What is wireless broadband? Should you be using it? How do you secure it? And how do you make sure you get the best wireless speeds? We answer all your questions...
Here's a rule we live by: the fewer wires we have to deal with the better. If you've ever tried to manage the cables attached to your TV and set-top box, or untangle the Spaghetti Junction of cables behind a computer, you'll no doubt agree.
So hooray for wireless broadband, or Wi-Fi as it's commonly known. Wireless broadband lets you connect a device to the internet without using any cables. That means you can wander round at will and, so long as you stay within range of the wireless signal, you can get online.
Each of the major UK providers offer wireless broadband as standard, making wireless broadband the quickest, easiest way to connect to the web for most people. Even so, just because it's the norm, don't necessarily assume you should use it all the time. For some of you, particularly those of you who live in remote areas where broadband speeds move like treacle, it's may be more sensible to forgo Wi-Fi and use a wired connection for internet access.
Why should I use wireless broadband?
A Wi-Fi connection in the home opens up a wealth of possibilities. For example, you can:
- Get internet access all over the house - your living room, bedroom, kitchen, even the bathroom if that's your thing
- Use the internet on smartphones, tablets, laptops, TVs, games consoles and any other wireless -compatible gadgets may have scattered around the house
- Let multiple people access the web at the same time - perfect for families or shared houses then
- Have fewer cables in use to get tangled up behind your computer
- Let guests and visitors get their phones online while they're at your pad without having to use their mobile data allowance
When should I not use wireless broadband?
While Wi-Fi is convenient, there may be times where you don't want to use it, or where a fixed-line connection is more appropriate. Here's why:
- Connections lose a bit of speed over Wi-Fi - if you regularly experience slow broadband speeds, a direct, wired connection may be preferable
- In a large house, or in a building with thick walls and doors, a Wi-Fi signal may not stretch to all rooms
- Wi-Fi can be less secure than wired connections - we'll talk about how to secure a wireless network later on in the guide
Wireless broadband deals
As we mentioned earlier, every major broadband provider in the UK includes wireless broadband as standard, which means they provide all the equipment you'll need to set it up, such as a BT Home Hub, Sky Hub or Virgin Media Superhub wireless router, depending of course on which provider you're with.
Setting up your wireless connection is easy - you'll be walked through it step by step by your provider when you switch broadband.
Here are just some of the options out there right now, and remember you can compare broadband deals in your area using our postcode checker:
Wireless broadband deals
Monthly cost: £2.50 1st year cost: £60.00
Monthly cost: £6.50
(for 12 months)1st year cost: £84.95
Monthly cost: £7.50 1st year cost: £90.00
Monthly cost: £7.50
(for 6 months)1st year cost: £138.00
|speed up to 16 Mb||speed up to 16 Mb||speed up to 16 Mb||speed up to 30 Mb|
|Pay as you go||Weekend calls inc.||Weekend calls inc.||Weekend calls inc.|
Call TalkTalk on
0800 049 7843
Call Sky on
0844 241 1407
Call Virgin Media on
0808 168 6088
Securing your wireless network
Secure your wireless network! If you're using Wi-Fi at home, you absolutely must make sure you do this.
An unsecured network is an open invitation to irritating problems. It means that anyone within range of the signal can surf the web using your connection. This could potentially slow your network down significantly and eat into any download limits you may have. Even if you have unlimited broadband, they might do something even worse, such as access illegal material.
And it's not just freeloading passersby you need to worry about - an open network leaves you vulnerable to hackers, who could easily gain access to your files or personal data. It sounds unlikely - and the chances of it happening are small - but isn't it better to have peace of mind?
How do I secure my wireless network?
You need a wireless encryption key. This is a series of numbers and letters, that work like a password to turn data into a code before it's sent, making hacking more difficult.
Many providers now give you an encryption key as standard. This information is often printed on the back of your router - entering that supplied password when you initially connect to a wireless network will let you log on.
Some of you may want to be more hands on though, and set an encryption key yourself. The most commonly used methods are:
- WEP with 64bit or 128bit encryption strength - simple encryption that offers limited security and is relatively easy to break
- WPA-PSK (WPA-Personal) - offers better security and is backwards compatible with older routers and USB keys
- WPA2-AES - gives you the best security and performance, but may not be compatible with older devices
You can choose which type of encryption you want to use in your router settings. Consult your router's manual or contact your provider, to find out how to change these.
Boosting your Wi-Fi performance
When you use Wi-Fi you'll want to make sure you get the best possible performance, so here you go - five easy tips to help you get more from your wireless connection.
Put your router somewhere central - the position of your wireless router makes a big difference to your home Wi-Fi connection. The nearer you are to the router, and the fewer obstructions in between, the better the signal, so it's worth putting the router somewhere central and out in the open, so that it covers as much of the house as possible.
Try to keep your router in, or near rooms you frequent - everyone has rooms in their house they use more than others, and you should make sure you get a good signal in these rooms. For example, perhaps you often sneak away to the tranquillity of your bedroom to catch your favourite show on Netflix, or have a study where you work - make sure your router is as close as possible to these locations to give you the best broadband speeds where you need them.
Keep your router separate away from interference - one last router tip: try to keep your router away from other electronic devices that send wireless signals, such as cordless phones and microwaves. They may cause interference, causing your wireless signal to drop out. That means resetting the router and waiting for it to reconnect - who can be bothered with all that faff?
Weak signal? Try a wireless repeater… - you can increase the range of a Wi-Fi signal by 'bouncing' it over a greater distance with a wireless repeater. Many companies, including Netgear and Huawei make repeaters, which can cost less than £50, making them relatively affordable. Simply positioning the repeater halfway between your router and the device or area where you want to connect can give you the boost you need to get online!
…or a powerline adapter - alternatively, if you're still not getting the speed you want, you could get a powerline adapter. These re-route your broadband connection across your home using the internal wiring, creating a Wi-Fi hotspot wherever you have a free plug socket. The bad news is that they tend to be a lot more expensive than wireless repeaters.