How do I get faster Wi-Fi speed at home?
Andrew Moore-Crispin • September 10, 2019if( has_post_thumbnail( $post_id ) ): ?>
Wi-Fi is not your home Internet connection. Your home Internet connection is not Wi-Fi.
There. Common misconception dispelled.
When Internet providers claim to have the fastest Wi-Fi, they may not be lying… but they sure aren’t telling the whole truth. Wi-Fi is an industry-standard. The newest standard, 802.11ac, is the fastest Wi-Fi. No one and everyone can lay a claim to offering the fastest Wi-Fi.
The question that brought you here wasn’t “what intentionally confusing games do conglomerate Internet service providers play,” though. The question that brought you here was “how do I get faster Wi-Fi speed at home” or perhaps “how do I get rid of Wi-Fi dead zones.”
So let’s talk about that.
Getting faster Wi-Fi at home
Wi-Fi issues forth from a wireless router. That can be a thing you purchased online or off the shelf of your favorite electronics retailer. Increasingly, Wi-Fi radios are built into the Internet box your service provider gives you. The Ting Internet Box, for example, includes Wi-Fi and supports the latest, fastest standard.
Supply and demand
An analogy: consider your Internet connection as the water service coming up from the street and into your home. In some cases, there’s a supply issue: an old copper Internet connection, for example, might not have enough bandwidth for everything you do online. Just like an old waterline coming into a house might lack pressure such that when someone flushes the toilet, the water flow is affected at the faucet.
Think of your home network as plumbing, taking the connection that comes in at a single point in your home and distributing all over the house. In this example, your Internet-connected devices (and there are a lot of Internet-connected devices) are your fixtures.
If you’ve got gigabit fiber Internet, you certainly aren’t dealing with a supply issue. You’re dealing with a plumbing (home network) issue or fixture (device) issue.
How Wi-Fi works
Another analogy: Consider your Wi-Fi router as a garden sprinkler. It’s rebroadcasting the water in a pattern. Anything in the sprinkler pattern is going to get wet. In the same way, anything in the Wi-Fi router’s broadcast area is going to get connected.
If you have a perfectly circular yard with no obstructions, you can water every square inch with a single well-placed sprinkler head. We’re going to guess you don’t have a perfectly circular yard though. In the real world, a sprinkler is going to hit some spots perfectly and other spots little or not at all. Things like trees and garden structures get in the way. Your garden beds might need more water than your grass, for example.
Even the best sprinkler in the world is going to miss some spots.
You selling sprinklers or Internet access though?
Consider your Wi-Fi router, whatever form it takes, as a single sprinkler. If you live in an apartment or small home, this single, solitary router will probably reach every corner. If you have a larger, multi-storey house or if you want Wi-Fi out in the yard, a single router will quickly prove inadequate.
Just like in our sprinkler example, Wi-Fi is susceptible to obstacles and some devices and applications have greater demands.
How to fix Wi-Fi deadzones
Groundwork laid, let’s look at how we can fix Wi-Fi issues at home. If you’re suffering with Wi-Fi deadzones in your home, you have a couple of options.
A wireless repeater takes the Wi-Fi signal coming from the router, boosts and rebroadcasts it. They’re easy to install but getting them properly placed and configured can be a challenge. Wireless repeaters have some advantages and disadvantages to weigh in the balance.
- Work with your current router
- Setup woes
- Spotty signal
A Wi-Fi repeater is a piece of networking gear. If you bought and setup your own router and are comfortable with that kind of DIY configuration and setup in a control panel, a repeater or two might be just what the Wi-Fi doctor ordered.
Mesh networking is a more elegant, although costlier, solution to Wi-Fi dead zones. Instead of picking up and rebroadcasting a signal, mesh effectively builds a big blanket of Wi-Fi all over the house. If you do find a deadzone, livening things up is as simple as adding or relocating a mesh node.
- Simple setup
- Easy management app
- Ubiquitous wireless
- Replaces your Wi-Fi router
A mesh networking system is all about simplicity. Setup is relatively simple. An easy-to-use app on your phone will let you take control and tell you everything you need to know about your home network.
Honestly, the product names alone speak volumes. Which system sounds easier to setup: Google Wifi or Netgear AC1200 WiFi Range Extender EX6150? Linksys Velop or TP-Link RE350 AC1200 Wi-Fi Range Extender?
Mesh or Wi-Fi extender?
Which one should you choose? The biggest deciding factors are cost and simplicity. Mesh costs more but is simple and elegant. Wi-Fi extenders are inexpensive but not so user-friendly. The choice is yours.
All things being equal though, unless you have very specific home network requirements or a router you absolutely love, go mesh.
Note: The products included in this post are illustrative. We’re not specifically recommending or endorsing any products. We’re certainly not advertising any products. Except perhaps crazy fast fiber Internet from Ting. That stuff is pretty good and you should get it.