Or ‘Is it worth $10 to get a stable Zoom call?’
What if I told you there was one simple thing you could do to minimize dropped or garbled video calls?
You know what I’m talking about. Now that you’re working from home, video conferencing is happening all the time. Everything seems fine until you’re in the middle of the call and suddenly it sounds like you’re at a Daft Punk concert. Or you’re in the middle of a discussion and suddenly you just aren’t on the call anymore.
The problem could be your Wi-Fi. Even if you have a strong signal from your router, Wi-Fi is not the most stable connection. You could be getting sudden interference from other electronics in your house or your neighbor’s house. Or someone else on your network is uploading or downloading a huge file over the same Wi-Fi network.
I’ve found simple solutions tend to work best. So my simple, inexpensive solution is this: plug your computer into an ethernet cable. I know. I know it hurts. We bought laptops because we don’t want to be tied to a single location. But you shouldn’t be walking around on a video call, and if you’re leading it, you really don’t want to get dropped.
Set up your spot for video calls near your router so you can just run an ethernet cable to one of the ports on the back of the router when you do video calls. My work desk has an ethernet cable right next to my laptop’s power cable. So, if I’m working in that spot, I charge my computer’s batter and use the ethernet at the same time.
Why Does this Matter?
Since Wi-Fi is cordless, it uses certain radio frequencies. If your router and your neighbor’s router are both on the same frequency, it’s kind of like two people yelling at the same bartender in a busy nightclub. The server is getting confused. They’re not sure who to be listening to and it takes longer for you and the other customer to place your order because you have to repeat yourselves over and over.
By plugging your computer directly into your router, it’s like you’re placing your order directly with their ordering system, and they just have to hand you your drink. It’s more reliable and less likely to have an error because your voice didn’t carry or the guy next to you is shouting over your order.
What if You’re Already Plugged-in?
If you are already using an ethernet cable, and you’re still getting garbled or dropped calls, your router is underpowered or is several years old and will need to be replaced.
A few years ago, I hadn’t thought about how old our router was getting when we moved into a new house. At the same time, we added about 5 devices to our network because our kids got their own phones and laptops and suddenly everything online got slow.
Simply replacing the router with a mid-grade home router took our bandwidth speeds from less than 1 MB/s to over 10 MB/s and we had no issues from then on.
If you’re making important calls from your computer and having reliability problems, make sure you’re using the most stable connection for your computer. Get an ethernet cable.