The symptoms of a poor Wi-Fi network are varied. Sometimes Internet access is enough to participate in video conferencing in the office, where the router is installed, but not in the kitchen. Online hockey games can be fun in the living room, but crammed into a table in the backyard. And sometimes even web pages load up unbearably slow up.
Judging by the number of messages this writer has received in recent weeks, these problems are still common, after a year of teleworking and home education. Fortunately, all of this can be fixed, sometimes even for free.
1. Make sure you are getting the speed you are paying for
The first step in improving your Wi-Fi network is to check if the problem is with you and not with your service provider. Test your speed with your phone, next to your router (or modem-router if your ISP offers one). To do so, visit a site such as Ookla’s speedtest.net or another site of your choice, such as M-Lab’s. Make sure you’re connected to your Wi-Fi network and not to your mobile network (you shouldn’t see 3G, 4G, LTE, or 5G at the top of the screen), then take a speed test. The procedure will be clearly indicated at the chosen location (you need to press the big “Go” button in the case of Ookla or “Start” in the case of M-Lab, for example).
Download and upload speeds will be displayed in Mbps or Mbit / s. Make sure they match the speeds of your internet plan (usually shown on your monthly bill). If they deviate by more than a few percentage points, please try again with a second device (tablet or computer, ideally recent) to confirm that the problem is not with your phone. If the speed is still slower than it should be, contact your provider, as your computer may be the source of your problems.
2. Check your speed to suit your new needs
Your internet service provider may no longer meet your speed. Not only has it exploited the number of connected objects in homes (smart speakers, connected TVs, surveillance cameras, telephones, game consoles, etc.), but it has also increased its bandwidth consumption. Every phone and tablet, for example, often has to back up and upload them to the cloud, or update its applications, which are getting bigger and bigger.
Assessing your needs is not easy, but the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) wants all Canadian households and businesses to have access to a broadband Internet connection of at least 50 Mbps download and at least 10 Mbit / s. load. If you are the only teleworker in the home, 15 Mbit / s download and 4 Mbit / s upload (Zoom recommends 3.8 Mbit / s in this situation) should be enough for a high definition group conference. even if internet TV is available. activated. A family with video game enthusiasts at home, on the other hand, could ask for much more.
Try to replicate your typical needs near your router, when everyone is there. If your video conferencing is hectic or downloads are slower than you’d like, you’ll probably need to pay for a faster plan.
3. Adjust your current router
If the top speed is running near your router, but not elsewhere in the house, run speed tests again, but this time at different locations. Keep in mind the speeds you get in low-traffic areas of your network.
Sometimes you just need to move the router to improve speed in these areas. Put it in plain sight (and not hidden behind furniture) and ideally in the center of your home, so that it is always as close as possible. Please try again areas that were previously difficult. If the speed is now enough, you’ve fixed the problem.
Note that some more advanced configurations may improve the situation, especially if your router broadcasts two separate networks, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. In this case, it is best to combine the two networks in the configuration (following the manufacturer’s instructions). The 2.4 GHz network is slower, but has a better range, while the 5 GHz network is faster, but at a shorter distance. Modern routers should manage both networks automatically and direct mobile devices to the best of both.
4. Consider expanding your network
If there are only a few rooms (a basement or an office upstairs, for example), you may be able to solve the problem with a device that extends the reach of your network.
These Wi-Fi repeaters only cost about $ 50 and turn out to be a decent solution in some cases. However, they should be avoided for most people, as they have one major flaw: they don’t allow your phone to connect to the best router within range. If you upload, for example, your phone will remain connected to the network on the ground floor and you will not be able to get the best speed unless you unplug it and reconnect it manually.
For more remote corners that cannot be reached with a repeater (a home theater in a concrete basement, for example), there are also adapters such as power line (or “online carrier currents”, but the French term is rarely used), which pass the Internet through the power grid. Cheaper devices (about $ 60) require an Ethernet cable, but those starting at $ 100 usually allow you to create a Wi-Fi network. You will have the same problem with your mobile devices that are not connected to the best network, but your fixed devices. (TV, console) will benefit from the maximum speed (as they will be permanently connected to the extension).
Please note that people who are equipped with a state-of-the-art modem router from their internet service provider may, in certain cases, purchase mesh network devices (see below). Videotron Helix Fi Wi-Fi Repeaters and Bell Fibe Wi-Fi Capsules allow you to increase your network coverage without the hassle of a traditional repeater.
5. Switch your Wi-Fi network
If no other option works for you, you may need a new network.
A new classic Wi-Fi router might be enough for those who have an old model at home (about ten years or older) and live in a small residence. This is usually a solution for those whose network seems to have deteriorated over the years. State-of-the-art routers (Wi-Fi 6, priced at about $ 100) are really capable of delivering more speed to more devices simultaneously than was possible a few years ago. However, its reach is still limited, especially when there are walls and floors to cross.
For larger homes, the best solution is a mesh network, a technology that allows you to install multiple routers in your home, but where you only need to connect one directly to the modem. The network then allows you to automatically manage which terminal a mobile device must connect to in order to benefit from the best speed. This is remarkably the technology used by the new router-modems of certain Internet service providers (Bell Wi-Fi Capsules and Videotron Wi-Fi Relays).
There are several solutions on the market, such as TP-Link’s Deco systems, NetGear’s Orbi, Linksys’ Velop and Google’s Nest. The number of terminals (two or three, but you can also buy more) and the technologies they use vary in price. Expect to pay about $ 250 for a sufficient system for a medium-sized home and about $ 350 for a large home.
There are also high-end systems, priced at about $ 600, capable enough to propagate a fast 1 Gbps Internet connection to an entire large residence. However, you have to have great real needs and a big budget to pay that price.