Your Network in Uncertain Times: Coping With COVID-19
Written by Don Schultz, trueCABLE Technical Sales Representative & Fluke Networks Certified Technician
Working from home? Are your two kids also at home doing schoolwork? Well, they are supposed to be doing schoolwork. You better check on them. You just know they aren’t doing it.
Like many around the world, you have likely discovered the limitations of your single home WiFi router. Not surprising, the vast majority of these devices are older and not designed for this much pressure. Content streaming addictions can be hard on your WiFi and Internet connection!
Before you take a baseball bat or hammer to your current WiFi router (although it might deserve it anyway), here are some tips to help you and your kids get through this “new normal”. I will keep this blog shorter, linking to many other blogs, so that you can get as much information in one spot as possible.
First Up. Do You Need Faster Internet Speed? You Might!
If you have more than three people in your home and they are all consuming online media and also doing work, you should spring for at least 75 Mb/s. 150 Mb/s is better. I am not suggesting you dive into Gigabit Internet, but I would not stop you if that is your goal. It will likely cost you to upgrade to higher speeds, but think of it in temporary terms. COVID-19 won’t be an issue forever. Your internet service provider will be happy to upgrade you, and likely without the need to sign a long term contract.
Did you know that 4K and HDR streaming requires 30 Mb/s per stream? That adds up quickly!
Second Item. Is Your Current WiFi Router the Root Cause?
Stop here and read What is WiFi 6? That blog is a bit technical, but it helps troubleshoot issues if you have a ton of WiFi devices all competing for your WiFi router signal. You will get into situations where you think your Internet connection is slow, but in reality, what you are seeing is latency from your WiFi router. Most WiFi routers are based on older technologies that can only communicate with one device at a time. Each WiFi device has to wait its turn. This causes delays that appear to be slow Internet. WiFi 6 or 802.11ax goes a long way to resolving this problem.
The solution is to get a more recent WiFi router, and make sure it supports WiFi 6. If you buy any new electronic device like a smartphone, TV or something that needs to hook up via WiFi, then look for 802.11ax support, which is WiFi 6. The more devices that actively use 802.11ax will reduce overall WiFi latency issues.
Third Item. Is Using Too Much WiFi Another Cause?
Even with the best routers, a home router is still a home router. They can only take so much traffic on their WiFi connection before problems with latency occur. This is exacerbated since each device is filling the airwaves with its own signal which results in less bandwidth overall.
The solution is to wire devices that can be wired. Most smart TVs, gaming consoles, and desktop computers can use a wired Ethernet connection. Your WiFi router likely has a four port switch built-in already. Buy reputable Cat6 patch cables in the right lengths. Take a look at Cat7 Ethernet Cable: What You Need to Know before you get out the wallet. Also, take a look at The Best Ethernet Cable for Gaming.
In fact, I will recommend right now that if you have a gaming console or smart TV that you use to regularly consume high bandwidth content, then it should be wired. These devices should not be on WiFi if you are seeking reliability and a quality experience.
Should You Wire Your Entire Home?
You may need to. WiFi is limited by range and obstacles. In some cases, the best option is to get out the ladder, measuring wheel, and install Ethernet. There is a detailed white paper that goes into what a full-blown residential install looks like. You can read that here: The Residential Ethernet Network Install from A-Z. Please note that an undertaking of this nature should not be taken lightly, so careful planning, consideration, and reading should be on your shortlist before you purchase anything. To help with this, take a look at Top 5 Things to Consider When Running Ethernet Cable.
For those that cannot run Ethernet, MoCA is another option (but not ideal). Our blog MoCA vs Ethernet touches more on this topic.
Can You Tune An Existing WiFi Router For Better Performance?
You can. It takes time, planning, and patience. If funds are lacking and you are up for a challenge, a recent blog I wrote goes into great detail about how to improve what you have now, How to Boost Your WiFi Signal: Working With a Single WiFi Router.
There you have it! Some coping strategies for the current situation. As always, trueCABLE stands ready to help. Please give us a call for advice. HAPPY(ER) NETWORKING!
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