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Maximising your fibre NBN speeds

AlejandroCastro2

We’ve previously answered some common misconceptions surrounding the NBN and its construction, but what about those already on the network? For those of you on our top tier NBN speeds here’s a tech-savvy look at ways to maximise your connection.

The National Broadband Network (NBN) promises super-fast broadband all the way to your house. The danger is that existing bottlenecks within your home could slow that raging river of data to a trickle, so it’s worth taking the time to ensure that your home network will do the NBN justice.

Just as with the copper and existing cable networks, when you hook up to the fibre NBN network you’ll get a new wall socket. It’s called a Network Termination Device (NTD) and it has plugs for connecting both your telephone and your computing gear.

When you sign up to one of our NBN plans, we’ll do our best to deliver the promised download speeds to the NTD, anywhere between 12 and 100 megabits per second depending on which NBN plan you sign up for. The gear you connect to the NTD will help determine whether you actually get the speeds you’re paying for.

Hang on, will I need new hardware with the NBN?

If you’re switching across from DSL broadband via a copper phone line then you probably already own a DSL modem. Depending on the age of this modem, it may or may not be NBN compatible, so it’s best to check.

For best results you’ll want an NBN-ready modem or wireless router with a WAN port that is rated to support at least 100Mbps connections, like the Budii or Budii Lite. You may even consider upgrading to a modem or wireless router with a 1000Mbps “Gigabit” WAN port, with the extra overhead acting as an insurance policy. If your modem can’t handle these top speeds, you may be choking your new super-fast connection before it even gets through the door.

Super performance in every room

Now your NBN connection is through the front door, you’ll want to get it to every corner of your home without throttling it. If you’re running long Ethernet cables, even your choice of cables could affect your performance (go for the Cat5e or Cat6 cables rather than the older Cat5 cables). If you’re relying on a 10/100Mbps Ethernet switch in the lounge room or study, in order to share one Ethernet cable between several devices, then upgrading to a Gigabit Ethernet switch might offer a performance boost.

What about wireless?

A slow and flaky WiFi network is probably the biggest threat to your download speeds. Don’t believe the specs on the box, you’ll be lucky to get half the theoretical maximum speed promised by a WiFi network. A supposedly 150Mbps 802.11n wireless network offers more like 50Mbps in the real world. New 802.11ac WiFi gear easily breaks the 100Mbps barrier but it still suffers once you’re standing a few rooms away. Wireless routers which support beamforming can help here.

Support for 802.11n is pretty standard these days in wireless routers, perhaps running at 5GHz to avoid the interference around the 2.4GHz band.

Be warned, if you run your 802.11n router at 2.4GHz to cater for your older devices (like 802.11g) this actually slows down the speeds for all your devices. Your older gadgets demand more of your router’s attention, meaning it can spend less time pushing data to your new, faster devices. For improved performance consider a dual-band wireless router which runs an 802.11n network at 5GHz alongside an 802.11g network at 2.4GHz, ensuring your 802.11n devices (such as used by popular devices such as the Apple iPhone, the iPad and other mid-range smartphones) get the best possible speeds.

You can also boost your WiFi speeds by using wider channels to push through more data. By default 802.11n uses 20MHz channels for theoretical speeds of 150Mbps, but switching to 40MHz channels boosts this.

WiFi repeaters can help with interference issues but they can also slow down your network. Before you go down that path, do your best to address your interference issues – avoid using the same channels as nearby networks and move your WiFi access point up high and away from other electrical gear. Also look for large dense objects which might be blocking the signal to parts of your home.

Before you rush out and upgrade to Gigabit Ethernet networking gear, an 802.11ac wireless router and all new 802.11ac gadgets (including the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the new MacBook Air), keep in mind that your gadgets can only download data as fast as the server on the other end can send it. Just because you upgrade to a 100Mbps NBN connection doesn’t mean that every website and service will starting pumping out data at that speed. For now you might focus on getting your existing home wired and wireless network to perform at its best, but then keep performance issues in mind when you’re ready to upgrade.

If we’ve bombarded you with numbers and you’re dreading a mass of research to find the modem or router that’s perfect for you, then be glad that there are a number of options on the market which won’t break the bank. From just $99, our Budii Lite modem is just one example of a modem that’s been specifically built with 802.11ac and 5Ghz frequency to maximise in-house performance on the NBN’s top speeds.

So there you have it. The world of the NBN, while offering download speeds that most Australians could only dream of previously, also offers up some questions about how you can maximise your speeds to make the most of your connection. Hopefully we’ve been able to point you in the right direction!

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