Ofcom's new WiFi checker app identifies reasons of sub-optimal broadband performance

Christmas tree lights slow down broadband service, Ofcom app reveals

UK communications regulator Ofcom has launched a new app that allows people to check the quality of their Wi-Fi connection and identify problems, revealing a surprising culprit of sub-par performance - Christmas tree lights.

Ofcom’s new free app, called the Wi-Fi Checker, is available for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. It can test the Wi-Fi set-up in a house or office and provide trouble-shooting tips if it finds a problem.

According to Ofcom's tests, sometimes a household's sub-optimal broadband speed could be down to simple issues such as interference from other electronic devices, including microwaves, baby monitors, lamps or even Christmas fairy lights.

According to the watchdog, up to six million UK homes and offices could improve their broadband connection by eliminating the interferences or correcting the set-up.

Together with the app, Ofcom released the results of a study which found that more than 25 per cent of UK homes currently have superfast broadband connection of more than 30Mb per second - an increase to 7.5 million households from six million last year.

However, higher-speed broadband is available in fewer than two in five (37 per cent) homes in rural areas, the regulator found.

Moreover, around eight per cent of households, around 2.4 million, cannot receive a connection with speeds faster than 10Mb per second, most of which is located in rural areas.

The regulator determined the distance from street cabinets or local telephone exchange as the major problem of remote rural houses.

The problem is particularly palpable for businesses, half of which have broadband speeds lower than 10Mb per second – a value considered a ‘tipping point’ for what is generally perceived as an acceptable speed.

Ofcom said that by 2017 18 per cent of businesses still won’t have access to superfast broadband

Meanwhile, ‘ultrafast’ broadband, with speeds of more than 300Mb per second, was available to around 500,000 homes in the UK.

Mobile 4G coverage has also increased across the major networks, from 44 per cent in 2014 to 73 per cent this year, with data use on mobile growing at a faster rate than on fixed wireless networks.

"Mobile and broadband have become the fourth essential service, alongside gas, electricity and water. There's been a technological revolution over recent years, with 4G mobile and superfast continuing to extend across the country,” said Sharon White, Ofcom chief executive.

"Our challenge is to keep supporting competition and innovation, while also helping to improve coverage across the country - particularly in hard-to-reach areas, where mobile and home internet services need to improve.”

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