What Makes a Good Data and WiFi Network?
Individual pieces and functions of a network include:
- Modem: literally an abbreviation of “Modulation + Demodulation,” it provides access to the internet.
- Router: routes (hence the name) traffic from one network (a wide area network like the internet, or WAN) to your local home or business network (local area network, or LAN).
- Network switch: allows for a hardwired connection for multiple network-enabled devices.
- Wireless Access Points (WAPs): these are hardwired to the network and create the WiFi coverage in a home. There are 5 generations of WAPs: a, b, g, n and ac. “N” has been used for the past 5-7 years, and “ac” has started being deployed in the last 12-18 months.
- Wireless repeater. This is like a WAP, but it is not hardwired into the network. Wireless repeaters are just plugged into power, and “repeat” a WiFi signal. Because it has to “repeat” the signal, these devices cut WiFi speed in half.
What size is your network?
So why might your internet speed be slow?
- Slow incoming service. While it varies, Mills typically recommends our customers have at least 50 Mbps(download speed) service, and often higher. This does not mean that customers are always getting this speed, though. Often speed slows at peak hours – from 5pm to 7pm on weekdays, and on weekends.
- Insufficient WiFi coverage. Most high-powered wireless access points (WAPs) cover about 1,500 square feet; however, this can vary greatly based on building construction and other wireless interference. In addition, speeds drop the further you get from the access point. If you aren’t showing many “bars” in some locations, or speed seems painfully slow when far from an access point, this may be the problem.
- Poor WiFi handoffs. When moving around, a wireless device (smart phone, tablet) will try to connect to the WAP with the strongest signal. However, not all WAPs “hand off” the same, and sometimes a device will remain connected to a WAP that is much further away (with slower speeds). Consumer WAPs, especially older Apple Extremes and Expresses, were known for this issue.
- Wireless interference. As important as WiFi is in all of our lives, it is quite amazing that up until about 2 years ago, the total number of unique WiFi channels was 3. It would be like you and all of your neighbors within a few hundred yards sharing three phone numbers to make all of your phone calls. In addition, there are a large number of other devices – cordless phones, microwaves, baby monitors, game controllers and more – that also use these same frequencies.
Solution: In any project, and especially in urban areas, a thorough radio frequency scan and analysis should be performed to optimize a WiFi network. Mills owns and utilizes a very sophisticated RF analysis tool and software to identify sources of interference, and uses it both to optimally place WAPs and set them to the proper WiFi channel.
Network stability is the backbone of the smart home. It’s not just a benefit, it’s a requirement in today’s connected home.