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Home networking without the headache

FEATURE 2

The internet has come a long way in past decade; long gone are the days of one computer plugged into a modem. Phones, tablets, TVs, game consoles, set top boxes and even fridges can all get online, most with the expectation that you can just plug it in or hook it up to the WiFi and it will start working – but plug in too much, and it might all go kaput.

It’s called network interference and it happens when there are too many signals competing with each other to do a proper job of transferring data over your internet connection. In some cases it’s just a slow or unstable connection, in others it may force your devices offline.

This issue is increasingly common as Australians are connecting more and more stuff to their home network, so let’s take a look at some ways to connect without the interference.

Know thy neighbour, or at least their WiFi channel

Just think of WiFi channels like a CB radio. If too many other people are chatting on the same channel, you can’t hear your friend properly. So what’s the best thing to do? Switch to a channel that isn’t being used, of course!

It’s actually not too hard to find out which channels are being used around you without even getting up from your computer. Changing your WiFi channel to an unused one can be a big help, particularly in densely populated dwellings like apartment blocks. You should choose the “furthest away” channel possible; for example, if your neighbours are using channel 11, you’d be better off with channel 1.

Skirt around the WiFi traffic with a dedicated high-frequency connection

The vast majority of modems, smartphones, tablets and other WiFi devices in Australia use a 2.4GHz WiFi frequency. There’s a newer 5GHz frequency that has a shorter signal range area but a broader frequency spectrum, meaning it’s less crowded.

Dual-band modems like our Budii Lite® and NetComm NB16WV-02 can broadcast two separate WiFi signals – one 2.4GHz and one 5GHz. This allows you to utilise both WiFi frequencies – for example, your smart TV or other 5GHz-supporting devices could use the 5GHz WiFi while your other devices stick to the 2.4GHz.

You don’t need to chuck out your perfectly good 2.4GHz router to take advantage of the new 5GHz frequency. A pair of devices known as a Wireless Bridge can take your internet signal and create a dedicated 5GHz WiFi connection between your modem and another device like an Xbox. This connection will be less affected by the activity of your other devices on the 2.4GHz band because it’s operating on a higher frequency.

When your WiFi coverage won’t stretch far enough

A modem’s WiFi signal can only stretch so far, especially when it’s got a lot of obstacles in the way like walls and other solid fixtures. If the other side of your home won’t get the WiFi bars you need, consider a Wireless Extender. This unit device should be plugged in at the edge of your current WiFi coverage so it can act as a signal repeater, pushing the same WiFi network out further.

Keep the grid simple

A popular home networking solution is a Power Line Adapter (PLA). It’s a pair of units; one adapter takes the internet signal from your modem and plugs it into your home’s electrical grid where it can be picked up by the other adapter that’s connected to a device in another room, like a set top box.

It’s a great networking solution with no WiFi needed, until you use more than one pair. Electrical wiring just isn’t made to distinguish two internet signals from each other, so when two PLA pairs cross on the same grid they’ll get mixed up and stop working.  Unless you’re prepared to crack out your home’s wiring map and identify power sockets on separate electrical grids, we recommend the golden rule of sticking to one PLA per home.

The future of smart wiring

Of course, you can’t beat Ethernet cables for a solid connection. As new homes get built with high-speed capabilities of the NBN in mind, internal smart wiring with patch panels of Ethernet ports in different rooms of a house is becoming the norm.

It’s a significant cost to get an existing building installed with smart wiring, but definitely an investment to consider if you’re running enterprise-level equipment or you have advanced networking needs. Who knows – as Australian internet demands increase, smart wiring could be right next to “renovated kitchen” as a desirable feature in the housing market.

Still have unanswered questions about home networking? Let us know what they are in the comments below.

Photo credit: DeclanTM

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