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Slow WiFi? Your neighbour could be the culprit!

25/07/2017
Slow WiFi? Your neighbour could be the culprit!

Your WiFi connection may not be as slow as you think it is and knowing how you can boost your speed by modifying the channels your connection is using should be a good point of reference. Channels are means through which your WiFi connection is established. Multiple WiFi connections in your vicinity might be using the same channels since most of the suppliers set a predefined channel by default during manufacturing. Unfortunately, this can create interference and a decrease in WiFi performance as a consequence.

In this day and age, it can be said that we’re surrounded by a large number of WiFi networks. Apart from one’s own network, there can be the WiFi networks of your neighbours or the nearby coffee shop. All of these wireless networks primarily use the 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands, unless the 60GHz WiFi network is being used. These frequency bands are divided into fragments or channels, which are used to carry the information over the radio waves. The 2.4GHz band currently has 14 different but overlapping channels, starting from 2.412Ghz up to 2.462GHz. Only the channels 1, 6, and 11 are non-overlapping. However, in practical scenarios, only 13 channels are used out of the total 14. On the other hand, the 5GHz band has far greater number of channels.

The existence of multiple WiFi networks in close vicinity can result in signal interference and therefore degrade the network speed. One can fix this issue by configuring a network router to operate on a channel which is used the least by other routers. This can be accomplished by first identifying which channel the router is using and which free or less congested channels are available in the area.

Multiple free tools for all Operating Systems (OS) exist and the following are just few which are worth exploring.

  • Linux

In the case of Linux distributions, there are various command-line based tools which can be used to analyse WiFi connections. The iwlist tool is used to display detailed information about the wireless interface. One can also use it to get details about the channels being used in the vicinity.

  • Android/ Microsoft Windows

On Android devices and Microsoft Windows OSs, one can utilise an app called WiFi Analyzer to find the best possible channel on the device. The user can choose the most appropriate channel by viewing the strength vs channel graph in the WiFi Analyzer app. Alternatively, one can tap the eye button on the top of the screen and select Channel rating. WiFi Analyzer has the same features on both OSs.

  • Mac OS X

In the case of Mac OS, the inbuilt Wireless Diagnostics Utility can automatically suggest the best WiFi channel for the network router. Once the tool is loaded, from the Window menu choose ‘Scan’. When the scan process has completed, this will display which channel is currently being used, and which best channel should be used according to the current neighbouring wireless routers. The user has the option to choose the best channel between the 2.4GHz and 5GHz band if the device supports it.

Once the channel used and the “best” channel has been identified, one needs to configure the wireless router to use it. The configuration varies across the routers designed by different manufacturers. In a nutshell, one needs to access the router’s interface using the web browser and make the necessary changes.

Generally, 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1 are the default IP addresses to access a router’s web interface. One should refer to the router’s user guide for details about its IP address and login details. If this is not available, one can download a PDF copy from the manufactures website. Most of the time, the default login credentials for WiFi routers are the same. If those have never been changed, one could try username admin and password admin. Once logged in, the option to change the channel in your router is most probably listed under WiFi Settings or WLAN Settings.

Apart from changing the channel, there are also other vital factors that play a role in WiFi connectivity. A case in point is the positioning of the wireless router which can greatly affect the coverage area and signal strength.

The following are some quick tips to position your router for the best signal:

  • Placing the router in the middle of the building. If the router is placed in a room off to the side of your house, the signal won’t be as strong on the other side of your house.
  • Position the router’s antenna vertically, so that the antenna is standing straight up. Many antennas can be adjusted and lie horizontally, but standing straight up is generally the ideal position.
  • Elevate the router away from floors. You’ll get better reception if the router is on a desk, not on the floor.

In most instances, users reported to have seen an improvement in their WiFi connection by simply following the above steps. If no improvement is seen, one should consider connecting the computer with a wire directly to the router and perform some internet speed tests. One of the mostly used tools to measure internet performance is the website www.speedtest.net. If internet speed shown is not in the region of what one is paying for, the local ISP (internet service provider) should be contacted for some troubleshooting to be performed from their side.

 

Jonathan Mizzi is manager of the Deloitte Digital Data Centre. For more information, please visit www.deloittedigital.com.mt/hosting-and-cloud-services