It is an unavoidable truth that the internet has become acritical part of our daily lives. Whether at our place of work or in our living room, access to a fast reliable connection is essential.
The most important segment of your connection is how the internet is brought to your house. The majority of homes in our area have access to high-speed cable or fiber from a provider like Verizon or Comcast. This connection will ultimately determine maximum speed and throughput and should be considered first. After this is evaluated, the way Wi-Fi is implemented should be considered.
Wireless internet is broadcast to our devices using radio waves broadcast from a wireless router or wireless access point. It often works great, but not always. In a corporate setting a reliable partner such as Howard Tech can help optimize the Wi-Fi across the environment, but what if we want a better Wi-Fi experience at home?
The important question to ask, “What does good Wi-Fi mean to me?” Once you can define what that means, you can begin looking for a solution that fits your needs.
Here are two examples of common home Wi-Fi problems and possible solutions:
- We are a family of 5 with 3 kids and when everyone is home (on a device) our internet is too slow.
Many of us simply default to using the Wi-Fi features built into the router that our Internet Provider installed when they hooked up service. If you find that having everyone home impacts your wireless connection but doesn’t impact a computer ethernet-cable-connected to the router, you will want to consider adding a modern Wireless Router. The number of users on a Wi-Fi network is probably the most common item that can impact performance. It’s simple enough, there is a limited amount of wireless bandwidth and more users means less bandwidth to go around.
Think of it like a highway; if there are 5 cars using 2 lanes, they should all travel at highway speeds. But if those 2 lanes host 250 cars, traffic will slow all of them down. In this analogy, the number of lanes and their speed limits can be equated to the technology your Wi-Fi devices use to broadcast their signals.
In years past, these various broadcast technologies had opaque labels like 802.11n, or 802.11ac. Today’s manufacturers have simplified the labeling as Wi-Fi 4, 5, or 6. Wi-Fi 6 devices that will be available this year will support the most traffic lanes and highest throughput, though most of your existing devices will continue to connect using the Wi-Fi 4 and 5 specifications. Each of these is backward-compatible, you won’t need to replace your phone, TV, or your Roomba just to connect to a new Wi-Fi router.
- My Wi-Fi is great in one area of my house but in otherplaces it is terrible. Sometimes I can’t even connect.
Range issues can impact both quality and reliability of a Wi-Fi connection. Radio signals like the ones used by your Wi-Fi router become weaker with distance. They can be completely obstructed by some building materials like concrete block or corrupted by electrical interference like microwaves and hair dryers. Centralizing your Wi-Fi device in your home may allow your router to broadcast more evenly throughout, but this is rarely a viable solution.
A better option is to place small devices throughout your house that broadcast your Wi-Fi signal. Multiple broadcast points create a “mesh” of internet in your home, allowing for a greater coverage area. This is called a “mesh network” and there are many products on the market that do this. These devices use a special back-channel to communicate and coordinate with each other, making sure every connected device is getting the best experience possible. You can add more access points depending on the size of your home. A smaller home may only need one or two additional access points while larger homes may need 10 or more.
Improved Wi-Fi at home can benefit our lives in many ways from improved sibling relationships, to faster and better gaming, and to a frustration-free work-from-home experience. So ask yourself “what does better mean to me” then find the right product to help you get there.
“Best” products change on a seasonal basis, but blog posts live forever. If you’d like additional insight or recommendations, please reach out to us at Howard Tech Advisors. We can’t install or troubleshoot your home network, but we can answer questions and offer advice. If you’d like to learn more about these devices, you can read about them and see specific recommendations here:
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