’re only using that SIM card for Internet and not voice calls or text messages. The speed you achieve through this connection depends on a number of factors – see FAQ below on mobile broadband speeds.
· What’s the difference between 3G, 4G & 5G on a mobile broadband connection?
o These represent different frequencies of the wireless signals that carry the data/internet to your mobile phone or mobile broadband router. 3G is the lowest frequency which means it has a lower speed but will travel the furthest in terms of distance from the mast. 4G has a higher frequency and will carry more data which, in theory, provides higher internet speeds. However it will not travel as far from the mast which can result in poor connections and speed depending on distance from the broadcasting mast. 5G is the newest mobile broadband technology and has the highest frequency. This provides very high rates of data throughput and can give internet speeds similar or greater to a fibre connection – speeds in excess of 1Gbps are possible. However it’s range is much less than either 3G or 4G signals and hence to cover the same geographical area, more masts are required. This means rural areas are unlikely to see 5G connections for a number of years.
· Why does the mobile broadband speed I receive fluctuate and why is my speed lower than my neighbour?
o Mobile broadband relies on receiving a wireless signal from a broadcasting mast. There are numerous masts dotted around the country. The four mobile networks in the UK (EE, Three, Vodafone & O2) have their “cell” transmitters mounted on these masts pointing in different directions. Your location dictates how strong the signal you receive from that mast/cell and what internet speed you will achieve. Changes in height of your receiving equipment (router with SIM card), obstacles between you and the mast, number of connections to that mast, output power of the mast and other factors all determine what speed you can attain from a given network. Speed can fluctuate due to demand on the mast at particular points in the day and changes the network operator makes to the output levels from each mast. Even small changes in positioning of your router/antenna can have large changes to your signal and Internet speed.
· My internet has stopped working, what do I do?
o With any internet connection the first thing to try is a reboot of your router. A reboot is NOT a reset. Resetting your router will return the unit to factory defaults which would then have to be setup again incurring costs.
o To reboot your router simply switch off at the mains and then switch back on. In most cases this will resolve your issue.
o If you are on mobile broadband and have an external antenna/router then you should have a mains socket where the antenna/router receives it’s power. This is where you need to switch off and on to reboot.
o Do not confuse your router with your WiFi mesh system. This normally doesn’t need rebooted.
o If the above doesn’t resolve your issue then contact your provider and see if there are any issues with the network. On mobile broadband this can be issues on the mast you are connected to.
· What is a fibre broadband connection?
o Fibre broadband utilises a technology, which uses light to transmit data. The light travels down a very thin and flexible glass fibre. The data is therefore transmitted at extremely high speed providing super fast Internet speeds. There are currently two types of fibre connection, FTTC & FTTP.
· What is an FTTC connection?
o FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) utilises new underground fibre “trunk” routes to deliver broadband to existing or new roadside cabinets. From here the broadband signal then utilises the existing copper phone lines to deliver the connection to each property. This can result in poor internet speeds, although generally much higher than traditional broadband, depending on the distance from the cabinet and quality of underground cabling.
· What is an FTTP connection?
o FTTP (Fibre To The Premises) means a new fibre connection is run from a central supply point (usually via a series of cabinets) direct to your property. Each property has its own fibre connection resulting in very high internet speeds, currently up to 1Gbps (the potential for higher speeds is possible in the future).
· Where is an FTTC connection used?
o FTTC is usually used in urban areas where there is difficulty/expense in digging up roads and installing a new fibre connection to each property. By utilising existing cabling the amount of disruption and cost can be minimised.
· Where is an FTTP connection used?
o FTTP is generally used in more rural areas where the quality of the existing cabling is poor and distances to the cabinets/exchange are long. This requires new fibre connections (generally run underground) to be installed to every property. This is costly, disruptive and time consuming.
· When can I expect to get fibre broadband?
o Government funding in combination with private investment is slowly rolling out fibre connections in rural areas. However the timescales can be long and often suffer from delays due to unforeseen circumstances! The expectation is that around 85% of UK properties will have fibre connections by 2025. This unfortunately leaves a considerable number who will not.
