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Best wifi options for your home office

Connectivity offerings from Virgin, Vodafone and Three

Stable connection to broadband is key to being able to conduct our daily duties in a work-from-home environment. Photograph: iStock

Stable connection to broadband is key to being able to conduct our daily duties in a work-from-home environment. Photograph: iStock

 

This year the words Zoom and Teams made their way into our everyday vocabulary. Most of us no longer commute to an office or stick to the average nine-to-five working day and talking to colleagues on screen is now the primary method of communication among workers so a fast, stable connection to broadband is key to being able to conduct our daily duties in a work-from-home environment.

In some cases this transition has been challenging, sometimes including the odd interruption from small children or the family pet, but for many the availability of fast and reliable connectivity solutions unlocked new levels of flexibility, productivity and collaboration. Even if that does mean the occasional kid repeatedly asking for a cookie being caught on camera.

So what are the best connectivity options for the home office and who has the best deals? And with companies like Greyhound Recycling getting in on the act, is the market about to get more competitive?

Virgin Media recently launched a tailored homeworker broadband product which gives a separate connection for the home-working environment to the home-usage connection.

This means that the demands of the home office are securely separated and maintained away from household connections. Mobile packages and devices are also available with the homeworker broadband offering.

Fast and resilient

“Fast and resilient broadband is essential. Secure connectivity and endpoint protection is also critical for employers and employees to keep sensitive data and work-related apps protected,” says Aidan D’Arcy, director of business at Virgin Media Ireland.

In reality, stability is more important than speed for most homeworking activities. So a stable connection on a slower speed will serve you better than an unstable line with a higher speed.

“Fibre to the home is your best bet for the most stable connection. Gigabit broadband is particularly suited to working from home and video calling thanks to its reliability and increased upload speed which facilitates sending files and seamless video calls,” a representative for Vodafone says.

Vodafone gigabit broadband is the fastest type of broadband connection Vodafone offers and this fibre to the home (FTTH) service brings the fibre cables directly in to your property – delivering speeds of up to 1,000mbps.

“Every house is different but weaker wifi signals can sometimes come down to environmental factors such as being a long distance from the modem, thick walls or insulation, or interference from other wireless and electronic devices such as baby monitors, Bluetooth devices and microwaves,” the representative says.

Three Business offers a wide range of connectivity solutions and it recently launched its 5G network and 5G broadband available to customers in every county in Ireland. If the area is not covered by 5G, its 4G broadband has 99 per cent population coverage, mobile broadband for people who are on the move and want total flexibility and also fixed broadband with nationwide reach.

“Three carries 68 per cent of Ireland’s mobile data coverage, which is more than all other operators combined, so we know how important fast and reliable connectivity is to our customers. We have the largest spectrum for 4G and 5G networks in Ireland and this is one of the main factors in us being able to offer reliable broadband to businesses up and down the country,” says Ciara O’Reilly, Three’s head of business products, propositions and operations.

While Three is synonymous with data it is also known for its competitive pricing with some of the most competitive broadband and handsets on the market.

“This is critically important as it’s been a very difficult year financially for Irish businesses so knowing they are getting the best value as well as tailored business customer care makes all the difference,” O’Reilly says.

At the beginning of the pandemic, when people were asked to work remotely, Three saw a huge shift in where the network’s data was being used. The city centre sites became quieter with traffic moving to suburban, rural and town sites. “Overall, we saw a 15 per cent increase in data usage and as we already carry 68 per cent of all mobile data in Ireland, this was quite a significant uplift,” she says.

Competitive

In terms of others entering the market – Greyhound is partnering with BT on a new combination offer of waste and wifi for example – how will the long-standing players stay competitive?

“It is extremely important to us that we listen to our customers and offer them solutions that best suit the needs of their business. The market is extremely competitive but Three has some clear advantages over our competitors – our 4G and 5G spectrum holding significantly exceeds that of our competitors giving us far superior capability to provide high-quality connectivity throughout the country,” O’Reilly says.

D’Arcy says he is proud that Virgin Media’s products and services have kept the nation connected and informed throughout the Covid-19 crisis as people have been required to work, study and socialise from home.

“We are also playing a leadership role in the national-recovery effort through #BackingBusiness where we’re continuing to support small and medium-sized Irish businesses by giving them a platform to promote their services.

“Virgin Media recently introduced gigabit broadband speeds across the entire island of Ireland. Research commissioned by Virgin Media and conducted by Amárach Research reported that there is a constant ramping up of activity online and we see this reflected in a 40 per cent increase in data usage across our network since March. The findings also demonstrate the need for reliable, fast and secure broadband to meet constantly growing connectivity needs.

“The current situation is driving significant change in how people live their lives. Our increased data usage underlines the fact that broadband is playing a central role in underpinning the continuity of daily life and business activity to the best possible effect. With our recent 1gb broadband boost, we’re ensuring that people and businesses will be able to participate fully in every aspect of digital life as we continue to support the economy through the essential connectivity we’re providing,” he says.

Vodafone’s advice for maintaining a good at home connection

Modem

Placing your modem in the centre of the building will provide better coverage to more of your home or business. The speed and strength of the wifi signal depends on the distance between the modem and the devices you’re using, for example a smartphone, tablet or laptop. Make sure the modem is in an open space and positioned as high off the ground as possible – at least on a table or piece of furniture. Windows, walls and anything metal can affect the wifi signal. Avoid placing the modem behind a television or in a cabinet. The front of the modem, the flat side with the lights on it, should face outwards into the room.

Multiple devices/ users

In most cases,wifi shares an internet connection with the entire network. If there are multiple people and devices using wifi at the same time, it can slow wifi speeds.

The age of devices

Older devices may not be able to achieve fast wireless speeds as they use older wifi technology. For example, even if your broadband connection is 1gbps, but your device only supports wifi 802.11g, then your peak speed to that device can only reach 54mbps (one-twentieth of the potential of your broadband connection). Keeping devices and software up to date will ensure the best wifi experience.

Computer operating system

Outdated operating systems might not include the latest performance tuning patches and the increased likelihood of automatic updates being downloaded at the time of your test could slow down the connection speed.

Browser version

There are multiple browsers currently available including Firefox, Edge, Safari and Chrome. Each has different capabilities and may provide different results, particularly on high-speed connections. They will all process speed-test requests differently depending on their configuration and some will process these requests quicker than others which will impact on the end result.

Simultaneous usage of background software

If background software like virtual private network (VPN), anti-virus, content-based filtering (parental control) or firewall is active when running a speed test, the results may understate the performance of your broadband service.