Wireless (Wi-Fi) has become the standard Internet connection in many households, connecting to laptops, tablets, smartphones, smart TV’s, thermostats, cameras, game systems, and more! But Wi-Fi as a technology doesn’t work perfectly for every device and under every situation. Here are the factors that affect your Wi-Fi performance and how to best handle them:
Distance + Interference – Wi-Fi loses speed fairly quickly as the distance and number of obstacles in the path increases. Signal does go through some doors, floors and walls but eventually, the signal just doesn’t reach or is too slow for the application. Fluorescent lights, appliances, electrical outlets and power cords can interfere with the signal, adding another complication. While it is more common for people to have an “electronics closet” in their home to centrally store their audio/visual equipment, this is not the place for your router due the high electrical interferrence.
Connected Devices – Your devices, being on the other end of the Wi-Fi communication, can also contribute to a performance lag. The Wi-Fi antenna and electronics in your device may not perform the same and its power output may vary (e.g. a smartphone does not send back to the router at the same power the router sent to it). Also, any older devices (using the “G” wireless standard) can affect the performance of other devices in your house because the router takes longer to send/receive data with the older device.
Connect to the best frequency – Some routers are “dual band” meaning they broadcast a 2.4 Gigahertz signal anda 5.8 Gigahertz signal at the same time. Connect your newer devices and those that need faster speed to the 5.8 Ghz signal and older devices or those that aren’t streaming/gaming/downloading to the 2.4 Ghz signal. By spreading them out (over the proper signals) you will have less fewer wireless congestion/conflicts between your devices and the router.
Hard-wire to Router – The best approach for stationary devices that typically need faster speed is to connect them directly to the back of the router with Ethernet. This is called “hard-wiring.” Ethernet is faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi. Plus, if you move a “bandwidth hog” like a Smart TV streaming Netflix in HD off of Wi-Fi and onto Ethernet, your Wi-Fi will be that much less congested. (Those devices still must be a factor in your overall speed consideration but at least they won’t slow down your Wi-Fi)
Internet Speed – Behind it all is the overall speed of your connection which is shared by all of your connected devices and affected by all of these Wi-Fi factors. How much speed you need depends on (a) how many devices you have connected (b) what you are doing with the Internet (e.g. streaming, email, Facebook, shopping, etc.) and (c) how much the above factors are affecting your Wi-Fi signal. As these three increase, so should the Internet speed you subscribe to in order to have an Internet service that meets your needs.
Downloading Over Wi-Fi – When you download large files, the file protocol is to request the maximum bandwidth available to complete the download faster. But whatever time it takes (from a few seconds to a few minutes– or more), that precious bandwidth will be unavailable to other devices connected on your Wi-Fi. A good practice is to plan or schedule large downloads for times when fewer devices are using the connection so your download does not slow everything else down.
Actions You Can Take To Improve Your Wi-Fi/Internet Performance:
1) Start with the right Internet speed (consider # of devices, applications, and signal loss)
2) Place the router as close to the areas you would like coverage; place up high if possible
3) Replace/remove any old devices that might slow the network down too much
4) Add wireless access points to extend your signal to keep the wireless speed loss to a minimum
5) Connect stationary and speed-critical devices with a direct-connected Ethernet cable
6) Schedule max-bandwidth applications (downloads, updates) for minimal interference with other devices/users
7) Contact Tri-County Communications if you have any questions!