Geekabit Cellular Survey Launch

Is your business considering moving premises? Do you need to know whether a property has decent cellular and data coverage?

Here at Geekabit, we are delighted to launch our latest service when it comes to all things wireless. We understand how important it is to maintain a strong connection in any business premises – Whether that be in the office or at home.

Geekabit’s Cellular Survey

We are now offering internal 4G mobile phone coverage surveys. Why might you want one of these? Well, this would be perfect for our clients looking to map the availability of cellular and data coverage within a building. This is useful for when an organisation might be contemplating moving offices and want to ensure mobile phone signal coverage before signing on the dotted line.

It could also be very useful for landlords or estate agents who are selling business and residential properties. The strength of cellular reception is a common question from potential house buyers and tenants. People want to ensure that where they live and/or work will have strong mobile coverage. A cellular survey is the perfect way to prove your property has just this, and on what mobile networks.

Where else might you need to ensure strong, reliable cellular connection?

We can also carry out driven 4G and 5G surveys of external areas. This could be along a road, part of a transport network or throughout leisure facilities.

In this day and age, we take our need for connection wherever we go. We’re not tethered to a desk, and need reliable mobile coverage on the go. Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet or other device – We need to be able to stay connected with a strong and reliable signal.

Our 4G and 5G mobile surveys can tell you how strong the cellular coverage is in a certain area, and which networks would work best.

How do we report the results?

We can provide results, heatmaps and detailed reports measuring the details of phone coverage for 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE and 5G. We can measure the cellular connectivity, data upload and download speeds and the occurrence of dropped and failed calls for all the main mobile network operators.

Long before the pandemic, companies were beginning to realise the importance of cellular coverage – And the last 2 years have only spurred this need on. When it comes to investing in mobile enterprise, it’s vital for organisations to consider the Quality of Service and Quality of Experience their employees get from cellular coverage at work.

Whilst we have always been able to provide mobile phone coverage survey results for a fixed point, we can now provide this matched to geolocation data over a moving area, and on building plans and maps. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, we can also provide this information for 5G surveys.

The recorded data, provided in graphical and interactive formats, allows companies to drill down into the data and support investment in further mobile technologies.

A word from our Founder

Steve Cross, Founder of Geekabit, comments:

“Mobile phone coverage has continued to increase in importance, with a massive investment throughout the pandemic in mobile working technology. With the great shift in office working already happening, organisations are looking to ensure that mobile phone coverage in potential office locations will be suitable for their workforce. Our new internal cellular survey tool gives clients the opportunity to make sure there will be no issues with mobile phones and tablets when moving buildings or downsizing.”

Want to know more about our 4G and 5G surveys?

For further detail about the data which can be captured, or to discuss a potential project, please email our Wi-Fi experts at info@geekabit.co.uk and someone will be in touch as soon as possible.

How Do Wireless Directional Antennas Work?

This week we’re going to take a look at wireless directional antennas and how they work. By understanding this, you can ensure that your Wi-Fi network provides the coverage you need for reliable, strong Wi-Fi links.

To create a wireless bridge or point-to-point link, you would use a directional antenna. Your coverage requirements will determine the size and shape of the directional antenna needed, as well as whether you are using them inside or outdoors.

First things first – What do we need in order to establish a long-range wi-Fi link? There are a few main requirements that we need in order to achieve this.

Remote Wi-Fi Links – 3 Requirements

We need to satisfy 3 requirements in order to set up a long-range Wi-Fi link. Whether your signal is indoors or outdoors, the basic needs remain the same. For example, the signal could likely navigate and pass through a thin wall indoors, or one tree outdoors. However, navigating an entire building of walls or a forest of trees would be more difficult.

When a wireless signal is traversing over longer distances, packets of data can be lost. Adding in other complexities (like many walls or trees) can cause problems with the signal.

So in order to establish and maintain a strong connection over a long distance we need to fulfil these 3 requirements:

  1. There must be a direct line of sight between the antenna and the receiver. This means no obstacles in the way, like buildings, walls or forests.
  2. The antenna must be elevated and be horizontal with the point that is receiving the signal ready to transmit it. For the connection to be strong, the antenna and the router for example, need to be on a level – Not one higher or lower than the other.
  3. The antenna must be directed towards the router or Wi-Fi transmitter. The directional antennas only emit and receive Wi-Fi signal in one single direction, so it needs to be positioned on that side. The accuracy needed for the position depends on the angle opening on the antenna. For example, the smaller the angle, the more accurate the position must be. More on that next!

