How to share limited broadband bandwidth

There are many ways to maximise the practicality of limited broadband bandwidth, reducing stress and frustration among people living together

Thursday, 8 April, 2021

Although living alone can be a lonely experience, it does have a number of fringe benefits.

You never need to argue about what to watch on TV, whether or not to go out, and who used the last square of toilet roll.

In today’s web-dependent culture, singletons are also freed from having to share limited broadband bandwidth with significant others.

This is a growing problem in an age of home working, blended learning and the continuation of online socialising in lieu of real-world events and activities.

Indeed, as we recently reported, broadband connectivity (and more specifically the lack of it) has become the most common argument in homes up and down the UK.

That’s entirely understandable if your job-interview Skype call keeps freezing because your teenage son is insistent on competing in a Call of Duty tournament at the same time.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to optimise limited broadband bandwidth, even if your home is one of the millions still reliant on ADSL copper phone lines.

With a typical maximum average download speed of 11Mbps (and an average upload speed of just 1Mbps), there won’t be much bandwidth to share on an ADSL connection.

These are some of the ways to make the most of limited broadband bandwidth…

Don’t put off til tonight what you can do today

The internet is at its busiest between the hours of 7pm and 11pm, making this an inadvisable time to conduct activities which could be accomplished during quieter periods.

If your connection is sluggish, try to avoid working in the evening. If children are keen to be online, get essential tasks like online shopping orders completed beforehand – or afterwards.

Schedule updates and downloads overnight

While the internet rush hour takes place in the evenings, there’s relatively little traffic overnight, from your devices or anyone else’s.

This is therefore an optimal time to conduct activities like uploading documents to the cloud, or updating software and installing patches. These can often be scheduled for a specific time.

Download media content rather than streaming it

Taking the above point one step further, don’t tie up an ADSL connection trying to stream a movie if you can download it in advance.

The major streaming platforms often provide a choice between streaming or downloading. Batch-downloading a series overnight allows bandwidth-free bingeing the following evening.

Switch devices to mobile data

It’s tempting to leave smartphones and tablets connected to WiFi permanently, but many mobile contracts have generous 4G/5G data allowances.

Try to use these wherever possible, alleviating pressure on wireless routers, and potentially ensuring faster upload/download speeds for activities like web browsing or video calls.

Publicise upcoming events on a wall calendar

If you really do have a Skype job interview, or your son really is competing in a Call of Duty tournament, make a note of the time and date on a calendar so everyone knows it’s a priority.

This will enable other household residents to work around scheduled events, where every megabit of available bandwidth can make a material difference to online performance.

Unplug non-essential smart devices

Every device connected to a broadband router is constantly pinging it, transmitting data and consuming available bandwidth even when it’s on standby (or not needed).

Disconnecting an app-powered thermostat, web-enabled scales or a smart speaker during periods of intensive internet usage could markedly (if temporarily) speed up your connection.

Neil Cumins author picture

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Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!