Wi-Fi Optimization

By BJ Pangilinan

MY relationship with Wi-Fi or wireless networking technology is rocky at the best of times because it’s slower than wired and often flaky as your friend who bails on plans at the last second. But the alternative is probably plugging an Ethernet cable to your phone; not really convenient. Since we’re stuck with it, here are some quick tips on making the experience as painless as possible.

Position Your Wi-Fi Router/Access Point Correctly

The coverage area of your Wi-Fi signal is sphere shaped, so center your router within your intended coverage area as best as you can. A good way to think about it is just use line of sight; from whatever position you can see the furthest in your house and you can see the most number of different rooms, that’s probably a good place to put your router. Avoid putting it directly on the floor, on a thick wall, or next to a large object; nearby dense materials such as stone, metal, and concrete will reduce your wireless signal strength. You also want to keep the router away from other electronics, a lot of them can interfere with its signal. Things like TVs, computers, microwaves, pretty much anything that has a motor inside it.

Point the Antennas in Different Directions

Most routers have two antennas on them. Ideally, you could position one vertically and one horizontally. Devices work best when their internal antenna is parallel with the router’s. Most antennas inside laptops are horizontal. But if you’re using a mobile device or a tablet, it totally depends on how you’re holding it. That said, if you have one positioned horizontally and one vertically, you have the highest chance of having a parallel match with the antennas.

Choose the Right Channel for Your Access Point

You can access your router’s settings on your web browser by typing in its local IP address which is by default on most routers, but you might want to read its user manual just to be sure. On the 2.4 GHz band, there are only three usable non-overlapping channels: 1, 6, and 11. And in a perfect world you would want to pick whichever of these is open.

Unfortunately, in apartment buildings and even dense suburban areas, this is unlikely to happen. Using a free tool like Wifi Analyzer for Android gives you a visual representation of the other wireless networks in your area. But even with a tool like this, there will be some trial and error because of other electronic devices that can cause serious signal interference, so play around with it a bit to see how you get the best results.

2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz Frequency Band

On newer models of Wi-Fi routers, you can choose between 2.4 GHz, and 5GHz in your router’s settings. The primary differences between the 2.4 GHz, and 5GHz wireless frequencies are range and bandwidth. 2.4 GHz offers coverage for farther distances, but may perform at slower speeds whereas 5GHz provides faster data rates at a shorter distance but less able to penetrate walls and solid objects. So it really depends on the layout of your home/office/building, and if your device actually supports the 5GHz band. In conclusion — 2.4 GHz if you want more coverage, 5GHz if you’re just sitting near your router and want faster speeds.

Wi-Fi Repeaters

To put it simply, this is a signal extender for your Wi-Fi router. Place these in areas where the original signal has trouble reaching. Repeaters can be configured with the same SSID, your network name, and password so you can roam between them pretty much without noticing as long as you’re not doing something like streaming a Skype call, that’s likely to get disconnected as you move over a boundary. I don’t recommend repeaters that connect to both your device and your access point wirelessly, you’re bound to encounter some technical issues with those, so make sure you get repeaters that can either connect through Ethernet or Powerline.

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