How to improve your wireless signal
Is anyone actually happy with their Wi-Fi?
Whether it’s dead spots, or access that just won’t reach the den or backyard, as we rely on more internet connected devices and services, there are plenty of ways that wireless signals come up a little bit short.
The big problem is that most of us treat Wi-Fi as a “set and forget it” technology — until there’s a problem. And let’s be real: the main solution for most of us is to simply unplug the device, hoping that a reset will fix the issue.
Unlike other technologies where we are on the hunt for an upgrade, most of us also don’t really look for ways to improve it.
I was recently confounded by weird wireless issues that required me to do a deep dive in my home situation.
Here are a few tips that might help improve your wireless:
Working with what you got
The first question to ask: how old is your modem/router? If you have had it for years and it was supplied by your Internet service provider, give them a shout to see if there’s a newer version available. It’s really not in their interest to let you know that you might be eligible for a free upgrade. If you are calling them, this might also be a good time to check your plan and see if there any better deals available.
If your router is still fairly new, and you feel technically comfortable to get under the hood, there are a few options.
Things that may improve your situation include updating the router’s firmware, or potentially changing the frequency or channel of the signal. A word of warning here though, most router software is obtuse and awful to use, even though it is good idea to try to become familiar with it.
If you are a bit skittish, this is what the technical support from your ISP is for, so if you need to call them up and have them walk you through this stuff, do it. I had some problems connecting to an online game and live-chatted with someone from my ISP to help me make sure I had the right ports open for optimal gaming.
Where is it located?
Sometimes simply moving the router can greatly improve reception. The default place is usually in a home office, but as device usage has spread around the house, it’s best to look at your actual usage and where the signal might work best.
As well, some routers are coming with much better-looking designs, to persuade people to put them out in the open.
One other simple solution that I think helped solve some of my recent issues was to plug the router directly into the wall, as opposed to a power bar. That was a simple fix that seemed to directly help my connection.
Using technology to fix it
To quickly and easily expand the coverage area, you can buy a Wi-Fi extender or try to create a new wireless access point. Extenders simply boost the area of a signal, although there is usually some drop off in the speed of the connection. They range in price from $80 to $200 dollars, but many are very simple to use. A potentially cheaper way of doing this is if you have an older router which can be programmed to boost the signal. There are many guides online that explain how to do this.
There are also a number of new products that might specifically help you diagnose some problems. Google’s OnHub router was launched by the company in 2014, and has improved since its release. With a pleasant design, it’s meant to be placed in the living room, as opposed to under a desk, and while it has some good technology to help for a better signal, one of the best things about it is that it has an easy-to-use app to make setup very easy, and also help diagnose problems.
The next big thing
If you are truly frustrated, there are new styles of wireless products that are expensive and currently only available in the U.S., but getting good reviews. Eero and Luma are new integrated home Wi-Fi systems that may require you to buy multiple devices, but they are specifically designed to expand the coverage area and range of wireless signals. So rather than a signal router, you buy several of them, and they easily recognize each other and boost the signal.
In the case of Eero, which looks like little curved square boxes, a three pack of the devices retails for $499 (U.S.), but you then place them around the house creating a wireless mesh network. Luma operates in a similar manner, and is seemingly a little cheaper, but as they are not officially available in Canada, trouble shooting and support could be issues.
According to some online forums, some Canadian users have had success with Eero, by buying it in the U.S. and bringing it over the border, but because it is not officially available in Canada, some consumers have run into problems with technical support.