Oct 7, 2021

Making the most of your fibre internet connection during the lockdown

Our work and home lives have undergone a radical transformation as South Africa navigates through the pandemic and our radically changed work-learn-entertain-at-home lives. As we pass 18-months of COVID-19, a third wave and potentially a fourth one on the horizon, we had no inkling of where we would be when the very first ’21-day’ lockdown kicked off on 27 March 2020.

The importance of having a reliable internet connection at home during this time has been thrown into the spotlight, not only for entertainment purposes to keep cabin fever at bay, but especially for those who will be working and learning from home – which for many is likely to be an enduring feature long after the pandemic passes.

MetroFibre Networx offers some considerations to make sure your ‘fibre to the home’ internet connection is up to the task:

What internet speed do I need?

As a rule of thumb, an internet speed of 25 Mbps should be sufficient, but this depends on:

  • The type of work you do – as data intensive occupations such as civil engineers, creative designers or photographer will use a great deal more data than a journalist would, for example.
  • How many people are using the connection – if you have a normal family unit that comprises of mom and dad that need to work, while the kids are streaming off platforms such as Netflix or YouTube, you may need a higher speed connection.
  • What you are doing with your line – If you are participating in remote conference calls such as Webex, Facetime or Whatsapp video calls, then you could need a faster line speed to accommodate these data-intensive applications.

What if my Wi-Fi signal is weak?

If you are experiencing a slow fibre connection over Wi-Fi, there are a few things to consider to ensure that your fibre internet connection operates optimally:

  • Number of devices – Take stock of how many devices are connected to your fibre line. If need be, limit these devices during periods where you need to make use of your bandwidth, such as video conference calls and the like.  If the whole family is connected at the same time, with multiple devices, chances are you could experience a lag on your line speed.
  • Distance – Your home office would typically be as far away from noisy areas as possible, which could mean that your internet line speed is perfect, but the signal strength from you Wi-Fi router will diminish the further you move away. Consider investing in a signal repeater, that will strengthen the Wi-Fi signal in your home.  If you don’t already have one, consider connecting via an ethernet cable or move closer to the router.
  • How old is your Wi-Fi router? – Outdated hardware, especially with computers and mobile devices, is a well-known limiting factor. If you have a 20 Mbps internet line but your old Wi-Fi router has a maximum output of 5 Mbps, you’ll only ever get up to half of what you’re paying for. Also, even if your router is not outdated, the firmware may need an occasional update.
  • Reset your router from time to time – Rebooting your router by switching it off and waiting for 30 seconds before turning it on again often solves connectivity issues, which usually arise from minor software faults in routers that are left on for extended periods.
  • Move disruptive appliances away from your router – Appliances such as microwaves, baby monitors, cordless phones and even other routers can broadcast signals which actively congest your Wi-Fi spectrum if you are operating on the 2.4Ghz frequency. If you have any of these appliances positioned nearby your router, try moving them away and see if there’s an improvement. Alternatively, if you’re worried that a neighbour’s Wi-Fi is disrupting your signal, you can try following this guide from Tech Advisor on changing your router channel.
  • Location is key – The positioning of your router inside your home or office can impact your signal strength. For most fibre users your Termination Point (TP) is installed in the most convenient installation location, in some cases before you move in. It can be quite costly to get this point moved, so rather consider using range extenders to get the Wi-Fi signal throughout your house. Also, you’ll want your most extensively used devices like the TV or computer as close to the router as possible.
  • As a point of interest here, the 2.4Ghz frequency can cover a wider area but is more prone to interference and speed drops. 5Ghz, on the other hand, provides better speeds at close range but isn’t great at range and suffers from interference from walls. Use 2.4Ghz for wide-range areas of your home and 5Ghz near bandwidth-intensive devices. Remember that the Wi-Fi signal becomes weaker the further it needs to travel, which is called path loss.
  • Consider using wired connections – You will find that video streaming is data-intensive and may require more bandwidth, causing other services and devices to lag. As more users connect to the Wi-Fi, you may notice periodic lag depending on the number of Wi-Fi participants and their usage requirements. A wired ethernet cable connection is always more stable than the Wi-Fi signal from the same router. For bandwidth intensive activities like gaming and high definition streaming, consider using a wired connection instead. Also, by making use of a cable you will be redirecting traffic from the Wi-Fi router and reducing some of the Wi-Fi traffic.

If all else fails and you’re still experiencing issues with your connectivity – contact your ISP to assist.  Technicians are familiar with the challenges so they can help you troubleshoot remotely during the lockdown and find a workable solution.

What cybersecurity measures should I take?

When you are operating on sensitive work information in a home environment, cybersecurity becomes vital.  Do the following:

  • Be cognitive of phishing scams and think twice before clicking on links, especially of messages claiming to have information on the COVID-19 outbreak – cyber hackers have not wasted any time capitalising on people’s vulnerabilities.
  • Adhere to your company’s IT security policies and guidelines at home, just as you would at the office.
  • Make sure all your virus protection and software updates are up to date and in force.

What can I use my fibre connection for?

When you’re not working, learn a new skill, book an online course, stay in touch with loved ones and friends, listen to your favourite music, get fit using online exercise apps and when you’re done, chill out on the couch watching your favourite movies.

  • Complete an online training course on platforms such as Udemy at a fraction of the cost or even YouTube, that will allow you to pick up a new skill. And this isn’t only aimed at academic content – you can learn a new craft, learn to play an instrument, or even learn a new language – the internet really is your oyster.
  • There are a plethora of educational tools and channels available for home schooling purposes, online. Speak to your child’s school to get an outline of what they recommend.
  • Online shopping and banking are also a great way to simplify your life and avoid the crowds.
  • Stay in touch with family, colleagues and friends via applications such as Whatsapp, Skype, FaceTime and the like. Make sure your loved ones are coping and let them know that you’re still very much connected with each other online.
  • The entertainment options that your fibre internet connection are lifesaving sanity tools to keep you and your family from going nuts – and keeping out of each other’s hair. Try your hand at yoga, pilates and home bootcamp lessons, stream movies and TV series, listen to music, download ebooks, you name it, and you’ll find it online.

Balance is important

As with all things, balance is key.  Easier said than done when you’ve been in some level of lockdown for the last 18 months.  There are many applications that will help you in this regard, such as RescueTime, Toggl, MyLifeOrganised (MLO) and Pocket, to mention a few.

As for the younger members of the family, make sure you enable applications that will keep them safe from the dark side of the web – such as Kaspersky, NetNanny, PhoneSheriff, TeenSafe with some provider-based options such as the parental control dashboard offered on DSTV, to mention a few.

Technology has become integrated into every aspect of our lives – and this has been thrown into stark reality during the pandemic.  During this time, make the most of the endless opportunities that your fibre internet connection offers to make the most of your time at home.