AH TechTalk: How Christmas Lights May Affect Your Wi-Fi Speeds

OFCOM, the Independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications, yesterday launched what it describes as a "simple app for tablets and mobiles to check your Wi-Fi connection" and released a report showing that over a quarter of a million homes and offices across Wales could improve the quality of their Internet connection by adopting "superfast broadband services," in other words, a higher performance Internet connection. The OFCOM Wi-Fi checker is designed to allow customers on smartphones and tablets to check the quality of their wireless Internet signal via another means away from the on-screen signal meter, but importantly also provides useful advice and tips on improving the quality of the connection.

For some individuals, obtaining a decent Internet connection via a Wi-Fi network ranks somewhere between coffee and cheesecake, and under oxygen, in life's essentials. The application runs a connectivity test on the Android or iOS device and it's available free of charge in the Google Play Store or iTunes Store, just search for "Wi-Fi Checker." Once the application has assessed the Wi-Fi network, it provides a report that details some of the reasons why our Wi-Fi and broadband connection is not working as well as it should, which can be down to the positioning of the router (avoid corners) to localised interference from cordless telephones, microwave ovens, baby monitors or even Christmas or Fairy Lights. This interference can either decelerate or effectively jam the Wi-Fi signal, which results in long faces and no or poor Internet connectivity. Worse, calls to ISPs, Internet Service Providers, often go up at Christmas - when customers are wanting to experiment with their new technology and use more video streaming services and similar.

In addition to launching the application, OFCOM have also released their Connection Nations 2015 report, which takes an in-depth look at the telecommunications and wireless networks in use within the United Kingdom. The 2015 report details the rolling out and take up of these Internet networks but recognizes that there is more work to do in order to improve broadband connection speeds and the mobile networks. In 2015, OFCOM have released information on the individual countries that constitute the United Kingdom (these being England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), and has found differences between the individual countries. The report details an increase in "superfast" broadband networking, that is, a download speed in excess of 30 Mbit/s.

The report details some of the connectivity difficulties of rural parts of the United Kingdom, in particular Wales where there are large areas of land with low population density, hills and valleys, resulting in a greater-than-UK average of no-voice coverage (15% compared with 13%). 90% of Wales has at least 2G voice capability, with a small increase of 3G voice from 65% to 67% (compared with the UK's average of 75%). Critically, OFCOM is preparing to award more spectrum across the UK to allow the mobile operators to improve capacity and coverage. So, the message this year if you have unwrapped a shiny new Android device under the Christmas Tree and you are having difficulty connecting to your home Wi-Fi network is: try turning off your Christmas lights, even if only for the initial device set up!

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About the Author

David Steele

Senior Staff Writer
I grew up with 8-bit computers and moved into PDAs in my professional life, using a number of devices from early Windows CE clamshells and later. Today, my main devices are a Nexus 5X, a Sony Xperia Z Tablet and a coffee cup.