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Guest blog: How to Boost Wireless Connectivity

Guest blog: How to Boost Wireless Connectivity

Guest blog: How to Boost Wireless Connectivity

by Ben Greenwood, founder and editor of TechDrink. There's almost nothing more annoying than slow speeds, lagging and buffering - especially if you're gaming or streaming. And Ben Greenwood from tech blog TechDrink agrees. In fact, he's guest blogging for us today about his bugbear - wireless routers - and how to improve your home's wireless connectivity. Just read on and let us know what you make of his post … Super-fast broadband is a reality for most people these days, with many households enjoying speeds of at least 20Mb and some as much as 120Mb and upwards. Those speeds are only going to get faster as technology improves, but all too often people are let down by their wireless connectivity. It's all well and good having the fastest broadband available to you but it's really of very little use if you have to remain close to your wireless router to enjoy it. This is of particular annoyance to gamers and those who enjoy streaming movies and music to portable devices like laptops, tablets and even smartphones. There are, however, some key things you can do to increase the range of your wireless router so you can enjoy the full benefits of your super-fast broadband from any room in your house and even your garden.

Router Placement

It's common practice to hide your wireless router from view. Unfortunately, this also restricts the range of the thing. Tucking the hardware behind the TV, sofa or bookcase might keep your living room looking nice, but when you wander upstairs with your laptop or tablet and realise that your signal strength has dropped or your connection has been severed completely, the aesthetics of your home will not seem so important. Instead of hiding your router, place it in a prominent position. It doesn't have to be in the centre of your living room floor, but it does need to be unrestricted by things around it. Try high up on a book shelf, on an end table or even on your mantelpiece. Placing it on a windowsill may seem like a good idea too, but your router could receive interference from other wireless networks in your street. By all means give it a go, but be aware that if you don't get the boost in connectivity you were hoping for, that could be the reason. Other potential causes of interference include microwaves, cordless phones, security alarms and even baby monitors. Take all these into account too!

Switch Channel

Wireless routers can operate on one of eleven channels. The one that you're on might not be the best one for your area, so try using some of the other channels until you get the best one in terms of connectivity and range. This may also help you to get round issues with interference from other wireless networks in your area. Switching channels isn't a hugely technical operation, but refer to the user manuals that came with your router to ensure that you don't make any mistakes.

Use Additional Hardware

Using extra hardware with your router can help to boost your WiFi's range and connectivity significantly. The types of hardware you can use include: Wireless Repeater - this will pick up the WiFi signal from your router and boost it to increase its range. Repeaters are becoming more affordable and should provide a solution to your problem. Of course, it's another piece of hardware to find a home for and you'll need to take the same factors into consideration when finding a place for a wireless repeater as you will when looking for somewhere to put your router. Antenna Replacement - if your router allows it, you can unscrew the existing antenna and replace it with a better one to increase the power of your WiFi signal. This can boost speed and range too, although not by nearly as much as using a wireless repeater will.

Upgrade Your Router

While the routers supplied by ISPs do the job nicely for most homes, those requiring a bit more in terms of power and range could consider replacing their router with a more powerful version. The likes of Buffalo Technology, TP Link and Netgear provide more powerful wireless routers than the standard versions given to you when you have your broadband installed and you can get these routers from most computer stores. They can be relatively expensive but they do provide a long term solution and will ensure that you can connect to your wireless network from any room in the house or even your garden!

Don’t rely on Wireless

It may sound daft (and contradicts the title of this article somewhat) but a wired connection is almost always going to out-perform a wireless one, and will be far less susceptible to packet loss, latency and reductions in speed. Don’t be fooled into thinking this means you need to traipse ugly cat-5 cable all over your house either. Powerline/HomePlug adapters are a reasonably priced alternative that let you use the electrical wiring in your house to create a network. Using this network you can connect devices in separate rooms just by connecting them to a nearby Powerline adapter using a short length of cat-5 cable. Make sure you do your research though. Powerline adapters will only work on the same ‘phase’ and are still susceptible to speed deterioration the further apart the two adapters are. If you’re wanting to take full advantage of the speeds fibre optic broadband has to offer then it’s recommended you buy Powerline adapters with an advertised throughput of at least 200Mbps. If you've any wi-fi optimisation tips of your own then please share them with us by leaving a comment below ... This blog post was written by Ben Greenwood - the founder and editor of TechDrink, a technology and social media news and opinion blog based in the UK. For more tips on improving your wireless signal, take a look at our Help & Support pages.

