Internode Blog

How to boost your WiFi signal

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019 by

Do your devices struggle to get the job done when they’re connected to your home WiFi? Does the WiFi work better in some rooms compared to others? If you notice the WiFi signal bar on your smartphone, tablet or computer seems to be pretty low, your devices or home layout may be interfering with the WiFi signal coming from your router.

Don’t stress – there are some simple changes you can make to get your home WiFi signal in ship-shape. If you’re suffering from a weak WiFi signal, have a read of this handy guide we’ve put together to find out what to do to improve your WiFi signal around your home.

Not all WiFi is created equal

These days, most routers and WiFi devices feature 5GHz AC WiFi, a newer technology that offers faster performance than its predecessors. However, routers and WiFi devices typically also offer backwards compatibility with the older 2.4GHz N WiFi, which doesn’t perform as well and is prone to more interference. Many people use the weaker 2.4GHz by default or simply out of habit. The problem is that so many devices today are using bandwidth on the older 2.4GHz N WiFi network, from phones and computers to WiFi or Bluetooth-enabled household appliances, that it can cause major local congestion.

The newer 5GHz AC WiFi is less congested simply because it has much more bandwidth available to be shared between multiple devices. Not to mention that it’s not fighting with all your other wireless devices to use the same old 2.4GHz radio frequencies.

When it comes to devices that you use for applications such as streaming video, downloads and social media, it’s strongly recommended to use 5GHz AC WiFi wherever possible for a faster, more reliable connection. Switch over your devices today and see the change for yourself!

 

How to get on 5GHz AC WiFi

The first thing to do is check that your router has 5GHz AC WiFi:

  • Got an Internode modem? You’re in luck! Internode’s current range of modem routers all feature 5GHz WiFi – this includes the TP-Link VR1600v, the TG-789 Broadband Gateway and the FRITZ!Box 7490. You’ll find the default name and password for the 5GHz WiFi network on the modem’s barcode sticker.
  • Got a third party modem? Just run a quick Google search for “Does [router model] have 5GHz WiFi?” – it’ll be faster than digging through the manual. If you don’t know the model of your router, check its barcode sticker. Not only is this where you’ll find the router model, but you may also find the default name and password for its WiFi network(s).

Next, make sure that your devices can connect to 5GHz WiFi. If your device was manufactured after 2014, chances are that it’s compatible. If you have an older laptop or desktop computer, you can purchase a USB plug-in AC WiFi adapter from your local computer shop or office supply store to allow you to connect to this channel.

Still not sure if your device can use 5GHz AC WiFi? Just have a go at connecting – there’s no harm done if it doesn’t work. Once you’ve got all your devices connected, you may notice an immediate improvement in WiFi performance, but there’s still some other things you can check to get the best experience possible.

 

Location, location, location!

While 5GHz AC WiFi does offer better performance compared to older 2.4GHz WiFi networks, it does have a shorter range and lower “signal penetration” (that’s tech-talk for it doesn’t travel through objects as well). This range should be big enough to cover the average apartment or house, but if you live in a larger house or have thick walls, the solution may be as simple as relocating your router.

When choosing a location for your WiFi router, aim for the following:

  • A clear, central place in your home – ideally with as few walls/objects as possible between the router and locations where you use the internet most often.
  • Out in the open – shutting a modem away in a cupboard just adds more obstacles.
  • On a desk or elevated shelf – WiFi signal travels better “downwards” because there’s less obstacles for the signal to pass through, so starting out on the floor is a disadvantage.
  • Away from any trees, plants, pipes, tiles, microwaves, fish tanks, large metal objects or mirrors – these can all act as obstacles for your WiFi signal.

 

WiFi channels aren’t so much of a concern on 5GHz AC WiFi

Much a like a radio, WiFi has different channels to choose from and if too many WiFi networks are operating over the same channel, it can cause performance issues. This is most common in high-density living areas like apartment buildings, where there are more WiFi networks closer together.

The good news is that 5GHz routers support 23 non-overlapping channels (a vast improvement on the 3 offered by 2.4GHz!) and typically scan for the best available channel when they boot up, so in the unlikely situation you do end up on the same channel as your neighbor, getting on the best WiFi channel is only a reboot away!

 

Sudden WiFi issues could be a result of background activity

When you’re already confident in your WiFi setup, it can be frustrating when the signal drops out of the blue. With the sheer number of wireless devices in the typical modern home, a common culprit for unexpected signal drops can simply be increased background activity. At any moment, our phones, laptops, gaming systems or any number of other devices may suddenly decide to do a system update, or back-up our files to the cloud, causing slower performance across the whole household. What may look like a WiFi drop may actually be your internet connection running out of bandwidth for all your connected devices.

If you are experiencing intermittent speed issues or buffering when streaming videos, you may need to consider:

  • Checking if your broadband plan is suitable for your needs.
  • Scheduling your devices’ updates or back-ups to occur at times when most users of the service will be out of the house or asleep.
  • Lowering your video resolution while multiple people are streaming at once.

 

Further options if you’re still having trouble on the WiFi

Sometimes the size or construction of your home just isn’t optimised for a WiFi signal, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have options!

  • WiFi extenders
    If you have a larger home and WiFi trouble kicks in when you’re far away from the router, you may want to consider getting a WiFi extender. This device will plug into a power outlet and relay your WiFi signal over a longer distance.
  • Wireless mesh networks
    A serious step up from a simple extender, wireless mesh networking systems have several WiFi devices installed throughout your home, all working for the same WiFi network. These devices capture each other’s WiFi signals and rebroadcast it, creating a “mesh” of WiFi signal without any dead spots. Some wireless mesh devices link to each other via Ethernet cables to deliver even better performance. A wireless mesh network will definitely help you get the most out of our premium NBN plans.
  • Ethernet cabling
    Ethernet cabling just can’t be beat, especially when it comes to very time-sensitive operations such as online gaming or stock trading. To avoid running long Ethernet cables along floors or under doors, consider contacting an IT specialist or registered cabler to discuss getting Ethernet cabling installed in your home so you can simply plug into Ethernet ports on the wall in the rooms where you have your router, computer, gaming console and/or smart TV.

If you would like more info on optimising your Wi-Fi please check out this handy tool our friends at NBN Co. have created to help improve your home network.

Happy browsing!