Jenneth Orantia
Smarter Writer

Jenneth Orantia is a journalist who has been reporting on tech developments and trends for the last decade

Jenneth Orantia
Smarter Writer

Jenneth Orantia is a journalist who has been reporting on tech developments and trends for the last decade

Having a steady internet connection is one of those things you simply expect in an office building, much like electricity or a working phone line.

But what if your building uses Wi-Fi and your desk is on the outer edges of the wireless network – or worse, beyond the reach of the wireless signal altogether?

Wi-Fi networks have a set radius that they operate in. The closer your computer is to the Wi-Fi router (the device that creates the wireless network), the stronger your signal will be. Conversely, it gets progressively weaker the further you move away from the router. 

If you’re not getting a good Wi-Fi signal in your workspace, here are a few ways you can improve it.

router

1. Reposition the router

If you think about the wireless network as a circle with the Wi-Fi router right in the middle, it’s clear that you’ll get the best coverage in your building if you place your router in a central location. Rather than put the router on the ground so that it’s close to the phone line, you’ll actually get broader coverage if you mount the router as high as possible.

If you have the flexibility to move your router to different locations, look for a position that’s free of nearby obstructions that will interfere with the signal such as thick walls and ceilings, metal objects and even mirrors and glass.

2. Change the wireless channel number that your network uses

Your Wi-Fi network will be susceptible to any other wireless signals in the area, such as cordless telephones, microwave ovens, and neighbouring wireless networks.

The best way to get around wireless interference is by changing the wireless channels that your Wi-Fi network uses. To do that, you’ll need to login to your Wi-Fi router’s configuration page (usually a browser-based interface) and change the relevant setting.

Generally speaking, the best wireless channels to use are 1, 6, 9 or 11, as they don’t overlap with any other channels. If you’re confused about which channel to use, the inSSIDer utility (available for Windows and Mac for RRP US$20) will scan all of the networks in your area, let you know about any networks that overlap with yours, and also recommend the best channel to use based on your configuration.

3. Upgrade Wi-Fi firmware router 

Just like your computer, smartphone or tablet, Wi-Fi routers occasionally get firmware updates that fix any issues and potentially improve performance.

To see if your router has a firmware upgrade available, first check the router’s firmware version in the ‘About’ section of its configuration page and note its current firmware number. Next, you’ll need to check whether there’s a newer firmware version available. The easiest way to find your Wi-Fi router’s firmware page is by doing a Google search. If your router is the Belkin AC17500, for instance, you’d do a search for ‘Belkin AC1750 firmware’ and look for results that link back to Belkin’s support pages. The firmware update page will usually have instructions on how to update your router’s firmware.

4. Replace your router antenna

Most wireless routers have one or more antennas that you can replace with higher-gain directional antennas to help increase the range of your wireless network, especially if you’re missing out on coverage in a particular area.

The TP Link TL-ANT2490A  is a relatively inexpensive 2.4GHz directional antenna that you can pick up for around RRP $49 (plus shipping). It’s compatible with most wireless routers, and installation is simply a case of unscrewing the existing antenna(s) and screwing in the TP Link antennas.

5. Upgrade wireless router

Depending on how old your existing Wi-Fi router is, swapping it out for a newer one will see significant gains in both speed and coverage of your wireless network.

Wi-Fi routers that support the latest 802.11ac standard use a new ‘beamforming’ technology that aims the wireless signal directly at target computers − a far more efficient technique than the old method of broadcasting the signal to a wide area, resulting in better coverage.

6. Install another access point

The most effective way of extending the range of a wireless network is by installing an additional access point. This connects to your Wi-Fi router that uses a wired connection to expand the range of your wireless network.

The only difficulty with using an access point is that it needs to be physically connected to your Wi-Fi router using a cable. This can be done easily enough if your office is wired with Ethernet ports, but if not, you’ll need to trail unsightly cables along the floor or walls.

An alternative to connecting the access point via Ethernet is using a Power over Ethernet (PoE) product. This uses your office’s existing electrical system to connect to your Wi-Fi router – you simply plug the access point into an electrical socket and configure it to access your existing Wi-Fi network. However, access points that use PoE technology (such as Powerline or MOCA) aren’t as easy to find as their wired equivalents.

7. Extend your signal  

Add a range extender to the network. Range extenders are similar to access points, however they don’t create a new network – they simply extend the existing signal. As a result, computers that connect to a range extender don’t get as much bandwidth as computers that are connected to the main router.

Still, products like the D-Link DAP-1650 Wireless AC1200 Dual Band Gigabit Ranger Extender are easier to set up than a wired access point and can be a cheaper and easier to find than a PoE access point.

Prices correct at time of publishing.

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