After settling into your new home, you may run into some issues you did not think of before. From the ergonomics of the arrangement to certain essentials you may have forgotten to buy before moving in. One of the many difficulties homeowners encounter however has to do with their connectivity. Whether you live in a multi-storey landed property, a maisonette, or even a comfortable 3-bedroom flat, wifi connectivity is almost always a problem. You could find the wifi signal getting weaker in your bedrooms, toilets, or even when you are directly above it! This tends to be more problematic when your bedroom is separated from the router by a few walls, and you may even end up losing signal completely, and unknowingly drop to cellular data when watching videos.
With the improvements in technology to increase wifi speeds and access, extending the range, and even the strength of your wifi signal can be easily done. Whether you want to overhaul your wifi completely with a new router and plan, using old solutions like getting wifi range extenders, or trying out a wifi mesh network, there are all sorts of solutions for your budget.
Moving your router
Signal does not just get weaker the further away you are, but is also weakened as it passes through structures like walls and floors and cupboards
The simplest solution to improving the wifi at home could just be to move the router to a more central location in your home. You can think of your wifi signal strength as a target board. The closer you are to it, the stronger the signal, and the faster the wifi. Conversely, the further away you are, and the more structures between you and the router, the weaker the signal, and the slower the network speed. This applies as well if you are keeping your router hidden in a cupboard. The walls of the cupboard weaken the signal. Depending on where the broadband, or the fibre optic point, in your home is, you may have to get a longer cable for your router to be placed more strategically in the home. Try to keep it as close to where you need it the most, like your workstation, but centrally enough that you get signal in the further corners of your home.
Changing your broadband plan
Depending on what your current plan with your telco is, you may be on a slower cable broadband plan. Cable broadband is much slower than fibre broadband. Cable broadband reaches maximum speeds of about 100 mbps when you are plugged directly to the outlet. Meaning when you are connected via wifi and you are some distance away from the router, your internet speed is going to suffer and you will have an agonisingly slow connection. Fibre broadband is much faster, reaching speeds of up to 1 gbps (10 times that of cable broadband), making your wifi connections even faster if you were plugged in directly to a cable broadband.
Upgrading your router
Most newer routers offer 2 types of frequencies, 2.4Ghz and 5.0 GHz. The 2.4 Ghz frequency provides signal at a longer range, but a slower speed. The 5.0 Ghz frequency provides wifi at a higher speed, but with lower range, and less penetration through solid objects such as walls and floors. Make sure you are connected to the correct frequency relative to your position form the router.
More technically, you can also take a look at your current router and see if its due for an upgrade. Your service provider may have provided you with a router at the time you signed the contract with them, but with newer and faster routers coming out every year, yours may have fallen behind the rest. A simple trick is to look at the bands the router provides for its frequencies. Older routers run on 802.11n or 802.11g bands. These are slower than the newest bands which run on 802.11AC. The differences are most pronounced if you are using new devices such as the latest iPhone or laptop.
Using a wifi booster
This has been a common go-to solution for many years now. Third party devices are often used to ‘extend’ the range of your wifi, or even market to increase the strength of your network. This is usually not true, all wifi range extenders work from the base network speed of your router and can only extend the range with some limitations.
Wifi extenders increase the range of your wifi by using your existing network
The image shows you the general concept of how wifi range extenders work. They use the wifi signal from your existing router and extends it to other parts of your home where the signal would normally not reach.
Over the years, there have been several generations of wifi range extenders, starting with the first generation of wireless repeaters. Wireless repeaters, as the name implies, just repeats the original network from your router. It connects to the routers wifi network and amplifies it, although often causing it to become less reliable.
The second generation is wireless range extenders. These work similarly to repeaters as they re-broadcast the original signal from your router. However, these usually come with 2 frequencies, 2.4 Ghz and 5.0 Ghz, a step up from wireless repeaters. With both older generations, a common problem is location and placement. As they connect wirelessly to your original wifi network, they need to be close enough to the router to get a good signal to rebroadcast, but far enough that it reaches the rest of your home.
The current generation of wifi range extenders is called wifi network extenders. Instead of connecting to your wifi network via a wireless connection, it uses a wired connection to the router. This makes it much more reliable and consistent but is limited by the length of the wire you have if you do not have access points built into your home.
Switch to a mesh wifi network
Mesh wifi is a combination of wifi boosters and a router. Instead of having a third-party device ‘boost’ your signal, you can get the same brand of devices which extend the range of your wifi network all around your house. This makes it easy and convenient for you and overcomes brand or version incompatibility with some third-party wifi boosters. The mesh network comes with a few sets of nodes, the number depends on how big your house is, and you can even have one in each room if you want!
This means you get the same degree of connectivity and same wifi speeds all throughout your house. Mesh networks are also smart, unlike boosters where you have to log into different wifi networks depending on where you are in the home, mesh systems use one single login. This means, wherever you are in the home, the network will automatically switch to the optimal node without you having to do anything. This seamless switching makes sure you have no wifi dead spots no matter where you are! Current mesh networks available in Singapore are Google Wifi and Xiaomi.