Before we start our discussion on this topic, lets first remember that Wi-Fi is a low powered radio. This point will inform most of what I will cover below.
Your home has not been designed with transmitting Wi-Fi signals in mind. In fact it tends to do its best to stop or slow Wi-Fi signals. Add to that, the low power these signals are transmitted at and their limited range then you start to see the issues.
So what’s the problem
Most homes have Wi-Fi and Internet as an afterthought. Of course the World Wide Web ( the Public Internet) only came into existence in 1993 and Wi-Fi in 1997, so that’s obvious.
When we add, that here in Australia the NBN has been run to households in the easiest methods we find that our houses are not optimal for a Wireless Signal. Let me explain.
Typical Home Internet connection
The Internet reaches most Australian households via the NBN. This connection will either be via a new NBN connection or through existing Phone or Cables1. In the most part these cables will enter the House
- at the front, close to the street and the cable terminated at a wall connection there.
- use previous phone connections and often terminating in a kitchen or bedroom (often at the front of a house also)
When we want to use the cable we have to attach NBN connection box then our Wi-Fi Router. Most people will agree, having these in a Bedroom or Kitchen is not ideal. So point one to note is that most of us have the equipment providing the Wi-Fi in a less than optimal location.
So where should the Wi-Fi Router be located?
To reduce signal loss optimally we should have our Wi-Fi router high (as high as practical) , not on the floor where I see so many. It should close to the main users and therefor preferably in the middle of the house. It should not be placed where its signals can be blocked or where interference can occur.
What Blocks or reduces the Wi-Fi Signal
Outdoors with no obstructions a Wi-Fi signal may work for about 200-300 meters, but indoors is a different matter. The Wi-Fi Signal will be blocked, absorbed, redirected or dampened by an number of things. For example:
- Metal – Being a radio signal Metal will severely affect the Wi-Fi. So a refrigerator or metal filing cabinet will block, or reflect signals. Modern homes have metalized foil sarking in the external walls, this also can affect the signal moving through those walls. Placeing it in a metal box will stop the signal – see Faraday cage.
- Concrete – like Metal thick concrete walls or will block the signal it is one of the worst building materials for wireless signals to pass through.
- Bricks and Masonry – coming third on the list, these will reduce the signal significantly but not completely. However if insulation is include in such walls this will add to the signal loss.
- Mirrors – Glass is mostly transparent to the radio signal BUT the reflective layer will reflect the signal much like metal objects.
- Soft Furnishings, Carpet, People & Pets, Furniture, aquariums all absorb, reflect or dampen the signals.
What interferes with the Wi-Fi signal
Being a low powered radio signal Wi-Fi is easily effected by interference, some offenders will be:
- Microwave Ovens – In operation the Microwave is probably THE worst offender. see – https://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/09/25/3595484.htm
- Other Electrical Equipment, Cordless Phones, Baby Monitors, Radio transmitters, Fluorescent lights, – (the list is endless)
- Other nearby Wi-Fi Networks. – Its possible for your Neighbors Wi-Fi to be operating on the same or similar frequencies, these can easily slow your network. make certain your router is operating on a different set of frequencies or channels.
1 I’ve excluded some special types of NBN for simplicity.
So where should it be placed?
Place your Wi-Fi Router on a hard, flat surface as high in the room as is reasonable. The Wi-Fi signal is radiated mostly on the horizontal so avoid the floor or low. Aim for height at least halfway between the floor and the ceiling. I have my main router on top of a cupboard.
- Keep the WiFi Router out in the open – avoid placing inside cabinets or consoles as they will reduce the signal.
- The fewer walls between the WiFi Router and your devices the better. Remember Wi-Fi is a low power radio signal, so thick walls and metal will reduce the signal.
I’ve done all that, but still I’ve bad Wi-Fi now what?
If you have done what you can then you may be left with contacting a professional to fix the problem.
What may be done?
Relocate the main wi-fi router
If the existing location is the issue the best option may be to relocate it within the property to a more central location. This may require additional cabling.
Include additional Wi-Fi access points in the premises
This can be implemented using Wireless repeater (or extender) of a Wi-Fi Mesh system. Repeaters are cheap and rebroadcast a wireless signal, strengthening the signal from your router to other floors or the opposite side of a building. You place one in a location that are halfway between your router and your device. (However be aware that the repeater must have a good signal to start with.) Research these products before investing in one. Some wireless repeaters can be difficult to configure and can actually reduce performance.
A Wi-Fi Mesh system usually is a better solution.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems offer better speeds than Wi-Fi repeaters because the mesh router and nodes are specially designed to create a unified Wi-Fi network. Mesh Wi-Fi systems are also very reliable.
replace older Wi-Fi routers
Occasionally the existing Wi-Fi router is the problem, and a simple replacement is all that’s is needed. However this can be an expensive and replacing it with a Wi-Fi Mesh is usually a better solution .