Australian internet is relatively slow and getting slower as we increasingly choke the web by watching online movies and television shows.
The rising popularity of streaming websites has slowed everyone’s speeds and the problem will probably worsen, an expert has claimed.
Currently, our speediest Netflix downloads are slower than those in Mexico, the company’s own data recently revealed.
The fastest five providers of Netflix downloads in Australia have an average speed slower than their counterparts in the UK, the US and New Zealand, The New Daily calculated based on the company’s estimates.
Local providers TPG, Optus, iiNet, Primus and Exetel have an average of 3.092 megabits per second, just below their Mexican counterparts (3.128 megabits) and slower than the British (3.316), American (3.476), Canadian (3.5), French (3.508), New Zealand (3.584), German (3.842) and Swiss top five (4.192).
Our speeds are sufficient for Netflix, even in rural areas, the company said in a statement.
“Australia, you think you have the worst internet in the world. We know better than that,” said Netflix vice-president of product innovation Chris Jaffe.
“Don’t feel so bad.”
Indeed, our top five speeds were better on average than those in Ireland, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
But our increasing desire for online movies and TV shows has had “a big impact” on speeds, said a spokesman for The Internet Society of Australia, which campaigns for better connections.
“In the last couple of months, there has been a new challenge – the introduction of Netflix,” Internet Society director Craig O’Toole told The New Daily.
“People are getting poorer quality of service on delivery of content, regardless of what they are watching or what they are looking at, as a result of the massive influx of new data coming through those links.”
With the national broadband network (NBN) rollout still months or years away for many areas, here’s how to solve a little of the problem for yourself.
Shop around for a better provider
On Netflix’s list, Dodo ranked sixth and Telstra seventh.
If streaming is important to you, then a first step would be to find the fastest provider – reportedly TPG, Optus, iiNet, Primus and Exetel.
“If you’re in a built-up area, you’ll probably find that certain carriers will deal with it quicker than others,” Mr O’Toole said.
“You may be able to shop around for a better deal.”
Avoid rush hour
When gearing up for a Netflix binge or some other kind of heavy download session, timing can be crucial.
During peak periods, known as ‘Internet Rush Hour’, a deluge of users can grind the interweb highway to a halt.
“You’ll find that particular times of the day may impact on what you see in terms of performance,” Mr O’Toole said.
Rush hour online can vary between providers, but generally late at night (or very, very early in the morning) is faster.
Plan your next home carefully
Houses closer to internet exchange points – the physical locations where net providers exchange traffic – get faster connections.
You might want to keep these hotspots in mind for your next move.
“I chose the location of my house and office space based on proximity to the exchange,” Mr O’Toole said.
He researched the location of the exchange and compared it to local plans for the NBN rollout.
“I went to the real estate agent and drew a radius of six kilometres around the exchange and said anything in there is good,” he said.
To find an exchange, follow this link or search “internet coverage map” followed by the desired area in a search engine.
Find the perfect WiFi spot
Fast broadband is “not much use” if your router is set up improperly, an NBN spokesperson told The New Daily.
Obstacles can impede the wireless signal sent from your router to the devices around your home, so place your router:
• at least two metres off the ground, otherwise much of the signal power will be sent into your carpet;
• at the heart of your home, so a good signal is spread equally throughout;
• away from windows so signal strength doesn’t escape into the garden or street;
• away from fish tanks and other water containers, as wireless signals do not travel well through water; and
• away from other devices such as TVs, gaming consoles, telephone base-stations, DVD players, microwaves, cordless phones and other routers to prevent interference.
Rebuy or reboot
Software updates are regularly sent to WiFi routers, said the NBN spokesperson.
But these do not take effect until you switch the router on and off again.
“It’s worth rebooting your WiFi router on a regular basis, but probably not while someone else is in the middle of streaming a movie,” the spokesperson said.
If this still doesn’t improve your signal, you might want to replace your old router with something newer and faster.
Channel your energy
An excellent way to improve your WiFi signal is to switch the channel on which it operates, the NBN spokesperson said.
WiFi works on 13 different channels, which may clash with those used by your neighbours or by other devices in your home.
“It’s a great idea to use one of the many apps that are available to identify which are the heavily used WiFi channels in your location, and use one of the less occupied ones,” the NBN spokesperson said.
Try a new browser
Updating or replacing your web browser may also boost your internet speed.
Performance will vary depending on the type of computer you have and how you configure the browser, but three to experiment with are:
• Google Chrome
• Internet Explorer
Remove web-hungry apps
Multiple programs and applications running in the background of your computer can cramp your speed.
Press ‘Command + Option + Escape’ on a Mac or ‘Ctrl + Alt + Delete’ on a Windows computer to close anything unnecessary.
Get rid of viruses
Tech nasties spread by hackers can also hamper your internet speed.
“Spyware can slow your system by interfering with your browser and monopolising your internet connection,” said tech company Microsoft on its website.
“To get your internet performance back, you should regularly run an antispyware program to clean out any spyware infestation.”