· What is satellite broadband?
o Satellite broadband is a technology, which uses satellites in space to provide an internet connection to the end user. This involves having a satellite dish mounted on your property correctly aligned to connect to the correct satellite.
o A satellite connection can suffer from various issues including poor speeds, in comparison to fibre connections, and high “latency”. Latency is the delay between sending a signal and receiving a response back. Any internet connection requires two-way communication. You send a request (e.g. to view a webpage of your favourite shopping site) and the website sends the data back to your device for viewing. With connections, which rely on very fast two-way communication, like video calling and online gaming, the delay is critical to a successful outcome. If the latency is high, which it typically is in traditional satellite broadband, video calling can be very poor and online gaming almost impossible.
· What is Starlink?
o A new provider called Starlink is coming online, which will largely eliminate the issues with traditional satellite broadband. Starlink is gradually launching thousands of low orbit satellites, which will cover the entire globe and allow very high-speed connections with very low latency. This will be particularly advantageous for developing countries where installing other forms of internet are simply unworkable. It will also become a viable option for many remote or rural areas where other forms of Internet provision are unavailable. The drawback, at present, is high equipment prices and high monthly contract fees.
· I want a mobile broadband or fibre connection but also want to keep my landline, what can I do?
o With a mobile broadband connection or fibre connection, your current landline is only then being used for voice calls but your provider (e.g. BT, TalkTalk, etc) will still charge you line rental and call charges, which can be substantial. The alternative is to use a system called VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol).
· What is VOIP and how much does it cost?
o VOIP technology uses your internet connection to route voice calls rather than using the traditional copper landlines (either underground or overhead). VOIP can use the same phones you currently use (with an adaptor) and you can normally keep your current landline number as well. The cost of VOIP provision is also much lower than traditional line rental and call packages. A typical VOIP connection utilising your internet connection will cost around £10 per month including unlimited calls to UK landline numbers.
· Is VOIP difficult to install?
o There is little installation apart from an interface box, which plugs into your main router. Your traditional phones then plug into the interface box and your calls are made and received as normal. With this technology you’re not tied to a physical cable so you can make/receive calls wherever you have an internet connection (this can be via an app on your mobile phone allowing you to make/receive calls to your landline number on your mobile phone). It also means if you move house you can simply take your VOIP interface box with you, plug in at your new premises and use as normal – no disconnection issues and no number changes to worry about. For businesses or homes, which require more than one number you can easily add a line without any fuss. Just activate another number with your provider and the same phones & equipment will make/receive calls via this new number.
· My internet connection is good at my main router but I have terrible problems connecting upstairs or in a far away room, why is this?
o Your internet when it enters your property has to connect into a router. A router is a network connection point, which then directs connections through to all your devices. The internet connection which enters your property is called the WAN (Wide Area Network). In order for all your devices (phones, tablets, TVs, smart devices etc.) to use that Internet connection your router must direct the flow of traffic to/from all those devices. To do this it creates a LAN (Local Area Network). The LAN is usually distributed around your property via WiFi and often people rely on their main router to supply that WiFi connection. WiFi is a wireless technology which sends/receives data through the air via specific broadcast frequencies. These frequencies and hence the connection is affected by distance from the router and obstacles e.g. walls, insulation, furniture, windows etc. The further you are away from your main router supplying your LAN via WiFi the poorer the connection will be and hence the poorer your connection to the internet.
· How can I improve my WiFi connection?
o To solve this problem various solutions can be used. By far the best and most reliable is a physical cable from your main router to another point in your property where another WiFi broadcasting unit is placed (called an Access Point). This new Access Point broadcasts the WiFi signal and therefore provides a much stronger connection to that part of the property. However the drawback is running that cable or cables throughout your beautifully decorated house.
o An alternative is a mesh WiFi system – see another FAQ on how this works. This doesn’t involve any cabling and utilises wireless technology to distribute the WiFi to difficult to reach areas. There are other solutions but a mesh or cabled system is the most reliable. In summary internet and WiFi are NOT the same. You need both a fast internet connection AND good WiFi for a satisfactory experience online.