A fast, reliable home internet connection is now more important than it has ever been. Whether you are working from home, streaming videos, gaming or browsing online content, a slow or unreliable internet connection can be extremely frustrating. Understanding the reasons behind a slow Wi-Fi connection is the first step in improving your home network. While many factors are out of your control, one or more of these five common, fixable issues may be behind your poor Wi-Fi signal.
1. Router placement
There are many physical factors which can contribute to a poor wireless signal. They include distance, interference, and physical barriers. Wi-Fi signals (particularly 5g) decrease in strength significantly over a distance and can be blocked by physical obstacles including walls, home appliances, furniture, and doors. When deciding where to put your router keep these things in mind:
- Place your router in a central location – Wi-Fi routers transmit a signal in all directions. This means keeping your router close to the centre of your house will ensure more consistent coverage.
- Elevate your router – Wi-Fi routers tend to transmit a signal out and downwards. For this reason, and to avoid obstacles, you should consider placing your router in an elevated location. This could be a bookshelf, a bench or a wall mount.
- Keep your router in the open – Many people keep their Wi-Fi routers in cupboards or behind furniture. While some materials impede the signal less than others, any physical barrier can absorb the radio waves emitted by your router and reduce the quality of your signal. Consider putting your router near an open doorway or hallway to give your Wi-Fi signal the best chance of moving freely through your home.
2. Frequency bands (5Ghz or 2.4Ghz?)
Most modern routers have now made the switch from single-band to dual-band, meaning they can operate in both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz Wi-Fi frequency bands. Deciding when to connect with one or the other can be confusing. Consequently, people often assume 5Ghz connections are always the better option. That is not the case, and there are situations where there is a clear advantage to using either.
Frequency bands designate the range of wireless frequencies which can be used to transmit information. Lower frequency bands have a lower rate of information transfer but have a longer signal range. They can also penetrate physical barriers more easily due to their longer wavelength. This means devices far from the router in your home may benefit from the longer range and increased physical penetration of a 2.4Ghz connection while devices closer to the router will benefit from the faster transfer speeds offered by a 5Ghz connection.
A 5Ghz connection also has a significantly higher number of channels than 2.4Ghz, meaning more channels can be combined for a higher channel bandwidth and there is less chance of interference. If several 2.4Ghz channels are already being used (by neighbours or by connected devices on your own network), you may want to consider switching to your router’s 5Ghz network.
3. Router Care
Maintaining a fast, reliable Wi-Fi connection means keeping your router in working order.
- Keep it cool – Like any other computing device, allowing your router to overheat can lead to poor performance and physical damage over time. Keeping your router in the open and away from direct exposure to sunlight also provides ventilation, allowing it to shed excess heat into the air.
- Clean your router – Over time, dust can accumulate in your router’s vents. This can reduce airflow, which can lead to overheating. To prevent the buildup of dust, consider cleaning it with a can of compressed air.
- Update your firmware – Like your computer, you should keep your router firmware up to date to maximize its performance. Firmware updates can include performance enhancements, bug fixes, and patches for known security problems.
4. Number of users
If you share a home internet connection with multiple people, you will likely experience slower internet speeds. That is because the bandwidth of your internet connection is allocated to your internet access point, not to each device.
Typically home networks use a single wireless access point, meaning each simultaneous data transfer through your internet connection takes a bite out of the bandwidth allocated by your ISP. Additionally, Wi-Fi routers have limits on the number of connections and quantity of data transfer they can handle. If the devices on your network are transferring more data than your router can handle your internet connection will slow down significantly.
You can increase the total bandwidth of your home internet connection by changing your internet plan. You can support more wireless connections on your home network by installing a second wireless access point. Connecting devices through ethernet instead of Wi-Fi provides faster speeds and can also take some load off your wireless network.
5. Lack of coverage
Your Wi-Fi signal may be worse in some rooms compared to other rooms which may mean that your house may be too big for the range of your wireless access point.
This can be fixed by installing a mesh network or a range extender. Read our article on mesh networks and range extenders here.
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