Is your broadband coronavirus-ready?

It’s not a stockpile of toilet rolls that you should be investing in to survive lockdown in comfort

Amid all the coronavirus-prompted panic-buying of toilet rolls and pasta, there is one essential that I worry people may not have enough of: broadband bandwidth

We’re all already seeing a lot more of the inside of our homes, with people being forced to work from back bedrooms, kids attempting to home school, and mass public events and holidays cancelled for the foreseeable future

Advertisement - Article continues below

While parents are firing up laptops, trying to grab files off their workplace network, the kids are bored out of their skulls, streaming Netflix around the clock or downloading 80GB patches for Fortnite.

Prime minister Boris Johnson’s comeback speech on Monday indicated we’ll be in this situation for some time yet, so if you haven’t already, now’s the time to question whether your broadband is up to scratch. While most home-working tasks – email, surfing the web, the odd Skype call – don’t require much bandwidth, it’s the streaming services the kids (and, ok, maybe the adults too) are hooked to that will put the strain on your connection. An HD stream from Netflix needs 5Mbps, while game-streaming services require at least double that. If you have even two of those on the go at the same time – a pretty typical peak-time scenario in my house – your basic “fibre” broadband connection is going to start feeling the strain. With four or five people all trying to work and play at the same time, it’s likely to get patchy.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

The good news is that upgrading your broadband can be a relatively pain-free – if not cost-free – process. If you’re on a basic 40Mbps fibre-to-the-cabinet connection (what BT Broadband calls ‘Infinity’), then it’s very easy to upgrade to double that speed (or ‘Infinity 2’). That kind of boost doesn’t require any new equipment or a visit from a BT engineer because your broadband provider can simply flick a switch to unleash the new speed almost instantly. The same is true of many Virgin Media speed bumps – it’s just a case of taking the artificial brakes off your line and delivering the faster speeds. 

There are a few caveats to be aware of, though. First, if you live some distance from your local fibre cabinet, your line simply might not be capable of the faster speeds. If you’re currently on a 40Mbps connection and don’t get anywhere near that, even during quieter periods, then an upgrade to the 80Mbps service is unlikely to improve matters.

The other major factor is network congestion. If everyone is working from home and all their kids are streaming round the clock, then overall network traffic is set to rocket. The normal evening rush-hour will become the new norm. There is every possibility that – even if you do upgrade your line – the overall weight of traffic will drag your speed back down.

Related Resource

The IT Pro Podcast: Can tech survive Coronavirus?

COVID-19 is sweeping the globe, but how much will it affect the tech industry?

Listen now

I don’t want to encourage panic broadband buying any more than I want you to drive down to Tesco and empty the shelves of Andrex or baking goods. But a relatively modest price increase to potentially double your broadband speed and see you through the next couple of months of quarantine: it might be the most worthwhile tenner you’ve ever spent

Featured Resources

Staying ahead of the game in the world of data

Create successful marketing campaigns by understanding your customers better

Download now

Remote working 2020: Advantages and challenges

Discover how to overcome remote working challenges

Download now

Keep your data available with snapshot technology

Synology’s solution to your data protection problem

Download now

After the lockdown - reinventing the way your business works

Your guide to ensuring business continuity, no matter the crisis

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Dish chooses VMware Telco Cloud platform to deploy 5G in US
Infrastructure

Dish chooses VMware Telco Cloud platform to deploy 5G in US

31 Jul 2020

Most Popular

How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

3 Aug 2020
How to use Chromecast without Wi-Fi
Mobile

How to use Chromecast without Wi-Fi

4 Aug 2020
How do I fix the Windows 10 Start Menu if it's frozen?
operating systems

How do I fix the Windows 10 Start Menu if it's frozen?

3 Aug 2020