Understanding WiFi
What is WiFI & How does it work?
WiFi is a wireless technology that allows an electronic device to exchange data or connect to the Internet using radio waves. Communication across a wireless network is a lot like two-way radio communication. Here's how it works:
  1. A device's wireless adapter translates data into a radio signal and transmits it using an antenna.
  2. The wireless router receives the signal and decodes it. The router than sends the information to the Internet using a physical, wired Ethernet connection.
 
What affects your WiFi signal?

Many factors can cause disruptions in your WiFi signal. In most cases, WiFi disturbances are caused by one of the following:

Signal Congestion:

When you connect to a WiFi device, there is a limited amount of space on the overcrowded 2.4GHz air-waves that the signal is on. Bandwidth-hogging services such as those that provide games on multiple computers, using in-game voice and chat functionality; streaming media; and peer-to-peer file sharing can have a real effect on your overall speed. The more wireless devices that are being used simultaneously on your WiFi, the lower your speed will be. The more wireless networks there are around you, the worse your WiFi performance will be.

Physical Interference

WiFi networks use a weak radio signal that can be blocked or weakened by any number of construction materials inside of a building. These barriers are a likely reason that a WiFi signal is not penetrating as far as it should be. The table to the right lists common physical barriers and the effect that they have on your signal. To get better performance through these physical interferences, try moving your router to a different location or try broadcasting with a 5GHz frequency router.

Type of Barrier Interference Level
Wood Low
Plaster Low
Synthetic Material Low
Glass Low
Water Medium
Bricks Medium
Marble Medium
Concrete High
Metal High
Mirron Very High

Location of the Router:


The farther away from the router you are, the lower your signal strength will be. Moving your router around in the room it is in, as well as moving it to another room can sometimes make a noticeable difference. In general, the best location for your router is as close to the middle of your home as possible, or on the second floor if you live in a two-story home. Keep it off the floor and away from walls and large metal objects, like filing cabinets.

Frequency Interference

Many types of devices emit signals in the same 2.4GHz bandwidth as your wireless network, and may cause interference. Some of those devices are: microwave ovens, cordless phones, mobile phones, poorly wired satellite dishes, Bluetooth devices, neighbors’ wireless devices, wireless speakers, baby monitors, garage door openers, etc.

In most cases, simple troubleshooting should be able to identify if any of these factors are the cause of your WiFi disruption. If you have done some troubleshooting and have detected that none of these factors are the cause of your WiFi disturbance, please call our Support Center at 435-622-5151.

How much bandwidth do I need?

The amount of bandwidth you need varies depending on what activities you use the Internet for and how many devices you are connecting. The Broadband Requirements Guide below compares minimum download speed (Mbps) needs for light, moderate, and high household use with up to four devices at a time. Devices may include laptops, tablets, smartphones, game consoles, Bluetooth devices, smart TVs, wireless printers, etc.

Broadband Requirements Guide Light
Use
Moderate
Use
High
Use
  (Basic functions only: email, web surfing, basic streaming video) (Basic functions plus one high-demand application: HD streaming, video conferencing, or online gaming) (Basic functions plus more than one high demand application running at the same time.)
1 user on 1 device Basic Basic Medium
2 users or 2 devices at a time Basic Basic Medium/Advanced
3 users or 3 devices at a time Basic Basic/Medium Advanced
4 users or 4 devices at a time Basic/Medium Medium Advanced

Basic Service= 1 to 2 Mbps | Medium Service = 6 to 15 Mbps | Advanced Service = More than 15 Mbp

What activities use up the most of my bandwidth?

Streaming video services such as Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu all require a substantial amount of bandwidth for smooth, HD video delivery. If you use these sites or applications regularly, they are more than likely using up the majority of your bandwidth. Netflix typically recommends at least a 6 Mbps connection in order to watch one high definition feed, and at least 10 Mbps if you want to watch two movies at once.

Other bandwidth-hogging activities include running cloud applications, peer-to-peer file sharing, malware, two-way online gaming, and downloading or uploading large files.

Is there a difference in speed & reliability between WiFI and a Wired Connection?
Like all technology, WiFi does have its limitations. When comparing WiFi to a wired connection, a wired Internet, connected by either a telephone line, cable line, or fiber optic line, is ultimately a better option and allows for faster speeds. Generally, using a computer or device that is directly connected to a router with an Ethernet cable will always be more reliable and allow users better speeds.
Is there a faster WiFi option?

For a WiFi network, its speeds are defined by the standards used by the WiFi router and the connected devices. It is important to understand that our mobile devices and routers operate off of specific WiFi standards that support different radio frequencies. As technology continues to evolve, these standards are constantly changing to improve WiFi speeds.

802.11n and 802.11ac are two examples of the latest WiFi standards. 802.11n (the current WiFi standard that your smartphone and laptop probably use) is in the crowded 2.4GHz frequency. Because this standard uses this massively overused frequency, there is not enough spectral bandwidth to allow for faster Internet speeds. A new standard, 802.11ac, or ‘AC WiFi’, as it is also known, works in the 5GHz band, a much less crowded frequency, allowing for more speed. In order to take advantage of the benefits of the 802.11ac standard, your mobile device AND router both must be 802.11ac compatible. Otherwise, you will be limited to the performance of the older and slower 802.11n standard.

In addition to these standards, your WiFi speeds are also dependent on a number of variables including signal congestion, physical & frequency interference, and location of your router. If you are experiencing slow speeds and have identified that none of these factors are the cause, please call our Support Center at 435.622.5151.

What tools are available to optimize my WiFi performance?

There are several tools available that can improve your understanding of WiFi and help to optimize your network. One helpful and easy-to-use resource is a free speed test. The most accurate speed test that you can perform can be accessed at http://speedtest.stratanetworks.com. When running a speed test, try comparing the speed that you get on a wired connection (a device that is connected directly to your router through an Ethernet cable) to your speed when testing a device that is connected wirelessly. This can be a perfect illustration of how WiFi technology differs from wired Internet.

App developers have also been able to deploy programs that can turn your device into a WiFi analyzer to help optimize your network. Along with built-in speed tests, these apps offer additional tools that evaluate your WiFi connection. These apps can show you the WiFi channels around you, helping to find a less crowded channel for your router, and also help to identify the optimum location for your router.

  • WiFi Analyzer (Android users only): Allows you to see what channels are in use and identifies the best channel to set on your router. The signal meter allows you to determine the best location for your router. You can use this feature to walk around your home or office to see where the optimum signal is and make adjustments as needed.
  • Network Multimeter (Apple users only): Designed to give you continuous and instant indication of the quality of your wireless network right where you are standing. Also compares one access point to another for times when you are presented with multiple network options.