Wireless connectivity, or WiFi, has enhanced every aspect of our lives. No longer do you have to remain tethered to the wall in order to check your email or browse online. WiFi has enabled us to do more by taking us mobile. And most of us think nothing of it… until it stops working.
When your WiFi goes out or slows to a crawl, it’s a terrible inconvenience. We’ve put together some easy troubleshooting ideas to get your life mobile again.
What is the difference between a modem and a WiFi router?
A modem connects your home to the internet, while a router connects devices to WiFi. It’s easy to get the two devices mixed up—many people use the terms interchangeably, and some modems have built-in WiFi routers. We provide the modem and router separately to give you the best possible internet experience over WiFi.
What kind of WiFi router should I be using?
We recommend our powerful new Home Optimized Performance WiFi, or HOP WiFi®. Our plan includes 24/7 support for all wired and wireless devices in your home, as well as WireGuard Protection Plan.
With HOP WiFi, our technicians will map your home for maximum coverage and performance*. They will walk the property with you to test your signal strength and discuss your usage, working with you to create a wireless network perfectly tailored for your family.
*Available on installations with 3 or more access points.
If you prefer to use your own wireless router, make sure it can support your devices. Many products conform to the 802.11 wireless standard. Standards are always being updated, much like the way software is updated in a smartphone or on your computer; so letter designations (a/b/g/n/ac) are used to differentiate the versions. We recommend the 802.11ac standard, which can support most modern consumer devices.
If you are on our fiber network, make sure your router is gigabit compatible. Check the manufacturer’s website to review their specifications.
Is one router enough for my home?
Most routers can support a one-story single family home; however, the signal is strongest in the room where the router is located. Every concrete wall the signal travels through weakens it further. If you have a large or two-story home, you may want to consider installing multiple access points.
Where should I position my router?
Place the router in the middle of your house so the signal is equally distributed across your home. Position the router’s antenna vertically so that it is standing straight up. Many antennas can lie horizontally, but standing straight up is generally the ideal position. Elevate your router; you’ll get better reception if the router is on a desk, rather than the floor.
You should also pay attention to the kinds of materials the router is near. For example, signals can travel through a wood desk easily, but metal will obstruct the signals. If there is a metal filing cabinet between your computer and the router, you may not receive a wireless signal. The same applies to other types of dense objects.
My internet seems slow. Is there a way to check my speed?
If your network appears slow, run a speed test. We recommend Speedtest by Ookla. You can download the app for free on your mobile device or access it HERE. You can use it to check both your WiFi and wired connection; we recommend checking both.
Keep in mind that if you are on WiFi, you lose approximately half your speed right off the bat, depending on how many devices you have on your network. For example, if you’re paying for speeds up to 150Mpbs but your speed test says you’re only getting 100Mbps on WiFi, that’s actually within normal range. That’s why we recommend checking your wired connection, too.
I checked my speed and it’s fine, but I’m still getting lag. What could be causing this?
If your speed tests normal, there may be other factors going on in your home. Most new routers can support several devices, including computers, tablets, phones and even appliances. However, every device connected to your network will decrease your bandwidth a portion, especially over WiFi.
The age and condition of each device makes a big difference. You may be trying to watch a show on your brand new Smart TV. But you also have a five year old computer on your WiFi network. This slows the connection considerably. Your WiFi speed will downgrade to accommodate the oldest, least efficient device on your network, which in turn affects the speed of every other connected device.
With new technology coming out every day, we recommend upgrading your hardware every few years. Or remove that old computer or device from your WiFi network and only sign on when you are actively using it.
What about streaming? Or checking my email? How do these tasks affect my speed?
Streaming videos and downloading large files such as photos requires more bandwidth than checking your email. These applications put greater strain on the network, slowing it down as a result.
Imagine dad streaming the game on tv. At the same time, mom is on her phone searching the web for recipes. Sister is at the computer completing her research paper in an online classroom. And brother is on the video game console playing an online game. Every one of these devices is connected to your network, either through a wired or wireless connection.
Individually, these tasks might all be easily accomplished with your service plan. But combined they create a problem if your router is not capable of carrying such a load.
I have multiple devices connected to my WiFi. They seem to be slowing down my network even when I’m not using them. What could be causing this?
Consider background applications. These are often overlooked but can slow your WiFi speeds considerably. Even when they appear to be idle, some apps are actually burning through data in the background—they may be downloading updates or advertising content. Be sure to close applications as you finish them.
Cloud backup applications that auto-sync, such as DropBox or photo syncing, are also big data hogs. Instead, consciously decide when you want to sync to backup services.
What is the difference between WiFi and Wireless?
Wireless is service you have with the cellular data plan purchase with your cell phone service. WiFi is the signal that a router provides as it connects your internet modem to create your home network.
Is the signal strength any better for WiFi versus wireless?
A wireless connection has a much larger range than a WiFi connection. You can utilize a wireless connection from any location where you receive a signal from your cellular phone provider. The range of a WiFi connection is much more limited; for best performance, utilize the connection from within the same building where the WiFi router is installed.
What is the difference in cost?
The costs associated with WiFi connections tend to be much lower than those of wireless. After purchasing the required hardware and establishing a WiFi connection in your home, your monthly internet service bill is your only cost, and there are no limits on usage. Connection charges may apply when using WiFi access points outside the home.
The base cost of a wireless connection is similar, but you can often only download a few gigabytes of data per month. If you download more data than is allotted in your plan, you are subject to overage charges.