It’s Christmas Day 2014. Everyone in your home is unwrapping a gift that connects to the Internet in some way or another.
Creaking under the strain of two new iPad Airs, an LG G3, your cousin remotely playing Assassin’s Creed: Unity on his vita via PS4 Remote Play, a new smart TV, everyone streaming their favourite TV programmes, your poor old broadband connection gives up.
There’s not enough bits in your pipe to support everyone’s demands. Either that, the unthinkable happens. Network failure caused by no-good dirty copper theives or unseasonable weather kills your connection entirely. On Christmas Day.
But that’s all good! Because you’ll have read our guide and you’ll know exactly what to do.
How’s nan going to watch the Queen’s speech on iPlayer? How’s cousin Charlie going to play on his sparkling new Xbox One upstairs when Auntie Flo didn’t buy any physical games for him to play and how’s dad going to get to sleep without the ultimate Christmas playlist tinkling in the background through his Sonos as he snoozes?
It’s time to take charge, get everyone connected and save Christmas Day for the household!
WiFi tether on your phone or dongle
If there are only a couple of services needing a WiFi connection, your mobile (or if you have one, a mobile broadband dongle) may be your saviour. Providing you have a stable 4G connection and unlimited tethering, you can use your mobile to help boost your network.
You will need to prioritise connections though and any HD TV streaming may have to be subbed out for standard definition, but at least you’ll keep some members of the family happy.
Borrow your neighbour’s WiFi
If you get on well with your neighbours and you have a strong enough signal from their property, why not pop round with a bottle of wine or some mince pies and ask them if you could hop on? Of course, you could split the family into half if the problem is too many connections on one frequency and have some use your network, others using theirs.
If your neighbours haven’t properly secured their WiFi, it might also be a good idea to point out that they should pick a solid password.
As stealing WiFi is a criminal offence, you’ll need to ask permission before jumping on their capacity. You don’t want to ruin their Christmas and yours…
Watch some good old-fashioned broadcast TV and dust off that crusty Bluetooth speaker
While Doctor Who will be shown on iPlayer, you can still tune in on regular, non-Internet-based broadcast TV. There’s also a pretty decent line-up on channels 1-5 and if you have a digital TV, your options are instantly widened too.
Remember Bluetooth? Yep, it still exists, so if your dad still isn’t happy listening to the crappy speaker on his smartphone or laptop, it’s time to give your old speakers a polish and hook it up so at least the quality is better, even if the music collection is still a little limited.
Find the 1980s version of Trivial Pursuit in the Cupboard Under the Stairs
If all else fails, it’s time to take a step back from the digital world and get everyone together to play your favourite childhood board games from before the time of digitalisation. Fox younger relatives with questions about countries that don’t exist any more.
Little Charlie may be moaning at first when he has to be surgically removed from Fifa 15 and nan may need everything repeating twice, but it’s better more fun than listening to Mum moaning as she misses a stellar lineup in Candy Crush Saga, right?
Preparing for a broadband outage before Christmas arrives
Before you even think about the gifts you’re going to be buying this Christmas, make sure you have the broadband package you’ll need for 24/7 access. Check your broadband limits and if you think you’re going to exceed them, it may be worth examining the small print to see how much out-of-bundle charges will cost you, or upgrading to an unlimited plan.
If you’ve got enough lights on your Christmas tree that it can probably be picked up from space, brace yourself for a patchy WiFi experience.
Yes, Christmas lights can congest the 2.4GHz radio frequency – the channel used by most WiFi devices. If you’re lucky enough to have a dual-band router, one that uses both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels, then switch all devices that can use 5GHz to that for a better experience.
If you’ve got a dual-band router you should see something like ‘BT Home Hub 5GHz’ popping up as an available hotspot on your devices.
It’s also worth noting that microwave cookers are another great source of 2.4GHz misery. So if you’re downloading something over WiFi, it might be an idea to wait for that to finish before popping the Christmas ham in to defrost.
If you’ve got devices that can connect over Ethernet or WiFi, such as Sonos or your Sky+HD or YouView box, invest in some Ethernet cables for a more reliable connection. Don’t forget, you may also want to buy an Ethernet splitter too, so you can connect everything up to your router direct for equipment that won’t work on a secondary network.
It might be worth downloading as much content as you can before Christmas day. You’ll need the token James Bond, The Great Escape and maybe some Christmassy movies to keep everyone entertained.