Get the Most Out of Your Home Wi-Fi Network

Back to Customer Education

Perhaps your browsing speed seems to be slowing to a crawl or you can’t stream a video you’d really like to watch.  Maybe you work from home, so it’s vital to you that your connection to the Internet is strong and uninterrupted.  Maybe between your families’ tablets, wireless phones, gaming systems, TVs and computers, good Wi-Fi is essential to your household, but has become less than great.  There are many reasons why your connection may be less than ideal, but some of the most likely can be simple to fix, without costing you a dime.  Even if everything seems to be working well, keep these tips in mind to get the most out of your home Wi-Fi Network:

Where should the wireless router be located?  It may be tempting to place your router inside a cabinet and out of the way or next to a window where the cable comes into your home, but that may not be best.  A wireless router needs open spaces, away from walls and obstructions.  If your wireless router has external antennas, orient them vertically to bump up coverage and if it’s possible, elevate the router too. 

What’s the frequency, Kenneth?  If you have a dual-band router, you’ll likely get better performance from the 5GHz band instead of the more common 2.4GHz band.  This can be changed in your router’s administrator interface.

What channel are your using?  Just like the walkie-talkies some of us used as kids, all modern routers are multichannel.  They can switch across different channels when communicating with your devices.  Most of us use the default channel, but if neighboring wireless networks are using the same, it can cause signal congestion.  You can change the channel in your wireless network’s administrator interface, typically under the basic wireless setting category.

Does your router need a firmware update?  Router manufacturers are always tweaking software to increase performance and speed.  Depending on the manufacturer and model, most current routers have the update process built into the administration interface, so it’s just a matter of selecting the firmware upgrade button.  Others may require you to find and download the firmware from the manufacturer’s website.

Is your hardware obsolete?  If the wireless router is running on old hardware, you won’t receive the best performance.  If your router is a few years old, it is probably still using the 802.11g or older standard.    The maximum throughput for 802.11g is 54 Mbps.  The more modern 802.11n is capable of 300 Mbps and the latest, 802.11ac goes up to 1 Gbps.  Contrary to the old adage, it may be time to consider a replacement, even if the router isn’t broken.  In addition, your PC may need an adapter to be compatible with newer routers.

Are you in control of your router’s priorities? Most modern routers come with Quality-of-Service tools to limit the amount of bandwidth that apps use.  That way, if you are video streaming or using Voice over IP, you can make sure they have priority over of your teenage son watching videos.  These settings are typically under the advanced settings in the network administrator’s interface.

Could your antenna be the problem?  Would you benefit from a wireless range extender? Routers are only capable of broadcasting reliably up to a certain distance, after that, the signal gets weak.  If your area is large, or if there are thick walls or other physical structures that block signals, you may need a wireless range extender.  It looks similar to a router, but works differently.  A wireless range extender picks up the existing Wi-Fi signal from your wireless router and rebroadcasts it.  It needs to be close enough to the main router to pick up a good signal.

Do you need additional access points?  Access Points can be costly, but work together to create a mesh network in which each unit transmits signals to each other.  This solution is best if you are covering a large space, like multiple floors or separate buildings.