How to do Wi-Fi the right way

2020 has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people working from home and with that some new problems have been highlighted.  One of the more common issues we have faced is a deficiency in people’s home Wi-Fi so I thought I’d share a few tips with you.

Pointing in the right direction

If your Wi-Fi router has one or more external antennas, make sure they are pointing straight up (vertical), this helps the signals move in the right direction.

Location, location, location

No matter what Wi-Fi equipment you use the location of that equipment within your home is critical.  If like most people you have a single router with built-in Wi-Fi then you want to make sure it is located somewhere in your house which is central to where you want to use your Wi-Fi enabled devices.  Wi-Fi uses radio waves to send and receive data, those waves move at the speed of light and just like light they can and do bounce off of walls and other objects around your home.  When trying to find the ideal location for your router it can be helpful to imagine you are instead placing a large very bright flood light.  Imagine your house at night time with all the lights turned off, next turn on your imaginary flood light and see which parts of your house are lit up.  Obviously the areas very close to the light will be super bright but what does it look like in adjacent rooms?  How much light will bounce off the walls and illuminate those rooms?  Using this thought experiment you should be able to find a suitable location within your home to place your Wi-Fi router.

Of course, this is a simplification of what can be the very complicated science of radio wave propagation but it is still a useful tool to have under your belt.

It’s a two-way conversation

Not all Wi-Fi devices are created equally.  The quality and power of Wi-Fi enabled devices are highly variable and it’s important to remember that Wi-Fi is a two-way conversation, all Wi-Fi devices have to both send AND receive radio signals.  Think of it like a shouted conversation between two people in different rooms, one of the two will be able to shout louder than the other and will also better hearing.  Buying a router with a really powerful radio in it won’t solve most problems, sure a more powerful radio will be able to send it’s signal further but the device on the other end (probably) won’t be able to ‘shout’ just as loudly so you end up with an imbalance.  If you find that some of your Wi-Fi devices work in certain areas of your home while others do not this is almost certainly down to the differences in the quality of the Wi-Fi radios on those devices.

Extending the range of your Wi-Fi system

If after you have moved your Wi-Fi router to the best location in the house your Wi-Fi is still under-performing then you need to find a way to extend your Wi-Fi coverage.  There are a few ways to do this, each with their own pro’s and con’s.

  • Wi-Fi range extenders are readily available and can be helpful in certain situations.  Using the analogy of a shouted conversation, a range extender adds a third person to the mix.  This middle-man relays the conversation between the router and the Wi-Fi device but because the radio signals are being repeated there is less overall bandwidth available limiting how much data can be moved and how quickly.  Range extenders are not a good choice for high-bandwidth, low latency applications such as HD video streaming or online gaming.
  • Use a cabled connection instead.  If you have just one or two devices out of range of your Wi-Fi and those devices happen to have an onboard Ethernet port you can run an Ethernet cable to these devices to bypass Wi-Fi all together.  Alternatively you might prefer to use an Ethernet over power adapter which uses the existing electrical cabling in your home to send and receive the network signal.
  • Add an access point to your network.  An access point is a stand-alone device that allows you to create a wireless network, go back to the flood light thought experiment to figure out where you would place a second access point in your house to extend your coverage.
  • Commercial Wi-Fi systems are now very affordable and are so much better than home routers with built-in Wi-Fi.  If you need Wi-Fi coverage over a large area (including outdoors) or you just want to make sure you’ve got the best Wi-Fi system for your home or office you should seek professional advice from Australia Wide I.T.

 

 

 

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