Antenna Angles

How far a directional antenna can transmit a Wi-Fi signal depends partly on the size of its angle. For example, a directional antenna with a wide angle could transmit to a wider area around it, but not as long a range. A directional antenna with a small angle is a more focused transmission and will provide further coverage.

A good analogy to explain this is a light bulb. A bulb without a lampshade will emit light at an angle of 360 degrees. It works well to illuminate the area in close proximity, but doesn’t have great range in terms of distance. For example, lighting up one room.

In comparison, a bulb inside a torch operates at an angle of approximately 30 degrees. The light is much more directed, and thus has a further coverage range – But we don’t see light outside of the ‘sides’. The smaller the angle, the further the reach.

The same premise applies to wireless signal and directional antennas, as you can see from the diagram below.

Types of Wireless Directional Antenna and Their Uses

There are 4 main models of directional Wi-Fi antennas. They are designed to provide a Wi-Fi connection over long distances. They direct an entire frequency pattern in one direction to reach from point-to-point. A directional antenna receives the Wi-Fi signal and emits it forward; the distance it can cover depends on the angle it uses.

  1. Wireless Directional Antenna for Indoor Use – The 60° angle antenna

    A wireless directional antenna with an opening angle of 60 degrees is most practical for indoor use. The open angle of this directional antenna enables it to see all the Wi-Fi networks in it’s environment. It provides good quality signal over a range of up to approximately 300m.

  2. Wireless Directional Antenna for Long-Range outdoor Use – the 35° angle antenna

    This wireless directional antenna uses an opening angle of 35° which enables it to locate all the AP’s in a mesh Wi-Fi network outside the premises, covering a distance of up to around 800m. For this reason, it’s commonly used for long range networks. They are generally easy to install, are a manageable size and tend to come weatherproof so they can be used outdoors come rain or shine!

  3. Wireless Directional Antenna for Distant Networks – the 30° angle antenna

    These wireless directional antenna models have a closed angle. Their installation is a little more complex to the previous two models, and therefore is better suited to professional networks that need to cover very distant networks. Due to the closed angle, it is extremely important to get the positioning accurate.
  4. Wireless Directional Antenna for Professional Installers – the 7° angle antenna

    Due to these models of wireless directional antennas having a very narrow beam, it’s necessary to have them professionally installed. They are a favourite among professional Wi-Fi installers as they have a very high gain so provide a high wireless broadband casting range. High gain antenna can provide a strong Wi-Fi connection in all parts of your property from a single router. This type of directional antenna will have a parabolic reflector – basically a curved surface like a dish which direct the radio waves. This type of wireless directional antenna is ideal for long range networks.

If all this talk about wireless antennas has got you confused about which direction to go in, then why not give our Wi-Fi experts a call?

Working out of Hampshire, London and Cardiff, we can plan, design and install a Wi-Fi network that’s tailored to your home or business requirements. Get in touch with us today and we’ll have you better connected in no time.

 

 

Our Top Wi-Fi Blogs of 2021

A new year has begun, and no doubt it will bring new technology and wireless improvements with it!

Here at Geekabit, we covered a lot of different Wi-Fi topics last year here on the blog, many of which were steered by the enquiries we were receiving to our Wi-Fi Experts across Winchester, London and Cardiff. We saw a big increase in demand for 4G broadband, particularly for homes in rural areas. Hybrid broadband has also soared in popularity!

We’ve also talked a lot about 5G and Wi-Fi 6 and a few of the products already available on the market. With there still being a heavy focus on working from home throughout 2021, it’s no surprise that reliable broadband and internet speeds at home were still crucial. We even launched our own product – SpeedScore – A great way for estate agents and landlords to accurately identify their broadband speeds.

With all of this in mind, we thought we would take a look back on the last year and see what blogs were most popular with you – Our readers!

#10 – Just making the top 10 reads from 2021 is a blog on the 4G Broadband Teltonika RUT950 router. This device was out top product for 4G broadband installations during 2021 – Click the blog to find out why.

