- Check your router is in the best position to spread the WiFi signal around your house
- Avoid putting your router where there are walls, metal or fish tanks between you and the signal.
- Set the router to Auto Channel selection
- Use WiFi extenders correctly, these can increase range but not speed
Before we get to the tips, it’s important to understand the problem we’re trying to solve. WiFi is a radio signal sent and received by your router. You also have your device like a phone or laptop sending and receiving WiFi. So for the system to work both the router and your device need to be able to hear each other.
Because the radio waves are ‘shorter’ they don’t cope well with hitting things like walls, metal pipework or water (think of fishtanks and immersion heaters). This is why the signal is mostly confined around your router, but ‘longer’ waves such as FM radio can transmit for miles. This means we need to put the router somewhere it can spread its signal furthest.
To demonstrate this, the late 2016 advert for BT Infinity demonstrates their WiFi signal goes a great distance. However, if you look critically at the advert it shows nothing between the router and Ryan Reynolds. Adding a wall, pipework etc. in between the signal will not go anywhere near the distance demonstrated. This is a straight line demonstration without any obstructions.
Is this advert misleading?
Tip 1 – Router placement
The ideal position for most routers is in the centre of the space you want the signal. The exceptions are devices like the BT router which are shaped to go in the corner of a building and ‘push’ the signal out, take a look at the router and you can imagine cupping your hands behind your ears to hear better what’s in front of you.
You need to balance placing the router for good WiFi signal with keeping it close to your master telephone socket. Using poor quality extension cables run the risk of slowing your internet connection down so experiment with using an telephone extension cable.
If your router has ariels you can position, try placing them at different angles to improve coverage. Alternatively you may find your router performs better led down, or on its side.
Tip 2 – WiFi Channel
When you connect to your router I expect you see other WiFi devices in the surrounding area and select yours from a list. So they don’t interfere each WiFi network will use a specific channel. It’s OK to use the same channel as neighbouring devices however, you will suffer slower performance.Your router should be kept in Auto for its channel selection.
Your router should be kept in Auto for its channel selection, this will be the state it is shipped as. If you specify a channel and your neighbours change theirs to match to try and solve a problem, you’ll be stuck with poor WiFi. Leaving your router on Auto means it will scan and find the best channel each time it restarts.
The WiFi channel can also face interference from other devices, such as Microwaves, cordless-phones and baby monitors. If you find your signal is dropping, try turning off these devices one-by-one to check if that is the cause.
Tip 3 – WiFi extenders
If you still have a troublesome area then using a WiFi extender / repeater can help fill this gap.
You should place the repeater half way between the dead-spot and your router. These repeaters work by listening to the signal, boosting it and then repeating it. If you place the repeater too close to your router it’s like having someone repeat everything you say, this would cause a lot of confusion for the devices that are working. Also as the repeater needs to hear the original signal before repeating it ‘louder’, it needs to be close enough.
Because of this delay as it hears and repeats, these devices will help you get a signal however it will not be as fast as connecting directly to your router.
An alternative is to use Powerline adapters. These plug into your electricity socket and using a cable plug into your router. They transmit your Internet using your houses internal wiring. You can plug a partner powerline adapter anywhere in your property and it can either generate a WiFi signal from there, or provide a network port you can plug into. These may not work if the two power sockets are on different circuits, if you are not sure either check with an electrician or purchase from somewhere you can return and get a refund.
Tip 4 – DIY Solutions
There are some unexpected ways you can improve your WiFi signal, at the beginning of the article I explained how the BT router uses a curved panel to transmit its signal. You can simulate this by placing a smooth metal surface behind or under your router to reflect the signal up or away.
If your router has aerials, you can buy larger aerials, or extend them with aerial extension leads to place it up to 5 meters away from your router. This could also be used to extend a WiFi signal out into the garden. These aerial extension cables are often used in caravans and boats where you would have difficulty picking up a WiFi signal from a campsite inside a metal box!