What’s causing my broadband to drop out?

Broadband dropouts are frustrating and inconvenient, but it’s always worth investigating the root cause.

Friday, 8 September, 2023

Interruptions to internet connectivity are never pleasant or welcome, but they occasionally occur at thoroughly inconvenient times.

The finale of an action movie, a Zoom interview with a potential new employer or client, the last stage of an all-day MMORPG quest… None of these would be improved by broadband dropouts.

It may be tempting to respond by using some choice Anglo-Saxon words, collapsing into a chair and contemplating the ruination of your life.

In reality, you’d be far better served investigating what’s causing these broadband dropouts to occur in the first place…

Drop box

We rarely pay attention to our broadband routers until there’s the connection drops out, at which point these unassuming plastic boxes assume disproportionate significance.

Start any investigation into broadband dropouts by looking at the router. Which lights are on? More importantly, which lights should be on if there’s a stable connection?

This isn’t always obvious, since router lighting configurations vary by manufacturer, model and even ISP.

Here are a few general rules of thumb:

  • Solid green or white power light: The router is working normally.
  • Flashing power light: The router is booting up or firmware is being installed.
  • Flashing or red/orange internet light: There is no internet connection.
  • No lights: The router is not receiving power or has been turned off.

Because there are so many router variants on today’s market, it’s essential to read the instruction manual to determine what the lights are trying to tell you.

If you can’t find the booklet that was supplied with the router when you signed up with your current ISP, check the router for a model number and then search online for instructions.

You’re always interfering

Although most routers now offer dual-band connectivity, they continue to rely on the same 2.4GHz frequency used by everything from baby monitors to car alarms and microwaves.

We’ve previously discussed causes of wireless interference. Patterns may emerge – broadband dropouts whenever your kettle is on, for instance.

Perhaps something has coincided with dropouts starting. Have you recently introduced a new smart device, had new neighbours move in, changed your car or upgraded your broadband?

If there doesn’t seem to be a pattern to the dropouts, try keeping a diary. Even if it doesn’t ultimately identify a cause, your ISP will welcome this data when they’re troubleshooting.

WiFi signal strength regularly fluctuates, so an object that’s blocking WiFi signals may only intermittently prevent signals from being received.

Searching for solutions

A one-off dropout may not be a cause for concern, but recurrences certainly are.

If the dropouts are happening on a specific device, it may need its software or firmware updating. It might be near the edge of your router’s range, or struggling to latch onto a signal.

You could potentially resolve a device-specific problem with a Powerline adaptor, establishing a hardwired broadband connection through your home’s electrical circuits.

More widespread problems may also relate to a router that’s unable to reach every corner of your home. Speak to your ISP about range extenders or mesh adaptors.

It may be worth thinking about buying your own broadband router to replace the supplied one.

This can usually be accomplished quite easily, providing your internet isn’t from a full fibre company like Grain or Virgin Media.

Restarting the router allows it to install new firmware, physically cool down, and potentially resolve any conflicts or gremlins underpinning periodic outages.

If all else fails, ring your ISP and explain the issue to them. They may not be able to provide an instant solution, but they could suggest remedies, or narrow down the cause.

Neil Cumins author picture


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!