Check your speed
First of all, it needs to be said that your WiFi speed is limited by what ever speed you are getting from your internet service provider. If you are getting 10Mbps from your service provider then you can expect nothing more than that when connected to WiFi. The best way to check what speed you are getting at your router is to connect to the router with an ethernet cable (there are usually extra ports on the back of your router to which you can connect) and go to the website https://www.speedtest.net/ to test your internet speed. If the speed you are getting at the router is similar to what you have been sold then all is good…
The next step would be to disconnect the cable from the router and do the same speed test while connected to the WiFi (you can also do this with the Speedtest.net mobile app). Start by doing the test close to the router then move around your house to the various rooms where you want WiFi.
Once you have established what the speed of your connection is, you can then start working through the list below to improve your WiFi speed.
- Choosing the right Internet Service Provider (ISP)
- Reboot your router
- Change the Channel
- Move your router
- Add an access point
1. Choosing the right Internet Service Provider (ISP)
If (from your Speedtest.net results) you have found that the internet you are being supplied is too slow then there are several options to choose from. Scotland (in particular the Scottish Highlands) is an interesting case with super fast fibre optic in some areas and ‘slit your wrist’ slow broadband in other areas. All is not lost though… There are a surprising number of options that can get most places in the Highlands up and running with decent internet speeds. Who you should choose depends entirely on what service you can get, your preferences and your budget.
Here are your options.
There are a number of standard suppliers such as BT, SKY, Scotnet and Highnet that supply broadband over the telecoms networks in the UK. Your best and fastest option is Fibre Optic that can produces speeds of up 1000Mbps. Where Fibre Optic is not available there are still some copper based networks that can supply up to 50Mbps. There is currently a massive roll out of fibre optic in the Scottish Highlands and internet speeds in general are getting faster and more accessible.
Wireless ISP’s (WISP)
A WISP is essentially a small ISP that services a local area with a wireless network that can extend several miles and provide a much needed service in smaller isolated communities. The biggest challenge in getting a service from a WISP is that you need line of sight with one of their towers that provides the internet. The internet speed offered by WISP’s is generally between 25Mbps and 40Mbps but you can expect this to increase as general internet speed in the country increases.
LTE (mobile broadband) is a great option if you have a decent mobile broadband connection and the cost to implement is substantially lower than using a WISP. The price you pay for service depends on the service provider you use (3, Voadfone etc).
2. Reboot your router
Your router is essentially a computer, and like most computers things seem to get a bit slow when left on for a long time. Periodically rebooting your router is good practice and should be the first step to problem solving a slow internet connection. Make sure you leave it off for 10 to 15 seconds so that the capacitors can drain their power to allow the memory to completely reset.
3. Change the Channel
If the WiFi signal close to the router is significantly worse than when connected with a cable then the first probability is that you are getting some interference from surrounding WiFi networks and should change the channel settings on the WiFi router to a less “crowded” channel. Some routers, notably BT’s Home Hubs, can change their channel to avoid interference but this isn’t always successful and you may still prefer to change the channel yourself to see if there’s a better channel with less interference. If your router is set to auto select channels then rebooting it may also help select a better “uncrowded” channel. If rebooting doesn’t help then manually changing the channel is your best option.
The best Wi-Fi channel, therefore, is one that isn’t being used by all your neighbours. By manually switching to a less-crowded channel, or one currently not used by any other networks, your Wi-Fi should improve markedly. The best way to check for less crowded WiFi channels is to use a WiFi scanner such as Netspot which will show you all of the WiFi users around you and the channels that they are using.
4. Move your router
More often than not, your WiFi router is not placed in an optimum position in your house or office to distribute the network throughout the building. In most cases, the ideal position for a WiFi router is the middle of the house but the telecoms point is almost always tucked away in the corner against an exterior wall.
There are also many things such as solid stone or brick walls, metal, electromagnetic interference, distance and more that can affect your WiFi signal. If your WiFi signal is great at the router but not great in other parts of your house, it could be any one of the above mentioned factors that could influence your connection. The easiest solution to this problem is to move the router to a more central location and away from away from the interference.
5. Add an access point
If moving your router is not an option(e.g. due to no power socket nearby) or if moving the router does not produce satisfactory results then the next option would be to add an access point (AP) such as the Unifi AC AP. These units have far stronger antennas capable of transmitting a WiFi signal further than any consumer supplied router. They are also capable of meshing (if you wish to add more than one AP) which is basically eliminates the need for a cabled link from the router to the AP. However… You will always get better results if you run an ethernet cable from the router to the AP, so if you can run an ethernet cable, do it.
If you’re trying to get WiFi to a shed or an outbuilding then you may need to add a Wireless Bridge which is a dedicated wireless link between two buildings (It’s like having a “wireless cable” to a building that can be from several feet to several miles apart). Wireless bridges are inexpensive and very effective at creating wireless networks over long distances where running a cable is not possible.