Before you embark on the quest for faster WiFi, you should first figure out how fast your WiFi is supposed to be. You might find out that the speeds you’re currently getting are actually the maximum speeds you can reasonably expect to get.
To start with, you should find out how fast your home internet is. If you’re not sure, contact your internet provider and ask. Let’s say you have a 100 Mbps connection going into your house — that’s 100 megaBITS per second. Since nobody except for ISPs thinks in megabits, it’s useful to convert the number to megabytes per second, which gives us 12.5 megaBYTES per second.
In other words, it should take you approximately 1 second to download a 12.5 megabytes-large file from the internet under ideal conditions, of course.
WiFi routers broadcast on two main frequencies — 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz — and each of these frequencies is divided into several channels. What’s more, WiFi routers use several different IEEE 802.11 protocols, which provide the basis for wireless network products using the WiFi brand.
The oldest still commonly used WiFi protocol is 802.11g, and it supports transmissions speeds of only 54 Mbps, or roughly 6.75 megabytes per second. If you have an older wireless router that only supports the 802.11g WiFi protocol, and you pay for a 100 Mbps internet connection, it’s impossible for you to utilize your connection to its maximum capacity. In that case, your only option is to upgrade to a newer router, which, of course, isn’t free.
But what if you have a newer router, let’s say one that supports the 802.11ac WiFi protocol, which has a multi-station throughput of at least 1 Gbps and single-link throughput of at least 500 Mbps? If that’s the case, consider yourself lucky because you should be able to utilize your internet connection to its maximum capacity even over WiFi.
To test how fast your WiFi is, we recommend NetSpot, an industry-leading Mac OS X and Windows application for WiFi analysis and surveys.
Unlike online speed tests, which typically measure only latency, download speed, and upload speed, NetSpot can provide you deep insights into the state of your wireless network and help you understand how it fluctuates throughout the day and how it changes from room to room.
NetSpot has two distinct WiFi analysis modes: Survey and Discover. The former mode makes it possible to outline your WiFi network on a map and visualize its strength and other parameters. The latter mode collects every detail about surrounding WiFi networks and presents wireless data as an interactive table.
NetSpot also has the so-called Active Scanning feature, which allows you to find out exactly how fast your WiFi is across your house. To use NetSpot’s Active Scanning feature to test WiFi speed in an instant, start a new project. Load an existing map of your area or create a new one.
On the Active Scan screen, select your wireless network and click on “Enable active scanning of the selected network(s).” Perform the scan. Once your survey is complete, you will be able to analyze your results and see your upload speed, download speed, wireless transmit rate, as well as other metrics depending on the exact configuration of the scan.
WiFi signal strength reduces with distance. If you stand just a few feet away from your router, you should be able to enjoy fast WiFi and utilize your internet connection to its maximum capacity. But walk to another room, and your WiFi speeds are most likely going to drop. Depending on the materials used to build your home, the drop could be fairly sharp.
That’s why you should always place your router as close to the center of your house as possible. With NetSpot, you can check for signal weak spots and find the most optimum location for your router. As a rule of thumb, avoid placing your router close to large appliances that are likely to emit a lot of electromagnetic interference.
You can also make your WiFi faster by switching to the least used WiFi channel. This is especially important if you live in a densely populated urban area and have a lot of other wireless networks in your vicinity. If you were to broadcast on the same channel as everyone else, your speeds would suffer because of a phenomenon known as WiFi congestion.
Using NetSpot’s Discover Mode, you can easily generate a convenient table of all wireless networks around you and see which channels they broadcast on. Simply open NetSpot app and click Discover. Click either on “Channels 2.4 GHz” or “Channels 5 GHz” to see which WiFi channels are used the least. You should always prefer non-overlapping channels (1, 6, and 11).
With these simple tips, you should be able to enjoy a fast WiFi hotspot even with an older wireless router. Of course, there is only so much you can accomplish with outdated technology, especially if you live in a larger home and your WiFi requirements are high.