March 2021

Wi-Fi 101

Luigi Oppido

As time has gone by, the need for Wi-Fi has become greater and greater, and the protocols have followed this need by becoming faster and faster.

All these digital devices we use in 2021 need a connection of some type. Your experience is only as good as your connection, and that comes from either a cellular data connection coming from a tower-based somewhere in your town or it comes locally from your local Internet connection. That local connection we fondly call Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi service is broadcasted a number of different ways from those little antenna coming out of your router. As time has gone by, the need for Wi-Fi has become greater and greater, and the protocols have followed this need by becoming faster and faster. At first there was wireless B, then we went to wireless G, then we went to wireless N, and now we’re at wireless AC. With all these protocols we can also expect a new type coming out in the next six months or so.  If you have not upgraded your wireless router within the past two to three years, you may want to look into an upgrade.

The placement of your router is almost as important as the signal coming in from your service provider. For example, if you have a two-story home and you have your wireless router placed on the floor of the bottom floor, the people in the second story will barely receive any signal. If you think of the signal like an umbrella shape you’ll see the higher you put the router, the further the umbrella shape can reach and therefore the further Wi-Fi will reach. Another thing that can stop the umbrella from reaching your device are walls and the composition of materials inside your house.

For every wall or ceiling that Wi-Fi has to travel through, you can expect your signal to be reduced by 1/10 of its strength. Quick math, if you have nine walls to go through, you’re looking at a pretty weak signal to get your device. Another thing people don’t think about is Wi-Fi is a bi-directional communication signal. Which means that the signal travels both ways from your device and to your device.

This is why you can sometimes receive a phone call and hear the other person just fine but when you speak, they can’t hear you. That giant tower has a lot more signal strength and a lot more surface area to push a signal out then your tiny phone has to push the signal back to the tower. Sometimes in low Wi-Fi areas, you may see one or two bars of Wi-Fi but still not get any signal and that’s because you can receive signal but you’re not strong enough to send it back.  These are all things to keep in mind when diagnosing bad signal or just trying to figure out why your device isn’t doing what is should.

The best way to test Wi-Fi is to grab another device and go to the same website, or the same app on that second device. If you can reach the website just fine on one device but another device is struggling, there could be an issue with the device and not your Wi-Fi router.

The best Wi-Fi around!If you have the latest and greatest device and want the same for your home Wi-Fi connection, the best systems right now are called mesh systems. What a mesh has is a main base station and multiple other stations placed throughout your home. These “repeaters” will literally repeat and amplify the signal from the main base station. The idea is to have a base station then another station in another room almost out of range of the first station that will repeat and bounce the signal and continue it through your home to as many base stations as you’d like, blanketing your home in signal. This system works much better than range extenders as it allows the same Wi-Fi signal to be broadcast through the entire house and takes the place of repeaters to create one seamless connection.

Your connection is only as good as your weakest link, and with what you now know about Wi-Fi you should be able to get the best signal possible! Good luck!

 Luigi Oppido | Owner/Technician | Pleasure Point Computers | 1824 Soquel Ave. STE-B |Santa Cruz, Ca 95062 |Phone: (831) 464-2220 | [email protected] | Listen to the Computer Man Show! Every Tuesday night from 6 to 7 PM on 90.7 FM KSQD, and Send your questions to [email protected] and we’ll get them answered!

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