If you’ve got the best internet package possible and your PC, TV or smartphone is relatively new, you might be wondering why your internet speeds aren’t that impressive. Well, there’s a good chance your router and home network are holding you back.
If your ISP threw a router in your package, or you’ve been using the same setup for several years, it may be worth considering an upgrade. For a few hundred dollars, you could have premium coverage in every corner of your home. Let’s take a look at why your router could be the cause of all your problems.
A bad router can affect your speed
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and your WiFi connection is only as fast as its weakest link. Routers are often an afterthought when it comes to home networking, and yours could be holding you back for a number of reasons.
The most obvious problem occurs with older routers. Technology advances fairly quickly, so a router from a few years ago might not be able to make the most of modern devices and services. Not only Internet packets can be held back by an old router. If your router anticipates things like 4K streaming and cloud services, it might struggle to meet your needs.
If the average smart home only contained two or three devices when you installed your router, it may not be able to handle the dozen or more devices that current smart homes have. And it’s not just smart devices that are taxing your network. Think how many phones, laptops, tablets, and consoles you have in your house compared to just a few years ago. Just as your internet bandwidth needs to match the needs of your household, so does your Wi-Fi network.
We recently got a new Wi-Fi generation
The latest router generation relies on the Wi-Fi 6 standard. Wi-Fi 6 can manage up to 250 devices simultaneously. The standard also offers faster speeds with a maximum threshold of 9.6 Gbps, lower latency, and better performance all around.
There’s also Wi-Fi 6E, which gives you access to the 6GHz spectrum. The new standard is designed to handle multiple demanding operations simultaneously. With Wi-Fi 6E, you should be able to stream 4K movies and video calls while still enjoying other high-bandwidth activities like cloud gaming. Not all devices can currently connect to the 6GHz network, but it will become more common in the future and you should make sure your home network is ready for it.
Security is another aspect. WPA3 recently became the standard for Wi-Fi security, and if your router is still using WPA2, your network could be vulnerable. There are downsides to switching security standards, but they mostly affect users of older devices.
Multiple straps help distribute the load
A newer router may have more bands available than your older one. Most current routers have at least two – a 2GHz band and a 5GHz band. Wi-Fi 6E routers also have a 6GHz band available, and many routers have a “guest network,” which is essentially an additional 2GHz band. Multiple bands help distribute the load that the devices in your home place on your network. Turning your house into a smart home can add several additional devices to the mix. So it’s a good idea to give your smart home its own band whenever possible.
TVs, consoles, PCs and other demanding devices should be in the 6 GHz band if they can connect to it. Otherwise they should be in the 5 GHz band. The higher speeds and bandwidths of these bands make them better suited for things like 4K streaming, online gaming, and video calls. If you have a VR headset and are using Virtual Desktop or Metas Air Link to wirelessly connect it to a PC, it should have its own band.
If you buy a new router, you should keep your old one. You may be able to connect the two routers with a Cat 5 cable and use the older device to further extend coverage throughout your home. The old router could also potentially give you an extra band or two and spread the load further.
Coverage is also important
You can have the fastest internet available and a state of the art router and still have areas of your home that don’t have coverage. Even the best routers on the market have limitations in their range, and the distance listed on the box might be the best case scenario. Various things can affect signal range, including the texture of a wall or floor, obstacles near the router, and other devices in the house.
The best way to ensure good coverage is with a mesh network. You can buy an entire network as part of a package that usually includes two or more routers. One acts as your main router, while the others act as “satellites,” boosting the signal throughout the house. When purchased as a bundle, setup should be easy and the routers should work seamlessly together.
If you don’t want to invest in a mesh network, Wi-Fi range extenders are a cheaper option. They may not work as well and can be more complex to set up than a mesh network, but they can do a solid job when set at the right distance.
Another method involves a so-called powerline adapter. These adapters use your home’s wiring to transmit data around your home. Just connect one to your PC with an Ethernet cable and plug it straight into a power outlet. Then plug another adapter into an outlet in an area of your home that needs signal boosting. Powerline adapters are very easy to set up, but tend to be slower than good WiFi. So you should only use them as a last resort in an area where the signal is a real problem.
Upgrading doesn’t have to be difficult
If you have dozens of devices in your house, the thought of upgrading your network might scare you. You might think that upgrading means connecting all those devices to the new network and remembering a new password. It doesn’t have to be.
If you simply recycle your old network’s SSID, which is the name of your network, and set the same password as before, your old devices should connect automatically. All of this can usually be done during the initial setup of your new router and can save you hours of frustration.