As UK braces for new internet traffic record, here are some tips to help your broadband at Xmas

By John Mercury December 20, 2023

The UK’s largest broadband provider is expecting demand to hit a new high on Boxing Day.

BT is primed for peak internet traffic to exceed that seen on 6 December, when six Premier League games and an update for the new Call Of Duty saw customers guzzle 31 terabits of data a second.

There are another five top-flight football fixtures on Boxing Day, again all to be streamed online by Amazon, while gadgets and video games gifted for Christmas are set to result in a download spike.

On Boxing Day 2022, peak traffic hit just over 23 terabits per second, while traffic over the day was 141 petabytes (that’s a lot of data, one petabyte is one million gigabytes).

Chris Bramley, a managing director at BT, told Sky News: “When you see things like major gaming downloads coinciding with big football events, that’s when you see the biggest peaks.”

New figures released this week by Ofcom showed full-fibre broadband is available to more than 17 million homes across the UK, which equates to 57% of households – up on last year’s 42% and further increasing network activity.

Christmas demand is boosted by the fact an increasing amount of tech we unwrap isn’t ready to use straight away.

Everything from phones and tablets to doorbell cameras and video games usually require updates, meaning lots of waiting for downloads to finish before you can enjoy your gifts.

Add in your festive Spotify playlists, Christmas films to stream, and video calls with far-off family, it’s no surprise a Virgin Media O2 survey found half of Britons believe bad internet would dampen the holiday season.

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With that in mind, here’s some advice on how to improve your broadband’s performance this Christmas.

Don’t block your router

Putting large items in front of your router, like a sofa or other coffee table, can block the Wi-Fi signal.

This advice is doubly important at Christmas time, when you have the tree and other decorations to consider.

Richard Dowden, broadband expert at Uswitch, said even tinsel and fairy lights could slow your connection.

He added: “You should keep them and other electronics such as lamps, speakers, TVs, and monitors as far away from the router as possible.”

Run a speed test

Ahead of the big day, it’s worth running a speed test to check how fast your connection really is.

If it’s falling below the minimum speed guarantee in your contract, your provider has 30 days to resolve the issue.

If they don’t, you can switch providers without paying an early termination fee.

Consider a cable

If you have a device that really needs to be at peak internet performance this Christmas (the PlayStation that might require an update before that new game is unwrapped, for example), consider hard-wiring it to the router.

Ethernet cables come pretty cheap, but will provide a much more stable connection than Wi-Fi.

Of course, you’ll probably need the chosen device and router to be in the same room.

Wi-Fi extenders

If there’s still room on your Christmas list, consider asking Santa for a Wi-Fi extender to boost your signal.

These are useful if you have a big house, or one with thick walls, where certain rooms suffer from weak signal or no connection whatsoever.

Place the extenders halfway between your router and any dead spots to make sure the signal reaches them.

Download in advance

It may sound like sacrilege, but it might not be the worst idea to open those gadgets you’ve bought loved ones and download any updates ahead of time.

That way, they’ll be ready to use as soon as they’re unwrapped.

Just make sure nobody walks in while you’re doing it.


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