Wi-Fi - B4RN: Say It As It Is
June 19th, 2023
'Say It As It Is' is our series for a bit of straight talking, demystifying the sometimes overwhelming world of tech.
How do you make the most of your B4RN gigabit full-fibre broadband connection? One of the answers is ensuring good Wi-Fi coverage around your home.
The fastest speeds and best network stability will always be achieved by connecting devices via ethernet cable wherever possible. However, we’re all using increasing numbers of wireless devices that only use Wi-Fi as the method of connection.
What is Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi seems to have become a generic term for any form of internet connectivity. We define Wi-Fi as the method of connecting devices using radio signals to your B4RN router.
Most modern routers are dual band. The 2.4GHz band reaches further into the property but at lower speeds. The 5GHz band has less reach but offers higher speeds. Devices that are 5GHz enabled will generally make their own decision as to which band to connect to. Don’t confuse the router 5GHz with the 5G used by the mobile phone networks. They are two completely different technologies.
What Speeds, Coverage and Quality can I Expect with Wi-Fi?
This is a difficult question to answer, as there are several variable factors:
Walls. Solid stone or thick walls can reduce the strength of the Wi-Fi signal.
Large metal objects. Things like radiators, fridges and foil-backed insulation can block the Wi-Fi signal.
Electrical interference. Other electrical devices (such as microwaves and older appliances) can emit signals which interfere with Wi-Fi.
Wireless channel congestion from neighbours Wi-Fi routers or access points. If you live in a densely populated area, you might experience this. Restarting your router will prompt it to search for a better Wi-Fi channel which may improve matters.
Distance from the router or Wi-Fi access point. As the distance increases between the router and device, the signal strength decreases.
The capabilities of the device itself.
How to Improve Wi-Fi Coverage and Quality
As B4RN focuses on rural broadband, it is likely many of the properties we serve are of traditional construction with thick interior walls and may also be large or long and narrow. If your router Wi-Fi isn’t reaching the areas where you use your devices, then here are some options:
Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi System
This is the modern way of distributing Wi-Fi throughout the home. A mesh system is made up of a number of units (nodes) that broadcast one unified Wi-Fi network with intelligent, seamless handover as your device moves around the home. If you have the right number of nodes in the right places you can eliminate dead spots.
Typically, one node connects to your B4RN router with an ethernet lead and the other nodes communicate wirelessly with each other in order to best distribute Wi-Fi to your devices. Some mesh systems will allow you to use ethernet cabling to connect each node back to the router. This is the best way if you’re able to do it.
Bear in mind, if you have very thick interior walls and you can’t connect each node to the router via ethernet cabling, then you might still have issues. In this case, consider a “Hybrid Mesh”. This is one that uses the home electrical circuit to transmit the signal to each node but has the intelligence of a mesh system. This is different to pure powerline adaptors.
Note that whatever type of mesh system you go for, each node will need to be near a power outlet as mesh nodes need power to function.
These use your household electrical circuit to distribute a signal from your B4RN router to a distant room. These are typically a pair of units where the first unit is plugged into a power outlet near your B4RN router and connected to it via an ethernet lead. The second unit is plugged in to a power outlet near to or in the room you need a better Wi-Fi signal. These work well if you just need to boost Wi-Fi in one room.
Wi-Fi Booster / Extender / Repeater
This is a single unit that is situated about halfway between your B4RN router and the room where you have a Wi-Fi problem. These are usually the cheapest option but not always the best as they boost an already weakened signal.
If you need to improve Wi-Fi to more than one area in the property, a Wi-Fi Whole Home Mesh system is generally the best option. Also, connecting as many devices as you can via ethernet cable releases Wi-Fi bandwidth for your portable devices. For example, if your smart TV is near your B4RN router, use an ethernet cable to connect it rather than Wi-Fi.