London — People should avoid using the microwave at the same time as they are making video calls, watching HD videos or doing something important online because the ovens can slow Wi-Fi signals, Britain's media regulator Ofcom said on Wednesday.

The tip was included in advice on improving broadband performance during the coronavirus pandemic, as demand on networks has increased as millions of people work and learn from home.

Ofcom said cordless phones, baby monitors, halogen lamps, dimmer switches, stereos and computer speakers, and TVs and monitors could also affect Wi-Fi signals if they are too close to routers.

Ofcom CEO Melanie Dawes said families across the country were going online together this week, often juggling work and keeping children busy at the same time.

“So we're encouraging people to read our advice on getting the most from their broadband, home phones and mobiles — and to share it with friends, families and colleagues, to help them stay connected too,” she said.

Ofcom said landline or internet calls could offer a more reliable connection than mobile calls during the day because of the increased traffic on wireless networks.

In many homes, long-forgotten landlines have been resurrected as people rediscover the value of a voice call to family and friends during the pandemic.

Virgin Media, Britain's biggest cable TV operator, said on Tuesday its customers were spending nearly twice as much time on their landline phones in the early evening as they did a week ago, with phone call minutes up by as much as 94%.

It said its landline network also saw large growth in demand in the morning as people started working from home, peaking at 10am GMT with about 2.5-million calls an hour.

Virgin Media, which is owned by Liberty Global, said downstream data traffic had increased by 50% during the day, but it was still below its evening peak.

Upstream traffic — when users send data rather than receive it — had risen 95% during the day as workers sent files and data back to corporate networks and made video conference calls.


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