, , ,

Despise Your Home Network WiFI – Let’s Fixit

Poor Home Network WiFI

Home Networking WiFi Issues?

As the majority of us move to working, learning and, well, doing everything from home to slow the spread of coronavirus, we are taxing our home networks and our wireless gear in ways we never imagined. Here’s the proof in my own home-network stats: My three-person family used more bandwidth just this week than we did all of last month. (Thanks, hourlong video chats!)

It’s time for all of us to become what we always dreamed of as little children: network managers. Fear not. After years of testing wireless routers and speaking to experts, I’m hopeful this advice will help you diagnose and solve the bandwidth blues on your own.

Don’t rush to blame your ISP.

When that video chats with your boss starts to stutter, or you get the buffering wheel of death in the middle of Kristoff’s breakout song in “Frozen 2,” it’s easy to immediately blame (or maybe in some cases thank!) your service provider, aka ISP. Except it often has nothing to do with your actual internet pipe.

While ISPs are certainly being hit with loads more activity during this time, the biggest players, including ATT, Verizon, Comcast, Charter, and others, maintain all is under control.

During the daytime, your ISP’s current usage patterns look a lot like those weeknight peaks when everybody’s watching Netflix and Hulu, most ISPs can handle these peaks. 

Still, providers are doing a lot to make this an easier time. Many have already waived your data limits and increased your speeds—although many people have reported that most of us don’t need those speeds anyway.

Confirm it’s the Wi-Fi.

If it’s not your actual internet pipe, all signs point to it being your Wi-Fi router.

A good way to find out is to go to Ookla’s Speedtest.net website, or download the app, to run a test. If you are getting decent speeds while chained to the router—if you paid for 25 megabits a second, you should hopefully see around 25 megabits a second!—but relatively reduced speeds when you’re wireless in a different room, blame the damn Wi-Fi router.

We also suggest walking around the house or apartment with your laptop or phone, running tests in various locations and writing down the results. This should give you an idea of where the biggest dead zones may be.

Move the Wi-Fi router.

You’ll notice that speeds are better the closer you are to the router. This is why the No. 1 piece of router-installation advice is to position the router as close to the center of your house as you can. (And if that coincides with your workspace, great—just keep it plugged in with Ethernet.)

You’ll also notice that speeds, when you’re on the 5GHz network, can typically be faster than the 2.4GHz network. Try to stay on 5GHz; it provides faster speeds at shorter distances. The 2.4GHz connection offers coverage for farther distances, but can be slower and operates on the same band as lots of other devices in the house.

Buy a new router.

If you have an old router, typically more than five years old, it’s probably time for a new one. Wireless standards have changed, and your newer devices need to be on a more modern network to perform as designed. If you got one from your ISP, you might need to call about an upgrade or go buy one on your own.

Or maybe it’s time to speak with a networking specialist to address your woes

If you don’t want to invest in an entirely new system to kill those dead zones, try a network extender. It’s always a good idea to buy one from the same manufacturer as your router—not least because they’ll help with tech support. Because I sure won’t!

In fact, AT&T is offering free network extenders to its customers starting Monday. This is a good reminder to check with your ISPs to see what they are offering right now.

Monitor your network.

If you’ve got devices sitting on your network but you aren’t using them, they can still slow things down a bit. Many apps that work with new routers—like ones from Eero, Netgear, Google, etc.—let you see which devices are connected and pause their connection. Eero even lets you see which are using the most bandwidth.

Keep an eye on the apps.

Even if you follow all these tips to create the world’s greatest home network, you may still encounter those slowdowns and pauses.

“We also need to consider the application providers themselves,” said Ookla Chief Technology Officer Luke Deryckx. “Even if our end of the connection is fine, there could be a problem impacting the video-calling service we’re using.”

Fun fact: Video-chat services like Zoom are often more bandwidth-intensive than video-streaming apps, like YouTube or Netflix. Unlike video streaming, which can send a chunk of your movie at one time, live video chat sends all the data in a real-time stream. Many of these services adjust the video quality in the background so as to not pummel your network. Zoom, specifically, said it is constantly monitoring its infrastructure to ensure that it is able to respond to increases in demand.

Try cellular.

If worst comes to worst and your home Wi-Fi network just isn’t performing when you need it, try your phone’s cellular network. Use your phone’s hot spot feature to connect, though you’ll want to make sure your data plan allows for this—and can take the pounding.

T-Mobile and Sprint announced that it will offer unlimited data for all of their smartphone users. Starting March 18, Sprint began offering 20GB of service on its mobile hot spot for the next 60 days. T-Mobile began offering an extra 10GB of mobile-hotspot service.

Thanks to the Federal Communications Commission’s Keep Americans Connected pledge, all the ISPs and wireless carriers have agreed to waive late fees and open Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone who needs them during this period.

If all else fails, try talking to your router. Maybe give it a nickname. Heaven knows, we’re lonelier these days and could use the company. Or speak to some experts for the right kind of advice