Broadband routers with a Wi-Fi connection are the cornerstone of most household Internet set-ups in South Africa.
The Wi-Fi connection allows multiple devices – such as PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets, TVs, and gaming consoles – to connect simultaneously to a single Internet connection.
Ensuring your Wi-Fi connection is functioning optimally is therefore important when looking at how to improve your online experience.
Below are a number of tips for boosting your home’s Wi-Fi connection.
Update your router’s firmware
Your router’s manufacturers may have released updated firmware for the device recently, which you can usually download via the router’s admin interface.
You can access the admin interface of your router through a web browser (Chrome, Internet Explorer) by typing in a specific address or IP number in the address bar.
The side, back, or bottom of your router normally displays the address, and admin username and password required to access the interface.
Update your router’s firmware on a regular basis to ensure it is always running optimally.
Place your router in the right spot
Router placement is important for a solid Wi-Fi signal.
When finding a spot for your router, make sure you do the following:
- Centre it in your house so signal strength is evenly distributed throughout the building.
- Place your router in the open, not hidden behind walls or bookcases. Use line of sight to determine the least-cluttered position for the router.
- Keep your router off the ground, as some routers broadcast their signal downwards. Place your router in an elevated position.
- Keep your router away from other electronics. TVs, computers, microwaves, and devices with a motor inside can interfere with the router’s signal.
Use a wireless range extender or add access points
If your house is large or has multiple storeys, you may want to consider using a range extender or adding an access point.
Your router’s wireless signal can only function optimally over a certain distance.
A wireless range extender works by taking your router’s Wi-Fi signal and rebroadcasting it over a further distance.
A range extender is also known as a Wi-Fi repeater, and looks similar to a wireless broadband router.
It works by accessing the existing Wi-Fi signal just as a smartphone or laptop would, and rebroadcasts it on to areas where your router’s range cannot reach.
The extender’s placement determines the extended range.
An access point is similar to the range extender, in that it is a device that extends Wi-Fi coverage in your house.
An access point can connect to your primary router via a wired connection, while some units are able to connect over your power lines.
In both cases, the unit sends out a Wi-Fi signal from where it is placed – allowing large and multiple-storey houses to enjoy strong Wi-Fi coverage.
Check the router’s channel
Your router will have a “channel” option in the admin interface, which can be changed when needed.
If you live in an area where multiple wireless routers are active – a complex, block of flats – changing the channel may improve your Wi-Fi’s performance.
If all nearby routers are on the same channel as your router, this may lead to congestion.
To check which channels nearby routers are on, in a Windows PC go to the Command Prompt (type “cmd” in the Start menu to access it) and type in “netsh wlan show all”.
This will show you all close wireless networks and which channels they are on.
Pick one that is the least-used, and set your router to that channel.
Buy a new wireless router, and reset your password
If you are using an old wireless broadband router, consider upgrading to a new device as this may improve the performance of your home’s Wi-Fi signal.
Also ensure that access to your router’s Wi-Fi connection is secured by a strong password.
Neighbours or tenants may be using your broadband connection without your knowledge, which is likely if your password is “123456”, your name, your home address, or any commonly-used combination.
The DIY Solution
Interesting Engineering and KipKay have a do-it-yourself project which promises to help boost your Wi-Fi signal.
The solution requires an empty beer/coke can, a cutting tool, pliers, and Prestik.
Step 1: Wash out the empty can and use the cutting tool to remove the base of the can. Repeat the process at the top of the can, but do not cut all the way around – leave a 3-4cm piece attached.
Step 2: On the opposite side of where the attached piece is, cut down the middle of the can and fan it into a U shape.
Step 3: Take the cut can and place the opening at the top (where you normally drink from) over the antenna on your Wi-Fi router.
Step 4: Fix some Prestik between the base of the antenna and the can to hold it in place.
Step 5: Enjoy an improved Wi-Fi signal by facing the open end of the can in the direction of the devices which are receiving the signal.
The signal the router broadcasts becomes weaker the more distance it has to cover and obstacles it has to overcome. By channelling the signal with the can you improve its strength in that direction.
Note: this solution enhances the signal in a single direction.