4G Broadband and the Teltonika RUT950 Industrial Cellular Router

#9 – Continuing on the 4G broadband theme, in at number 9 is why 4G broadband could be the answer for all your rural Wi-Fi woes. 2021 brought us many clients desperate for a quicker Wi-Fi service in rural areas, particularly those who had moved out of London but expected the same internet connectivity. If you’re sticking with more working-from-home as we move into 2022, then have a read of this blog to see if 4G broadband could bring you a better connection.

4G Broadband – The Answer to Your Rural Wi-Fi Woes?

#8 – Last year we saw a big buzz around 5G. This blog was all about the Robustel R5020 router – An exciting product offering 5G connectivity at a competitive price.

The Robustel R5020 5G Router

#7 – We can’t talk about 4G broadband without talking about data plans. Joining in on the blog popularity of 4G/5G broadband and pieces of kit was this blog on Unlimited 4G broadband data plans. well worth a read if you’re going down the 4G broadband route.

The Best Unlimited 4G Data Plans for Broadband

#6 – Which brings us nicely to hybrid broadband. This has seen a soar in popularity, and we’re expecting to see a lot more of this in client enquiries over this coming year. But what is hybrid broadband? If you’re wanted unbreakable Wi-Fi for your home or business then this could well be the solution you’ve been searching for.

 

What is Hybrid Broadband?

#5 – 2021 saw Facebook launch it’s own Wi-Fi – But what is it? Hundreds of thousands of businesses are already using it, but if you’re not yet one of them then click the blog below to see what you need to know.

What is Facebook Wi-Fi?

#4 – Anything to do with Ubiquiti always proves a popular blog topic. And with good reason – These devices are one of the staple pieces of kit here at Geekabit. The Ubiquiti UniFi range of access points are always easy to match to our clients needs.

How Do I Choose The Right Ubiquiti UniFi Access Point?

#3 – Wi-Fi 6 was another topic on everyone’s lips last year. This blog on the Amplifi Alien Wi-Fi 6 router was a big favourite of our readers – Could that be because of the ongoing need to work and learn from home?

Amplifi Alien – The New Wi-Fi 6 Router from Ubiquiti

#2 – How do you choose the right wireless product for your home or business? It’s a question often asked so no wonder this blog looking at 3 top wireless products almost made the top spot. If you want to compare UniFi, Meraki and Aruba bits of wireless kit then this is the blog for you.

UniFi vs Meraki vs Aruba

#1 – And here we are at number one. The most popular blog last year was this one on Starlink and what it meant for broadband here in the UK. another interesting read, particularly those living and working in more rural areas, struggling with connectivity.

What is Starlink and what does it mean for UK broadband?

So there you go – Our top ten Wi-Fi blogs of 2021. We’re excited to see what 2022 will bring!

 

Is Wi-Fi 6 Worth It?

In our last blog we spoke about your home Wi-Fi network and how your router could be the root cause of all your Wi-Fi woes.

We also touched on the Wi-Fi standards and what they have recently been re-branded as – With the latest being wi-Fi 6 (and Wi-Fi 6E).

And that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about this week – Wi-Fi 6. If you’re wondering what all the all the fuss is about when it comes to Wi-Fi 6 and whether it’s really worth it then read on.

Perhaps you are questioning what the differences are and whether it’s actually worth making hardware device changes. Or maybe you’ve got a cool new gadget for Christmas, but you’re wondering if it’s lack of Wi-Fi 6 compatibility will hold you back. This is the blog for you!

The next generation of wireless standard is here (actually, it’s been here since the end of 2019). Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax if you want it’s technical name, has the following main differences:

  • It’s faster
  • It provides better performance in congested areas (think anything from your own device-packed home, to stadiums)

We’re casually calling it Wi-Fi 6 but it actually has a more code-like name – Just to make everyone feel like they need a degree in wireless networks to know what we’re talking about.

Thankfully the Wi-Fi Alliance came to their senses and came up with some more friendly, easily accessible names for those of you that don’t consider yourselves Wi-Fi experts!

What are the Wi-Fi Version Numbers?

The new Wi-Fi version numbers are much more user friendly, but for the fellow geeks among us, here are what the new version numbers correspond to, plus (whilst not being officially branded) what all of the old versions would have been.

