Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

4 tips for improving your Wi-Fi network

With Wi-Fi, the line between “want” and “need” can be fuzzy.

For some of us, it’s a source of entertainment; for others, it’s an essential connection to the world. For most, it’s both. One way or another, we’re dependent on a high-quality internet connection. According to a recent survey, 75% of Americans say a week without Wi-Fi would leave them grumpier than a week without coffee.

Oh, the horror.

To help prevent breakdowns in connections and users alike, Network Engineering Technology instructor Guy Mitchell (Computer Systems Technology ’89) has 4 tips to help improve residential Wi-Fi networks.

  1. The role of the router

A wireless router is the heart of a Wi-Fi network. It pumps information between devices, printers, other gadgets and the web through the modem. Some modems have routers built in, but not all.  

Not all routers are created equal. Wireless A, Wireless B and Wireless G routers are out-of-date and slow. If you’re planning an 8-hour online videogame marathon, go with Wireless N or Wireless AC, which offers the fastest speed.

  1. Keep your technology current

“If you are still on the older technologies, then you are going to run into problems,” says Mitchell.

Having the latest gadgets will also improve your Wi-Fi connection and speed. Routers funnel the internet to devices through a variety of frequencies. Older gadgets – early generation iPhones, iPads, Google tablets, etc. – are capable of using only a few of those frequencies.

If everyone in the house uses older devices, they’ll “saturate” those frequencies, says Mitchell, slowing the connection.

  1. Eliminate “neighbour net”

Protect your speed with a password that’s hard to hack. “It’s important to have a good password that isn’t easy to crack,” says Mitchell. It’s how you can ensure you don’t end up sharing your bandwidth. A neighbour – especially in condos (where “neighbour net” can be common) – can overload your router with downloads and Netflix marathons.

  1. Choose a central location

Basements aren’t always the best place to install internet hardware, says Mitchell. Since Wi-Fi signals struggle to pass through metal, don’t put a router below furnace ducts. Other structures like walls and floors can slightly degrade signals, Mitchell adds. And never place one next to a microwave. The electromagnetic interference can wreak havoc on a Wi-Fi signal.

Instead, try to find a central location. Sometimes a signal from the best router on the market can’t reach the odd room. A Wi-Fi range extender, repeater or booster – which sell from $15 to $300 – can help keep the outer limits of your home connected.

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