How do I get better Wi-Fi & connectivity at home?
Questions Answered | 09-11-2022
This is probably the most consistent question that we get asked by new clients.
Covid and Lockdown seems to have brought this to the forefront of everyone’s minds. Working and studying from home suddenly meant that being connected to the world was critical.
Not only being connected – but that connection being stable, fast, and secure – consistently.
Suddenly the odd dropout which we used to ignore became incredibly frustrating when one was on an important work call with colleagues or clients. It became embarrassing to be the one person on a call who was glitching or freezing because of a poor Wi-Fi signal.
We have a proven process to improve your wired connection and Wi-Fi connections within your property.
The network is the foundation of any AV system or Smart Home. With so much of our content being delivered by streaming, there is no longer the option to ignore a poorly performing network.
Unhappy with poor Wi-Fi signal?
These are our 5 steps to improving your internet connection:
1. Check that you are on the fastest (high speed) connection and the optimal contract with your ISP (internet service provider)
This may sound logical, but you would be surprised to find out how many of our clients are on legacy contracts where faster packages are available, but they have not seen the communication from the ISP to inform them of this.
We always check what connections are possible for our clients by simply going to the major providers such as BT and Virgin and running a postcode check. These checks typically indicate the range of speeds to expect and the minimum guaranteed speed. This gives you a benchmark for your connection.
These speeds are always quoted as the ‘hard wired’ speed which would be delivered to your router – to test these you must be directly connected to the router using a laptop, for example, with a network port. The speeds will degrade over Wi-Fi and using app’s like ‘Ookla Speedtest‘ for example are not an accurate representation of your actual speeds.
If in doubt, contact your ISP and ask them to check. Sometimes they will simply ‘retrain’ the line remotely and you can notice a significant improvement from them doing this.
Although it is important to remember that we cannot increase your internet speeds beyond those offered by the ISP without taking extra steps such as adding a secondary line. We cannot simply turn a 70MB connection into 100MB – we are constrained by the incoming speeds available to your property.
Personally, if I find a client who is in a Virgin Media enabled area, I will always recommend Virgin. Their speeds are phenomenal with packages delivering over 1Gbps to their ultrafast locations. They also offer 18-month contracts as opposed to BT’s minimum 24-month contract at much more competitive monthly rates.
2. Do you have the right router in place?
Once you are confident you have the right contract, and that the ISP is delivering the speeds they promise, the next step in the chain is the wireless router.
If you are on a BT contract, they will typically deliver you a BT Home Hub. Virgin will provide a Media Hub. These routers are mass produced due to the nature of the vast quantities required by Virgin & BT. We typically struggle to see that they are reliable, and we argue that the feature set contained within them is not as advanced as a third-party router such as DrayTek.
We have been using DrayTek routers since we started the company. They either sit in place of or in line with the ISP router and they offer a vast array of features and more flexibility for us to configure the network to suit the installation as a whole.
Our networks are often complex as we have systems such as Sky & Sonos for example which are well known to not play nicely together on the same network. We also sometimes have multiple internet lines – clients sometimes like to have a backup connection with automatic failover in the event of a line outage. All these things are possible with a DrayTek router.
It is important to ensure your router has capacity for the maximum speed of your line in terms of throughput. We would recommend a router which has more ‘headroom’ as speeds are consistently increasing and choosing the right router now ensures that it does not need to be replaced again for a while.
Not a recommend placement for your wi-fi router… no matter how cute!
3. Do you have a wired or wireless infrastructure within your property?
This is one of the first questions we ask clients. If you have a hard-wired infrastructure this means that you have several data cables originating from a single location, going to multiple rooms within the property. You would probably be aware of a cupboard which has a cabinet, your router and lots of cables coming into the room – along with data points scattered across the rooms.
If this is the case, you are in good stead – this provides so many opportunities for upgrading the wired and wireless networks along with other AV systems such as a Video over IP solution, for example, for centralising TV sources and sending the signals over the data cables to TVs within the property.
Fear not if you do not have this type of installation in your property. My current house falls within the typical stereotype of a 1980’s UK build. We have a single point in the study where the incoming BT connection is located and that is where we have our DrayTek router.
We have then overcome this with a Ruckus Unleashed Wi-Fi solution, and we are currently contemplating adding 1-2 data cables so that our children’s PC’s can be hard-wired for gaming. There are always ways in which to overcome this challenge.
