The world is going wireless, WiFi specifically. With speeds approaching that most wired networks (in access of 100Mps +), it is a good alternative to having to lay a wire around your house. The problem with WiFi is that your neighbour and other wireless devices can interfere with the network, leaving your with low speeds. If you leave in a crowded community of WiFi networks that much interference and cross talking can slow your speeds down. This post is going to show you how to get the most of your network and let you understand how WiFi networks operate.
Viewing The WiFi Networks
You can view the networks in your area with the menubar option, however I am going to show you, and use, a more advance little program called WiFi Explorer. It visually shows you how every WiFi network interacts. Its only a cheap program, which I recommend you purchase if you want to view more about your WiFi network.
When you open the program, let it run for a couple of minutes. It will record and measure the WiFi networks in the area. When it is ready you will see over lapping bands of networks. Each of these represents a channel which your WiFi network can reside on. Since your network cannot run on one specific frequency it will overlap and expand into the neighbouring frequency. As you can see in the image below, each network operates on a peak and spreads out.
In my local area, there isn’t that many networks. However, you can image in a crowded area there can be hundreds of networks, all operating on the same channels. Its like a shouting match, you need to shout the loudest to get the most network throughput, in the end every one gets drowned out. In my area, there is many channels all operating around channel eleven.
Being on a unique channel is on thing, the other is signal strength. With the signal strength viewer you can see which network is the strongest. If your network is in the middle or towards the bottom of the list, you may want a stronger router, or placed in a position that can emit a better signal. For instance, having the router in the basement is probably not the best place, in a room where you work is probably more efficient.
Increasing WiFi Strength and Speed
To increase your WiFi strength and speed we need to adjust the settings. This is usually done in your router, modem or WiFi emitter. The first step is to place the router in a position where the signal strength is the best. Mine runs at about 75%, its network “SHIELD Secret Base”. This is probably the best I can get, considering my router is 5 foot away. If you router is in the low twenties try moving it, or yourself, into a better position and see what signal strength you get. The stronger the signal strength the more speed you are likely to get.
The next stage is to change the channel in which your network operates on. In the first image, there are lots of networks operating on the 11th channel, although they have a low strength they may still interfere. This means everything is operating on the same frequency. In this example I would suggest changing the channel to something like channel 9 or 14. Most routers do auto cycling to find the best channel. If you don’t turn your router off periodically, or many networks have joined. It may have become crowded. In this example I would not recommend using channel 5, although I may have the most signal strength, there will be two networks in close proximity with strong networks.
2.4Ghz or 5Ghz
WiFi originally started at the 2.4Ghz spectrum, however as WiFi become more popular a need for a higher frequency is needed. Using the 5Ghz spectrum this also allowed higher speeds to be found. Using WiFi Explorer I can see that there is no one using the 5Ghz, spectrum band. Using my router settings I can change the frequency to 5Ghz. There are less people using the 5Ghz band, as it is newer and people have not changed over, especially those networks set up by ISP’s. If you see in the 2.4Ghz band there are many users, and crowded channels, it is certainly worth changing to this higher frequency and there is more channels to choose from. If you have an option in your router to use higher channel numbers, in the hundred range, use them as these are rarely used. Most devices, certainly Apple ones, can use these spectrums.
The 5Ghz band is completely clear where I live. I am the only one using it. So if I am loosing anything on speed, there probably nothing I can do about it.
WiFi Explorer is a great little app. It allows you to see how the space around you is being used. With simple changes, such as using the least used channel, or by changing to a higher frequency you will be able to get a better speed and connectivity out of your WiFi connection.