Home wi-fi '30% slower' than fixed broadband

Girl surfing on a laptop Using home wi-fi is more convenient than using the fixed line.

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People relying on home wi-fi are getting significantly slower speeds than from their fixed broadband connection, research suggests.

Network measurement firm Epitiro ran 1m tests over 14,000 wi-fi connections in the UK, US, Spain and Italy.

On average, the results showed a 30% drop-off compared to the speed coming into the home.

However, the research also suggests that users tolerate slower speeds in exchange for the freedom wi-fi offers.

"People are voting with their feet and trading speed for the benefits of mobility," said Iain Wood, from Epitiro.

He said that researchers were "surprised" by the amount of drop-off in speed but that for the majority of consumers the slower connection would not be noticed.

"Most of us do e-mailing and web surfing and for these things there is precious little difference between the 50Mb/s services and an 8Mb/s service," he said.

This is because web surfing uses up relatively small amounts of data.

But for other services, such as downloading video or watching IPTV, the degradation of speed will become more noticeable.

Telephony services such as Skype could also be particularly affected, thinks Professor Andy Nix, a wireless expert at Bristol University.

"If you have a poor quality router and you are using wi-fi at some distance away from it, you could struggle to have a decent Skype conversation," he said.

But, he added, for those who invest in good quality wi-fi equipment and position it sensibly, the effects of the speed degradation would hardly be noticed.

Baby monitors

The study raises interesting questions for an industry obsessed with speed.

"There seems to be a disconnect between the ISPs striving to deliver faster speeds and consumers who are happy to accept slower wi-fi speeds," said Mr Wood.

For those unhappy with their home wi-fi, there are some simple measures that can be taken to improve their connections.

"Firstly people can change channels on their wi-fi router to reduce interference. If they live in flats or urban locations there are likely to be other routers operating on the same channel," said Mr Wood.

Other devices in the home, such as baby monitors, TV remotes and cordless phones can also cause interference.

And for those wanting to download video, the speed issue is resolved simply by plugging the laptop or other wireless device into the router, said Mr Wood.

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