If you are building a new property or renovating, please do not forget the data infrastructure! This is so key. If unsure, pre-wiring is always the best way.
If you do have cables in place, then you would need a network switch in this central location. We always use Cisco network switches – they are industry leaders – reliable and robust. A network switch is needed to ‘liven up’ the data points within the rooms – providing them with access to the internet.
Network switches also contain something known as POE (power over ethernet) – this is used to physically power devices such as touchscreens, Wi-Fi access points, intercom door stations, Crestron/Control4 gateways for example. It is important to design the network so there is a full understanding as to what the requirements are so that everything can be specified correctly.
4. Then the Wi-Fi system…
We have been using Ruckus for over 10yrs. I can count on a single hand the number of faulty access points we have seen during this time – and we have installed hundreds! Reliability is key for us – we design systems which we want to last for many years – having to return to a project because of a faulty product is not acceptable to us. It incurs losses to us in terms of time, but also inconvenience to our clients.
Using Ruckus avoids this and allows us to ‘love and leave’ systems in place for many years. The only reason to replace these systems is due to the advances in technology.
Systems we installed in 2017, for example, were designed for much lower internet speeds and based upon the protocols in place at the time. Wi-Fi 6 is a big shift in terms of network protocols, paving the way for the next generation of faster speeds. Our older systems will continue to work but will not be able to benefit from these new advances in technology so the choice to upgrade is for our clients depending upon the value they place against the new models which are available.
Ruckus offer access points which are then strategically placed across the property to create a ‘mesh’ network. If you have cables in place, then these access points are hard-wired and powered by the Cisco switch. If you do not have cables, then these are powered by physical power supplies.
Ruckus introduced Beamflex technology in circa 2009 which refers to the smart antenna technology they use in each of their access points to maximise signal coverage, throughput, and network capacity. Beamflex offers 3 x increase in performance and range, 8 x increase in coverage and stabilised wireless network performance which in turn results in picture perfect video streaming and crystal-clear voice communications. It ensures that unlike omni-directional antennas that radiate signal in all directions, Beamflex directly transmits energy towards the nest path to the receiving device.
In addition to this Ruckus WAPs have so many other features such as ‘interference avoidance’, ‘smart healing’ and ‘self-forming features’ all of which work together to deliver the ultimate Wi-Fi solution.
Ruckus have a wide range of external access points as well so we can extend the house network seamlessly outside to cover external areas such as gardens, driveways or even tennis courts. This is important if you have external AV such as outside speakers or even an outside TV. If you remain on the network, you can continue to use these systems like you would if you were inside – choosing tracks on Spotify and then wirelessly connecting to the garden speakers whilst outside.
If you do not have any infrastructure, then we would first look to see if it was possible to wire a % of the access points by running new cables either externally or internally if there is a cable route with minimal damage.
If this is not possible the mesh will still perform using power supplies only – the only compromise will be a degradation of speed which is difficult to predict as it is heavily dependent upon the wall build up and construction of the property. We can provide advice regarding this, and anticipated speeds based upon experience and ‘heat maps’ if plans are available.
5. Network Monitoring…
We offer all our After Care clients the ability for us to remotely monitor their network for them using a system known as Domotz. This requires a small Domotz Box which is connected to the network and then mapped so that all critical devices are tagged as ‘important’. The monthly monitoring fee is part of our After Care contract.
The Domotz system monitors the network and reports back if any critical network connected device disconnects. For example, if a Ruckus Wi-Fi Access Point in the Kitchen is unplugged in error by a cleaner for example, an email will be sent to us, and we can then contact you to ensure it is plugged back in. Without this level of awareness this could have compromised the Wi-Fi mesh as a whole and you would have experienced instabilities in terms of connection.
We also monitor the connection from the ISP, so we get a heads up if the site disconnects or if the speeds fall below the contracted terms. Sometimes this has alerted clients to power cuts whilst they are on holiday for example – which would not have been known.
We always say it is like having ‘eyes on site‘ – it is incredibly valuable.
We deploy and maintain the network on all our projects. If we take over a project and provide After Care, we prioritise the network and ensure we have complete control of this as the first step in the takeover process.
If you would like us to provide advice in relation to network issues you may be experiencing, or those you have seen on a client’s property, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. If we simply have floor plans this is enough for us to put a preliminary proposal together for you.
Click here to see other blog posts you may find interesting.Back To All