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Not applicable
( THE TRUE REALITY OF SLOW SPEEDS ) THe true reality of slow speeds is not rocket science. You may have an expensive Router,Add ons,other bits and bobs but the TRUE REALITY of all of your slow speeds is getting back to the BASICS. The British Telephone Exchanges are Ancient and need upgrading to give speeds of 20MB or more like 120MB . But most people in England have a Internet service through their phone lines that are not sufficent to even maintain at least 1 MB let alone more. Dont be fooled into buying or upgrading and wasting your MONEY when Internet Providers can not even give you a basic service. When ISP try to tell you that paying more will mean you will get more, its just not true. Untill GT BRITAIN PLC gets the OPTIC FIBRES and TELEPHONE EXCHANGES upgraded across this backward country of ours, you are going to be stuck with a very BASIC SERVICE and that is why I live in SUFFOLK and cannot do anything about my RURAL SPEEDS, that is why I am paying £6.49 a month for a BASIC SERVICE. I wished we all had a choice but we have to put up with the SLOW SPEEDS untill the Infrastructure is upgraded. PERIOD.
Not applicable
Hi Keith, whilst this blog post is about improving your local wireless throughput rather than the actual speed of your internet connection, you do raise some interesting points. It may be frustrating living in a rural location but it can't be said that companies, the government and BT aren't investing in upgrading the current infrastructure. BT recently announced as part of their fourth quarter financial results that their fibre-based services have now passed more than 10 million homes and businesses across the country - http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/5222-bt-group-publishes-fourth-quarter-results.html If you pay more to have a fibre service installed (where available) then you're almost guaranteed a significant speed increase. FTTC services typically offer speeds of around 35Mbps. In places more. I have fibre provided to my local cabinet and am enjoying a download speed in excess of 70Mbps on our 80/20 trials! - http://www.speedtest.net/result/1697617647.png We've also recently provisioned our first customer on Wholesale's 330Mbps product so it doesn't stop there. The average broadband speed across the UK is now in excess of 7.5Mbps according to Ofcom latest research and is increasing significantly year-on-year - http://media.ofcom.org.uk/2012/02/02/jump-in-uk-broadband-speeds/ Compare this to a decade or so ago when pretty much *nobody* had anything above a 512kbps connection (at a much higher price point) then you have to agree that we're heading in the right direction, albeit slower than some might have hoped. The government are also investing money into improving connectivity for those in certain rural locations (although perhaps not as much as some say they should) and have committed to getting almost everybody online by 2015 as part of their BDUK strategy. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/mar/21/budget-2012-broadband-subsidy http://www.culture.gov.uk/what_we_do/telecommunications_and_online/7781.aspx
Rising Star
Don't forget about encryption http://community.plus.net/blog/2012/03/15/powerline-adapters-make-sure-you-use-encryption/
Not applicable
Good point Ian!
Grafter
Quoting average broad band speeds is of no practical use to anyone, except perhaps BT, ISPs and the politicians, who are attempting to fool the general population into believing we should be thankful for the dire state of the UKs broad band network. A relatively small number of so called 'super fast' fibre connections will raise the average significantly, while the majority continue to receive a much slower service and a large proportion remain on appallingly slow speeds. Knowing that the average broad band speed is 7.5 Mbps is of no comfort for those stuck < 5 Mbps, which I would think is the majority. Consumers in rural areas get there noses rubbed further in the dirt, being charged more (market area premiums) for connections which are frankly inadequate. As for comparing internet access today with the situation 10 years ago, it is about as useful as comparing todays wages to retail prices 10 years ago! Finally. With regard to the article. Adding a signal amplifier to a Wi-Fi router is very likely to break the regulatory approval, which would be illegal. Routers from Buffalo, TP Link, Netgear may have 'more powerful' routing software but they are restricted to the same 100mW output power as every other Wi-Fi device.
Not applicable
Reasoned points Matt. How do you think the rural situation should be approached, if it doesn't involve offering funding or continuing with the fibre rollouts (which do reach rural areas - Cornwall being a good example)? The median speed across the UK is around the 5Mbps mark I believe (maybe a tad below). Valid observation about the wi-fi power output. Not all devices will output power at 100mw by default though. Personally I'm one for using wires Wink
