Having a fibre, fixed-LTE, or 5G broadband package is just one part of connecting your home to fast Internet.
Ideally, a wired link to your devices should be considered in cases where a highly reliable, low latency network is required.
Unfortunately, this is not always possible with the wide number of Internet-capable devices in your house that do not feature an Ethernet port.
Gadgets such as smartphones, tablets, smart appliances, as well as certain laptops and smart TVs will require wireless connectivity provided by a Wi-Fi router.
However, even the latest and best routers cannot perform to their full potential when not used correctly.
MyBroadband spoke to MiRO Distribution – one of South Africa’s leading providers of wireless networking products – to learn more about the ways in which you can ensure your Wi-Fi network offers wide coverage and fast speeds.
The perfect spot
MiRO said the most common mistake many users made was to try and place the Wi-Fi router out of sight.
This inevitably leads to the router being placed close to certain vertical flat surfaces or hidden in a closed space.
“When it is up against a wall, mirror, window or water features – such as fish tanks and fountains – this could potentially obstruct and reflect the signal, subsequently reducing the Wi-Fi signal coverage,” MiRO said.
“The perfect placement for your Wi-Fi router would be in a central open space,” MiRO stated.
To allow for this, modern Wi-Fi routers and mesh nodes are now being designed with aesthetics in mind so users won’t feel they need to be hidden.
MiRO further advised that the router not be placed near any other frequency-emitting devices.
“Some electronics may emit electromagnetic emissions that may interfere with Wi-Fi. These could clash with the frequency used by your wireless network and can weaken the signal strength,” MiRO said.
These could include baby monitors, Bluetooth peripherals, or even microwave ovens.
“Luckily Wi-Fi technology has also progressed, and routers are capable of minimising interference by automatically changing channels and through a technology called beam-forming,” MiRO said.
“With the new Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 standards, home routers now also operate on 5GHz, mitigating the impact of interference from microwave ovens.”
Older Wi-Fi routers which operate purely on 2.4GHz may be particularly susceptible to microwave ovens, which operate on the same frequency band.
MiRO emphasised that this does not mean a Wi-Fi router is dangerous to your health.
“Microwaves are generally set to 900W or more, where your Wi-Fi device outputs only 0.1W or less on 2.4GHz,” it stated.
There are several solutions to consider if the Wi-Fi coverage in your home is insufficient and results in no signal or slow speeds.
MiRO recommended the top option was Wi-Fi mesh technology – which caters for the aesthetically conscious power consumer.
“When placed around the home, the individual Wi-Fi mesh nodes will ensure strong Wi-Fi coverage throughout the house and is the silver bullet to dead spots,” MiRO stated.
Another possibility is a range extender which can be plugged into the wall of rooms adjacent to where the Wi-Fi router is located.
“The Wi-Fi performance might suffer a bit, but it will extend the coverage into previously dead spots,” MiRO said.
This technology isn’t recommended for large homes, however.
There are also Ethernet powerline adaptors which can be plugged into your house’s electric wiring to create a LAN network between the plug points. These are available in both wired and Wi-Fi options.
Lastly, MiRO said a cheaper old-school suggestion would be to replace the dipole antennas of the router.
Don’t use a Faraday cage
One of the stranger trends MiRO has noticed emerging is the use of Faraday cages to block Wi-Fi signals from routers out of a concern for its negative impact on health.
A faraday cage is basically a container made from steel mesh which can confine wireless signals emitted from a router.
“As a result of global 5G conspiracy theories, more and more people now try to use Faraday cages to block wireless signals around their Wi-Fi routers, thinking it would make the device less harmful, although Wi-Fi is already harmless.”
“These cages are typically used in testing and lab environments. A good quality faraday cage should completely isolate the signal, so the idea is bizarre,” MiRO said.
“Trapping these signals in a Faraday cage means you reduce or block the range of the router, which renders the router useless,” it added.
If, however, a user would want to limit the radius of their Wi-Fi signal for security reasons, they can limit its output power in the router’s settings.
However, MiRO said routers automatically adjust their output power to the environment, so changing his would be tampering with your device’s optimal settings.
“The best defence against unwanted users is to hide your network SSID, set a very secure password and ensure your router uses WPA2+AES encryption,” MiRO advised.