Getting More from Wireless
So you have broadband internet in your home and it comes with home wireless. The cable guy showed up, plugged it in, and maybe asked you what you wanted to name your network. Your devices are connecting, but there are some “advanced” things to think about with a wireless network.
Most modern wireless routers (the little box that gives you your wireless signal), broadcast on two different frequencies: 2.4 Gigahertz (GHz) and 5 GHz.
The 2.4GHz signal is slower speed (max 150 Megabytes per Second (Mbps)) but has a longer effective range (about 100 to 150 feet from the router).
The 5GHz signal is faster (max 1300 Mbps) but has a shorter effective range (about 30 to 50 feet from the router). 5GHz signals are also affected more than 2.4GHz signals by walls and floors.
If you are able, you should connect your primary devices (your main computers or tablets, Gaming Systems) to the 5GHz network and any other, secondary devices (Alexa, Home Security Systems, low use devices) to the 2.4 GHz network.
Some network providers (Comcast/Xfinity for example) use routers that will make that decision for you depending on how each device connects. This optimization is done solely on the quality of the connection to each device on each network (it will either use the 5GHz or the 2.4 GHz depending on how good the signal strength is).
Here are a few things you can do to help make the most of your network:
Your Neighbor’s Network
If you have nearby neighbors (in an apartment or homes very close together) your wireless network may be picking up interference from another network. The 2.4GHz signal best runs on “channels” 1, 6, or 11. If you have a competing network running on the same channel as your network this may cause the interference. The 5GHz signal is usually set by default to channels 36, 40, 44, and 48. Again another signal nearby running on the same channel can be an issue.
There are several free phone apps that will show you all of the nearby wireless networks and what channels they are using (I use one called Wifi Analyzer). Consult the owner’s manual of your router on where to change the channel settings (or contact a local professional to help you set this on your network).
Bluetooth devices such as headsets, keyboards, and mice can interfere with the Wi-Fi signals. Bluetooth uses a technology called frequency hopping, which means it skips around the 2.4 GHz band, up to 1600 times per second(!)
Using a 5GHz network will avoid this issue. If you are having lots of connection issues with your wifi, try shutting down bluetooth devices temporarily and see if the connection improves.
Baby Monitors, Walkie-Talkies and Other Radios
Baby monitors, walkie talkies, or even radio locator tags tend to use the same frequency as older wireless devices and will therefore interfere with the 2.4 GHz band.
Temporarily shutting these devices down to see if your network improves is a good troubleshooting step.
Walls made from Concrete, Masonry, or Thick Timbers can decrease the strength of a wireless signal as it passes through. In-floor radiant heating will also interfere if the signal is going between levels of your home.
Perhaps the most common cause of weakened Wi-Fi signals – don't place your router or other wireless access point behind the TV!
If there are areas of your home that just do not have good wireless strength, there are several good, low cost devices that can be easily added to your network (say at a point halfway to the area with poor coverage) that will boost the signal in the “dead area”. I have included one option here: