|Is your Wi-Fi network more important than sex? Surprising data from March 2015 IDC study on home networks, sponsored by Linksys|
Since the early days of computing, sharing content from place to place has been a challenge. Networks in the old days required installation by those who were expertly trained in their field. Small businesses used “sneakernet” (the process of carrying disks from one computer to the other). Now we have wireless connections and we all share. Yet in the age of this cutting edge technology, we often find ourselves waiting for that Netflix movie to stop stuttering or pixelating. Buffering is just plain annoying.
The first thing we think of, (and the most common solution) would be to purchase higher speed plan from our internet service provider. But wait before you make a sizeable ongoing investment. There’s a whole lot more that you can do on your end.
#TIP: If you haven’t spoken to your ISP in over a year, give them a call and they will probably offer you savings on your current plan with faster internet included. I just did that and doubled my speed.Your internet connection comes in via a cable of some sort and is received by a modem. To build a wireless network, you cable the modem to a router, which broadcasts your internet thoughout your home or office. You may get a fast signal coming in, but what happens at your end can make a big difference in the quality of how the signal is delivered to your devices.
How many devices do you currently connect to the internet?Take a moment to count them. Today we demand a lot from our networks. In my home, we have smart TVs, a gaming platform, multiple tablets and smartphones, Nest thermostats, WeMo security cameras, music streaming devices, satellite TV adapters, a weather station, wireless printers and, of course laptops. Not every device is online all the time, but it would be fair to say that we have at least 10 devices connecting to the internet at any one moment. What about at your place? Make a list and see how many device are competing for your bandwidth.
Where is your router?Ideally you should position the router in the most central location in your home, preferably on top of a desk or (even better) on top of a bookshelf. If you have a multi-story home, its best to put your router on the 1st floor higher up in the room like on a book shelf so the wireless signal can be closer to devices on the second floor.
What is in “line of sight” of your router?I realized that I had my router on top of a desk, but on the other side of the wall was a kitchen counter with a granite backsplash. Granite degrades a Wi-Fi signal as well as all of the pipes and appliances in the kitchen. Centrally located brick fireplaces, fish tanks (full of water), built in bookcases, hardwood furniture and even plaster walls are dense objects that cut down your signal. Older routers send the Wi-Fi signal in a single stream. As the signal reaches each device, the strength is leeched until the furthest device has a pathetically weak stream.
Why not consider a Wi-Fi Range Extender?Very few of us live in an ideal world. My router is at the far end of a long, ranch style home. Your home may have more than one story and no doubt you have some dead zones. Because I have almost every barrier to a clear signal, I use a range extender. The best range extenders you can buy are compatible with all brands of routers (even the ones you get from a service provider). You place the range extender halfway between your router and your deadzone. It will pick up the Wi-Fi signal and increase the range. The one I am using, Linksys AC1200 Amplify, model RE6700 will extend your network up to 10,000 square feet.
Does your router support “Dual-Band” and are you taking advantage of it?I first learned about bands when I learned about wireless phones. Their early roots were in the 2.4 GHz band but to beat interference from microwave ovens and went to 5.8 GHz then Dect 6.0. In practice, it was clear that the less crowded the band, the clearer the signal would be. Radio waves are everywhere and older routers only broadcast in that same 2. 4 GHz band.
Without going into a tutorial on radio waves, broadcast frequencies and connectivity, take my word that the 2.4 GHz band has a lot of traffic. It is crowded with cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, baby monitors, garage door openers, microwave ovens and more.
If you have a router that supports Wireless-N or AC, you have two bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Run both at once and let your devices connect to the bands that work best for them. The range of the 5 GHz band is shorter than the 2.4, but the latest routers with this technology have a more sophisticated beamforming antenna array and MU-MIMO.
The 5 GHz has a wider wireless spectrum available compared to the 2.4 GHz, which leads to significantly better performance as the 5 GHz is best for usage that requires uninterrupted throughput. That is why it is recommended for media streaming and transferring music, pictures, and video throughout your home network.
What channel are you using?I know, right? Wi-fi networks use channels! There are 14 available channels in the 2.4 GHz band. If you and your neighbors are using the same channel, it could degrade your signal too. There are a few ways to find out which channel has less traffic. I use an app called WiFi Analyzer (see below). The app will show you all the networks within range of your devices and recommend the best for you to use. You can also use it like I do. I open the app and walk around my house. As I walk, the graph below changes, picking up and dropping new networks as I move (no I do not live next door to a 7-Eleven). After a full walkaround of my home and office, I selected channel 11 for my network.
You can change the broadcast channels of your router from the router’s interface.
How old is your router?No matter how fast your ISP is pushing the internet to your home or office, you will not be able to benefit from speed if you are using old technology. New routers that feature Max-Stream MU-MIMO send out three streams, thereby allowing three devices to basically have their own dedicated high speed connection.
Many people I know are still using the router rented from their ISP, or one they purchased years ago. I remember when wireless-G was cutting edge, then Wireless-N; today it’s Wireless-AC. It’s doubtful that all your current devices support the latest versions of 802.11, but the latest technologies need more throughput as well as bandwidth. Why spend hundreds of dollars on new devices if your current router degrades their performance?
In upcoming posts, I will explain the facts behind the types of 802.11 and the things you need to know before buying a new router. If you have questions about your wireless network, please send them to me and I try to answer in a future post.
This post was sponsored by Linksys