Updated: Feb 22
The internet has become integral to our everyday lives. From your laptop or smart phone to your smart TV there is an ever increasing number of devices we use that connects to your WiFi network. With all of these devices connected at once it is important to make sure your network is as efficient as it could be. There are a few things you can do that will optimize your WiFi network to maximize coverage and speeds among all your devices. Understanding the difference between the two frequencies your router outputs will help you make the most of both of them. Knowing where to put your router in your house can make a huge difference in the quality of your WiFi.
One of the first things that can help is understanding what WiFi and on a basic level how it works. Your modern WiFi will transmit internet on two frequencies often referred to as bands. You might have noticed that your router will broadcast two networks, one with your WiFi name and one with your WiFi name and 5G or 5Ghz tacked on to the end of it. The 5G or 5GHz refers to the frequency of the data transmission between the router and your device and the network without the suffix operates on 2.4 GHz frequency. Without getting too technical the 5 GHz network transfers data on a wider band than the 2.4 GHz network. This wider band means that the 5 GHz network has a higher bandwidth which is a fancy way of saying it is faster than the 2.4 GHz network.
So why do we even have 2.4 GHz networks if the 5 GHz ones are faster? Well the trade off of the wider band is that it can’t penetrate objects as easily as the 2.4 GHz band. This makes the effective range of the 5 GHz network much shorter than the 2.4 GHz network. So basically any device that will be close to the router like a TV that is in the same room or the laptop that is in the next room will benefit from the faster speeds. The phone that is on the opposite side of the house will most likely experience faster speeds on the 2.4 GHz network because of the extra range.
The range of your router is a limited resource and should be treated like one. Your router will create a bubble of signal that will surround it on all sides. This means by putting it against the outside wall of your house you are losing half or sometimes more than half of your WiFi range to the great outdoors. Placing the router in the center of your home will ensure that you are maximizing the available coverage of your WiFi router. Obviously the exact center of your house is not always an option but by understanding how the WiFi spreads from your router you can find a place in your house that works best. For example if you rarely use your basement maybe put the router on the top shelf of a bookshelf or on top of a cabinet on your main floor. This way you still get coverage on the main floor but you’re getting additional coverage on your top floor due to the router being closer to that floor.
Another thing to look out for when positioning your router is materials that blocks wireless signals. Metal and concrete are the two main culprits of crippling the range of your WiFi. Avoid placing the router in room with concrete walls or behind something made of metal. A common mistake is placing the router behind a TV. Most TV’s contain a shielding layer that blocks wireless signals in order to ensure nothing interferes with the image processing done by the TV. Also try not to bury the router or place it in a small confined space. For the signal to spread effectively it needs to be able to breathe (for lack of a better term). Try not to place it in an entertainment unit or something similar as any metal blocking signal close to the router will cause large dead spots in your home.
So a quick summary of what to do and what not to do when it comes to WiFi. If you’re close to the router use the 5 GHz network otherwise use the 2.4 GHz for better speeds. Place the router as close to the center of the house as you can. If the center is not an option or there is a part of the house that does not get used, place your router in the center of the area most used by you and your family. Finally avoid metal and concrete as much as possible, these materials will block your WiFi signal and severely limit your range. By optimizing your network for the way your house functions you will see an improvement in the quality of internet on all your connected devices.