Dealing With Slow Wi-Fi?

Wi-fi – or wireless internet – is everywhere these days. You can get it free at hotels, restaurants, and sometimes even in your neighborhood (but you really shouldn’t). But not every wireless access point (AP) is equal. Some wi-fi is blazing fast, while other connections are turtle-slow. So what can you do?

In case you don’t already know the basics of how routers work, let’s give you a quick rundown. Wi-fi data transfers use radio frequencies – either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz (with the faster one being the newer standard). Most of today’s routers allow you to choose which, and smart routers can pick automatically to be sure you’re using the best option. Each frequency has multiple channels: 2.4 GHz has 14 and 5 GHz has 30.

The first thing you need to do to fix slow wi-fi is to ascertain the cause of the speed limitation. Let’s look at some possible causes and how to fix them.

Where is your router?

Where you place your wi-fi router matters. Even moving it just a couple inches can make a really big difference in your connection. Consider these factors:

  1. Height

    : Most people tend to plug in their router into the most accessible outlet and then just set it nearby wherever they can. However, a low shelf (or the floor) are not the optimal location for your wi-fi router. Mounting the router on the wall, up high, away from things that may block or hinder the signal is a better plan.

  2. Surrounding Materials

    : Concrete, metal items, and other electronics can interfere with signal strength and placing your router in a basement is almost certainly going to cause problems with the signal.

  3. Distance

    : While some people want the router to be a background item and not front-and-center, it is important to consider that distance degrades signal. When the router is nearer to the user, the signal strength – and speed – will be better. Your best bet is to place it as close as possible to the center of your home. If you have a large house, or if you don’t have a strong router, then you may want to look into an extender or repeater.

Is Something Interfering?

There are wireless signals all over everywhere! Because you can’t see them, it makes it harder to know what might interfere. To help identify these sources, there is an app available for iOS and Android called “The Architecture of Radio” by Richard Vijgen. It shows public information on satellites, cell towers, and wi-fi to map out the signals around you. Even though the wi-fi frequencies are different from most of these sources, you may still see interference from radio noise.

Some of the sources of signals that can be detrimental to your wi-fi speed include:

  1. Microwaves

    – mainly on 2.4 GHz routers, which are very close to microwaves’ 2.45 GHz frequency, and actually encompasses it, as these routers fluctuate between 2.412 GHz and 2.472 GHz. Usually, microwaves are sufficiently shielded, but poor shielding or damage can allow interference.

  2. Bluetooth

    – these devices also operate at 2.4 GHz. While they are meant to be properly shielded, some are poorly designed and “leak.” Additionally, Bluetooth devices are made to rotate randomly through 70 different channels in an attempt to reduce frequency clash, with changes up to 1600 times every second. The newer ones can avoid channels that are in use or “bad” but interference can still occur occasionally.

  3. Holiday lights

    – the small lights made for holidays such as Halloween or Christmas can give off an electromagnetic field that can disrupt your wi-fi signal. This is more common in lights that flash. Even the LED lights that use flashing chips can cause interference. For that matter, regular light fixtures can have a similar issue, but usually their electromagnetic fields are too small to be a problem.

  4. Neighbors

    – there is a possibility that some (or many) of your neighbors may have wi-fi networks, as well. This can result in an overlap of channels. This is more of an issue in apartments, but can still be an issue in townhouses and even single-family dwellings in houses that are set close to each other. This, too, is usually more of a problem for the older, 2.4 GHz routers, because they are limited to 14 channels. Because of this, while routers are made to choose channels automatically, it can be better to choose the best one yourself and set it.
    Another way neighbors can be an issue to your wi-fi speed is by piggybacking on your network. It is important to have a password protected router with a hard-to-break password, and up-to-date firmware on your router. Check your network occasionally to be sure no suspicious devices are connected.

  5. Family

    – people living in your home can affect the speed. If someone is playing an intensive online game, streaming a movie, or downloading a large file, these are some of the things that can slow down the overall speed of the network, and, by extension, the wi-fi signal. There are ways to adjust which computers or devices get preference within your network.

If none of these apply, but your wi-fi is still slow, give us a call and we’ll help you troubleshoot! 256-520-7327

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