How to boost your home Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi in the home is a utility in the same way as gas and electricity and a part of everyday life for pretty much all of us.  This means Wi-Fi speed is an important factor based on our demand for instant information, gaming and streaming of TV, films or music.  

My previous post "What's slowing down your W-Fi?" covered the various pitfalls around the home that can contribute to the slowing down of Wi-Fi performance and how to avoid them.  

Read the post here – What’s slowing down your WiFi?

This post is the opposite - How to improve your Wi-Fi signal and performance in the home and boost that all important speed.

 

 TEST YOUR BROADBAND SPEED

If you are suffering in silence with what appears to be slow Wi-Fi, it's worth testing your broadband speed provided by the ISP (internet service provider) to see where the problem is before making any other changes.

 www.speedtest.net is a good website for checking the speed of the data travelling between your device and the nearest internet web server.  It provides an upload and download speed measured in Mbps (megabits per second).

Download speed is generally the higher of the two and applies to streaming and accessing websites whereas Upload applies to posting photos or videos onto social media for example.

 The way in which ISP's advertise and market broadband speed changed in May 2018.  They must now be a bit clearer on what speed the customer actually receives as opposed to what the speed could climb 'up to'.

 Read the BBC News article here.

 

CHANGE YOUR WI-FI ROUTER SETTINGS

Wi-Fi uses radio waves and the frequency channel it uses can become congested if lots of other nearby Wi-Fi networks are using the same channel.  By accessing your Wi-Fi router's admin settings, changing the frequency band channel can improve the performance and speed of the signal.

Different types of Wi-Fi router or hub have different settings for accessing channel settings depending on the manufacturer.  Most Wi-Fi routers or hubs use an automatic setting to find the best or available channel.  Moving away from the most common channel to a less congested one can help improve the network traffic speed and performance.

You can also change your router's frequency band.  Newer duel-band routers allow access to the 2.4 GHz band and the 5 GHz band.  

2.4 GHz

This is the most popular frequency band used by the most common devices around the home, making it quite congested.  2.4 GHz Wi-Fi supports speeds up to 460-600 Mbps and uses longer range transmissions which means it can pass through walls and obstructions more easily than long range frequencies.

5 GHz

This band is less congested and therefore more stable and faster.  Using shorter waves means it is less able to pass through walls and obstructions.  This can be fixed by using range extenders around the home.

 

CHECK THE WI-FI RANGE

Free Android app - Wi-Fi Signal Strength Meter.  This shows how strong or weak your Wi-Fi signal is in each room of the house depending on distance to your router.  This is a good way of checking the best location in the house for the router to be positioned.

Ekahau HeatMapper software can be used on a laptop to survey a building's Wi-Fi signal by walking from room to room to create a colour coded heat map based on a floor plan of the property to map out where the Wi-Fi is strongest or weakest. 

 

Big Ben speeding traffic

UPGRADE THE WI-FI ROUTER

Duel band routers provide access to 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands which allows for simultaneous access for internet browsing on one frequency and media streaming on the other.

It's also important to keep the router's firmware up to date to ensure it performs at its best.

Adding a newer model Wi-Fi router to your home network is not always a straightforward task because the ISP connection to the property may not automatically interact with it.  It's a good idea to thoroughly research this before buying.

  

WI-FI EXTENDERS

I use one of these and they work really well.  These devices plug into a mains electricity socket in the property and acts as a wireless repeater to extend the Wi-Fi coverage using the electricity circuit.

 

UPGRADE YOUR DEVICE WIRELESS STANDARD

Wi-Fi technology and wireless routers use what is known as Wi-Fi standards to connect to compatible devices.  These have been around since late 1990’s and have moved on along with device technology and speed.  An organisation called the Wi-Fi alliance came up with the standards.  

IEEE 802.11

Created in 1997 being the first and now no longer in use

IEEE 802.11a

First developed in 1999 for the 5 GHz band

IEEE 802.11b

Also developed in 1999 used more commonly with the 2.4 GHz band.  This standard started the Wi-Fi boom!

IEEE 802.11g

This standard was created in 2003 and supported the increase in data rate speed to 54 megabits per second.  Still in use today and reliable for devices unable to support the newer standards.

IEEE 802.11n

Introduced in 2009 and compatible on devices supporting the 2.4 GHz and 5GHz frequencies.  Can also support speeds up to 150 megabits per second.

IEEE 802.11ac

First distributed in 2013 for high speed wireless data throughput on 5 GHz.  Extended channel ranges on much higher frequencies.  Commonly found in the latest smartphone and wireless device technologies.

Upgrading your device to the latest standard 802.11ac will help to improve Wi-Fi performance if the devices are compatible.  Again, it's worth researching this before purchasing.

 

NETWORK ANALYSERS

There are several software installs and toolsets that can help to analyse the bandwidth on your Wi-Fi home network to identify the causes of slow performance.

The Glasswire software install is good for checking processes running and gives a graphical display of where the issues are with bandwidth.

 

 

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