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This is a 3D visualization of wifi strength in a 36cm x 36cm x 18cm space (approx 1ft x 1ft). The green and blue areas are where the signal is strongest, and the empty areas are where the signal is weaker. This shows how moving about 2.5 inches can get a completely different signal strength.
This is an overhead simulated view of a wifi signal in an apartment as the signal goes around and through walls.
There have been some studies on the performance of wifi, and on average it was found strip about 30% of the bandwidth, so a 5 Mbps connection with a cable turns to a 3.5 Mbps connection on wifi in the average setup. The more devices that you connect with wifi to the same router, the slower the wifi will be. Wifi will also add latency and jitter to the connection, which is most noticeable when it crumples an online gaming session. A cabled connection to the router should run at full speeds, and unlike wifi, it should hold up as more devices connect to it.
Checking how much wifi is slowing you down
If you are wondering if slower speeds are due to the Internet or your network, the time of day can help to narrow this down. The Internet is busiest, and therefore slowest, in the later evenings, around eight to midnight, so if it’s only slower there, it’s probably mostly the changing speed of the Internet, and if it’s slower at all times of day, then it’s more likely to be your network. A quick speed test over wifi, and then another over a cabled connection should show the wifi loss. There is an additional step after connecting the cable to your computer before trying the speed test, which is to disable the wifi on the computer so that you can be sure that the connection is over the cable. If you have a cable and wifi connecting, it will often still use the wifi to connect. The speed test on our site will provide the most accuracy for this (explanation about this in the ‘The Internet’ section below): MCSnet Speed Test Page
Smart TVs can struggle with wifi because they are near metal and electronics that can hamper the signal. On top of this, video streams like youtube and Netflix are bandwidth hungry and sensitive to speed fluctuations, so give your new TV some love and get that cable connected. Take the time to run that cable once and you’re set for a long time. Printers are prone to error and failure and likely to peeve many a computer technician, but wireless (wifi) printers add more trouble ontop of this and are a calamitous pestilence not recommended for those of the faint of heart.
Alright, wifi is slow, but I have this tablet/phone that need it, can I help it?
Yes, there are three areas to look at for improving wifi performance: signal/interference, networking standard, and number of devices sharing airtime.
Signal and Interference
The signal is the bars that fill up to show you the strength of the wifi connection.
The signal should be stronger if you are next to the router, and weaker as you are farther away. There are more placement tricks though, the signal is often weakest above the router, strongest on the same level as it, and weaker when below it. You want to have your router positioned on or above the floor of your house where you use most of your devices. Routers with external antennas are preferred (some wifi routers have internal antennas, which can give slick spaceship looks, but they are weaker). External antennas can be orientated to help the signal in different areas. For best all-around signal, if there are two antennas they should be placed on 45 degree angles, like the old rabbit ear V. The signal is strongest perpendicular to the antenna angle, so orientating the antennas horizontally instead of up and down (vertically) can help the vertical connectivity on another floor, where wifi tends to struggle most. Wifi broadcasted from the basement is not only going to struggle from the router being below and weakening the signal, but it’s also trying to shoot through the metal in the plumbing, HVAC, and electrical in a typical basement ceiling to get to the main floor.
External Antennas. If your router has screw on antennas, make sure they are screwed in tightly to get a full connection. If you have trouble getting the signal to a specific spot in your house, you may be able to help it with a stronger antenna or a directional antenna. These antennas are made for the 2.4 GHz range, so they will not work for a 5 GHz 802.11ac pure connection (802.11ac is the latest wifi standard, more on the 802.11 standards below).
Part One: Your Network
Your network is a good place to start since it’s where you have most direct control.
After the radio on your roof, the main parts of the MCSnet network are the access points (APs) on the towers that the subscribers connect to, tower to tower feeds, and the connection to the fibre for the region.