Not applicable
I've done my speediest (download speed .20Mbps which I understand is VERY low and upload speed 1.03Mbps). I believe the slow download is causing me problems - everything is slow and we've just got a new TV which will not download the internet stuff. How (in plain English) do you go about finding out what is the cause of the problem?
Grafter
Hi Bob Responsibility for consumer inclusion would appear to be the job of the regulator (Ofcom). I think the rural situation should be approached by ending discrimination of the rural situation. Ofcom should not allow people living in rural areas to be set aside as a special case, by telcos and ISPs, which then enables Telcos and ISPs to plead it is right to treat them as 'peasants' The so called 'rural situation' does not really exist on the voice network. My understanding being that BT inherited service level requirements which prevent cherry picking. Similar service level regulation could be applied to data-comms. Here are a few simple ideas, aimed at providing value for money for everyone. + Impose Telco and ISP performance and penetration targets based on the numbers not obtaining the average. That would seem to encourage all the players to raise standards across the board. + Abolish market area pricing, which is both exploitative and contributes to the digital divide. I should point out that I am myself in the cheapest of market areas. + Abolish so called 'up to' pricing. Individual consumers should pay for (roughly) the sync speeds they get, rather than the sync speed of some bloke living a mile closer to the LEX. + Insist on reasonable provisioning and fault resolution times for everyone. Which probably means imposing a penalty for each instance the target is not met. In my experience there is a huge problem getting 'difficult' cases, which fail to fit within automated processes or standardised procedures, attended to. Who pays? I would say we all need to pay something. The question is somewhat immaterial though, as the Great British public will always pay in the end. Whether payment is collected via tax or subscription or reduced dividends, I do not care. Just provided monies are efficiently invested into the network and not squandered on the enrichment of a few bureaucrats, executives and shareholders. With regard to Wi-Fi routers. You are happy for the article to remain as is? With PN encouraging people who know no better to fit signal amplifiers which may, almost certainly will, cause them to break the law. I am entirely unsure whether such devices can even be bought legitimately.
Grafter
I put my router upstairs under a bed and more or less in the centre of the house. I then have very good wifi coverage in all but one (downstairs) room of the house.
Not applicable
@Peter Williams, I'd suggest having a read of this - http://www.plus.net/support/broadband/speed_guide/speed_tips.shtml?source=keymatch If that doesn't help then complete the faults troubleshooter here and one of our faults analysts will run some tests on your account to see if they can locate the source of the problem. Your line has probably disconnected at some point and reconnected at a really slow speed which has pushed your 'line profile' down. You're either still connected at that slow speed or you've since reconnected at a higher speed and are waiting for the profile to 'catch up' (it can take a few days). @matt, voice and data are two completely different breeds and supplying a voice service is far less technically restrictive compared to broadband. Broadband uses the unused frequencies your voice/copper line is capable of delivering. These tend to be the higher frequencies that are far more susceptible to noise/interference/degradation as the length of the line from the exchange increases. I still think it boils down to where the money comes from to upgrade the infrastructure. Our entry-level products make comparatively small amounts of profit and many other ISPs are in a similar boat. The market's largely driven by cost. If we up our prices, customers will jump ship to a provider that's cheaper. Whilst you and me might see value in our Internet connections (and be willing to pay a premium) there are hundreds of thousands of people who have come to expect it for free/next to nothing. If ISPs don't pay then what about BT? Well they're a private company too and they need to offset the massive cost of upgrading the network with their own cashflow. There's funding yes, but that only goes part way to what is a pretty monumental objective. Have you thought about 4G? That would probably help if it were deployed effectively. Alas the regulators/telcos have mainly been arguing/debating/dragging their heels about the allocation of the spectrum for it to show any widespread promise in the immediate future. Market pricing was largely regulator-driven IIRC although I admit it is confusing and can come across as unfair. I'd also like to see it abolished for the sake of