Whether teaching classes remotely or collaborating with other professionals, here are some less well-known ways to improve connection speeds on home Wi-Fi networks…
Change the channel that the router is transmitting on by using a free phone app to check which channel has the least ‘crowding’ and manually selecting. The default channel setting will be ‘Auto,’ which is not necessarily the best.
Relocate the router placing it as high as possible to reduce the effect of physical barriers such as walls and glass surfaces. The same app that helped with the channel selection can often advise where to place it.
Purchase a pair of powerline Wi-Fi adapters which use the home electrical circuit to carry data. One adapter connects to the router with an Ethernet cable and plugs into an electrical socket. The second adapter connects to the target device also via an electric socket and Ethernet cable. They are easy to setup and are a good alternative to running long Ethernet cables around walls and into other rooms.
Those with a dual band router should use the 5GHz network which is less prone to interference from other Wi-Fi networks, microwave ovens, baby monitors and so on. It is ideal for video streaming and conferencing, although it has a shorter physical range. Meanwhile, the 2.4GHz network can be used for phones, tablets and any older devices (which may in some scenarios slow down the network). This will help to balance how all the household devices connect to the network and share bandwidth.
For laptops in particular, the Wi-Fi antennae inside the device is also an important factor on performance. Typically antennae are located in the lid of the laptop, but metal inside the device can impact Wi-Fi reception. Lenovo ThinkPad and ThinkBook laptops feature special radio-transparent materials designed to retain a high-quality signal over distance, even with disruptive barriers.
When to buy a new router?
- If the router is 802.11g, a or b standard, the technology is more than 10 years old and is likely to be a bottleneck, so upgrading to a new router is essential. If the router is 802.11ac or 802.11n an upgrade will also be beneficial, especially if there are many devices in the house connecting to the same network.
- When shopping, look for a dual-band router that offers both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies and with the latest 802.11ax standard, also known as WiFi 6 which was just released in 2019.
- To get the benefits of WiFi 6, any PC connected to the network will also need to support it. This likely means either buying a new PC, since WiFi 6 was introduced only in late 2019, or purchasing a WiFi 6 adapter that plugs into a USB port of the PC.