simplicity more than anything else. I don't think you'll see much of a change with regards to 'up to' speeds. There's simply too many variables that can affect a customers speed to structure a charging model around it. It was easy when all speeds were 'fixed' e.g. 512kbps, 1Mbps, 2Mbps etc. but now that services are rate adaptive, it no longer makes sense. Add to that the fact that many ISP's (ourselves included) are charged a fixed amount per circuit with the rest of the charging coming from the amount of bandwidth our customers use (rather than the actual speeds they receive). I don't think there's a single solution to the problem, I do take some comfort in knowing things are heading in the right direction though, irrespective as to how slow. I'll amend the copy in the article about using an amplifier/booster ...
Not applicable
All your points are true and in fact this is an excellent analysis on the hot issue of improving wireless connectivity. This is a problem faced by most Internet users with wireless connection and it really helps to know the various parameters of the problem so you can start making the necessary adaptations, changes and upgrades. In the end of the day, a wireless router is not an all-weather magician’s box. It is a simple device and just with any device or piece of machinery, it’s only natural for operational problems to arise. The solution is to find ways to improve its performance, like the practical and really useful tips of advice in your post.
Grafter
Bob, Thank you for taking the time. I ought to point out that I made my way to a small business network support by way of test engineering and digital trunk telephony and corporate IT. I count myself fortunate to have lived and worked in many countries around the world whilst working for various vendors and telcos. I have to say your comparison between voice and data networks is simplistic. The UK being a relatively small and densely populated group of islands, it should be a damn site easier to provision bandwidth here than voice in say, France, Germany or the USA. To put this in perspective. The UK is languishing near the bottom of World broad band performance and value league tables while, what should be comparable networks, in say Sweden, Denmark and Holland, are near the top. Ofcom, BT and ISPs have all been told (by elected governments) the UK needs the best broadband network in Europe by 2015 and all we hear are excuses for not providing it and plans to milk the copper network for years to come. It is, to my mind, inexcusable that so many UK rural customers still have broad band connections no better than those provided in isolated third world countries, for which they must pay first world prices. Unfortunately I do not share your optimism for the future. All the signs indicate the super-fast network being planned will be obsolete before the rollout is complete. Once again leaving the UK in the super-slow doldrums of internet innovation. 20 years of monetarism should have taught us the solution lies in better regulation. I agree, I don't think we will see a change in the exploitative charging practices without a change of regulatory framework. As with some other regulators, the relationship between Ofcom and those it is supposed to regulate appears to be far too cosy. The consumers interest is not being adequately represented. Clearly PN and BT are on the other side of that particular fence and I think we should leave the subject there. I would like to have thanked you for attending to the wi-fi article but I can not. Providing a link to mobile phone regulations would seem to be confusing things further. Understanding the regulatory requirements for spread spectrum devices operating in the ISM band (a wi-fi router) needs quite a degree of pre-requisite RF knowledge and even then it is not for the feint hearted. Might I suggest removing the paragraph completely, would be the responsible thing to do. Perhaps the article could mention instead; + Video re-senders are a major cause of wi-fi interference. + Digital baby monitors are Wi-Fi friendly. + Pointing antennas 90 degrees to the intended signal direction will produce the strongest signal (at the receiver). + Pointing the antenna in the intended signal direction will produce the weakest signal (at the receiver).
Not applicable
MATT.@...MS STYSTEM SERVICES LTD.... YOU HAVE EXPLAINED THE TRUTH THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH WHEN IT COMES TO EXPLAINING THE UTTER MESS OF THE UK BROABAND NETWORK. I KNOW LIKE YOU THAT WE ARE BEING FED LIES AND MORE LIES BY THE ISP AND GOVERNMENT. WE IN THE UK LAG BEHIND IRAN, INDIA AND CHINA AND MANY MORE COUNTRIES AS I KNOW YOU ARE FULLY ON THE BALL IN THIS MATTER. WELL DONE MATT FOR BEING SO ACCURATE AND INFORMATIVE TO THE PLUSNET USERS WHO READ THESE BLOGS..
Not applicable
@matt, I've completely removed the paragraph about amplifiers.
Grafter
Thank you Bob. ..And thank you Keith. I don't think we are being fed lies as much as we are being fed excuses.