  • Wi-Fi 1 – 802.11b (released in 1999)
  • Wi-Fi 2 – 802.11a (also released in 1999)
  • Wi-Fi 3 – 802.11g (released in 2003)
  • Wi-Fi 4 – 802.11n (released in 2009)
  • Wi-Fi 5 – 802.11ac (released in 2014)
  • Wi-Fi 6 – 802.11ax (released in 2019)

Got some new tech for Christmas – Perhaps a new phone, tablet or laptop? You may see these newer version numbers on the packaging, letting you know what networks they are compatible with.

You might also see them appear in software when connecting your smartphone, tablet or laptop. This information lets you know which Wi-Fi networks are newer and faster.

Whilst this is what the Wi-Fi Alliance said they wanted to be seeing across networks, it’s worth noting that it isn’t actually mandatory for manufacturers to label their products with Wi-Fi 6 instead of 802.11ax.

But we are really hoping that most of them will so that even those that aren’t super tech-savvy will be able to make informed decisions when it comes to compatibility.

We’d also like to see products re-named from 802.11ac to Wi-Fi 5, but we won’t hold our breath.

But back to our original question – Is Wi-F 6 actually worth it? Let’s take a look at some of the differences we should be able to see when it comes to Wi-Fi 6.

Wi-Fi That’s Faster

As with most technological advances, the latest development in Wi-Fi standard is faster in terms of data transfer speeds. In comparison to Wi-Fi 5, a Wi-Fi 6 router would provide one device with up to 40% higher speeds.

What Makes Wi-Fi 6 Faster?

The reason Wi-Fi 6 can achieve such faster speeds is due to more efficient data coding which thus results in higher throughput. Basically, the radio waves are packed with more data. With each Wi-Fi standard, the ability for the chips to encode and decode the data gets more powerful, hence why Wi-Fi 6 is faster than Wi-Fi 5, and can handle extra work.

You may be aware that we have 2 frequencies used for networks – 5GHz and 2.4GHz. 5GHz is more commonly used as it is subject to less interference, however 2.4GHz is still a good option for being able to penetrate solid objects. Wi-Fi 6, the new standard, even increases speeds on these 2.4GHz networks.

Wi-Fi 6 That Improves the Battery Life on a Device

Many Wi-Fi 6 enabled devices will have a new ‘target wake time’ feature. This means that an access point can define a specific set of times when devices connected to the internet need to have access to the wireless network. This new efficiency should mean that your Wi-Fi enables deviced should have a longer battery life.

Let’s take your smartphone, for example. When the AP is talking to your phone, it can tell it when to put it’s Wi-Fi radio to sleep and when to wake it up to receive the next transmission. Because your device can spend more time in sleep mode, you should find your battery lasts longer.

It also means that devices that connect via Wi-Fi with lower power can benefit from longer battery life.

Wi-Fi That Performs Better in Crowded Areas

We know it’s a been a bit hit and miss lately when it comes to travel and events. But try and remember a time when you were waiting at an airport, trying to get online. Or maybe at a hotel or live event like in a stadium. When an area like these are congested with devices, you can suffer with slow Wi-Fi or even struggle to connect in the first place.

Wi-Fi 6 tackles just this problem. With new technology, superior to previous Wi-Fi standards, it’s purported that Wi-Fi 6 will improve the average speed of each user by at least 4 times. Even in crowded areas with lots of devices!

This isn’t just something that will benefit you when out in public places – It could be a huge help in your home as well. If you have a large family, all with multiple devices connected to Wi-Fi, then this could be just the solution to stop the slow-down. Think remote working and online learning – Multiple Zooms all at the same time! It should also help anyone who lives in a more densely populated place, like a block of flats.

How Does Wi-Fi 6 Tackle Congestion from Multiple Devices?

Talk of further lockdowns, more remote working and back to online learning for school children could be enough to spur you into searching out Wi-Fi 6 compatible hardware.

Just knowing that a Wi-Fi 6 device connected to a Wi-Fi 6 access point will work better may well be enough for you! But there are various features that help Wi-Fi 6 better tackle the problem of heavily crowded networks if you want to understand more of the technical side.

For those who want all the geeky details, here’s what’s going on to make Wi-Fi 6 better for networks with multiple or many devices.

Wi-Fi 6 technology is able to create a large number of sub-channels within one wireless channel. Date intended for each individual device can be carried by each sub-channel. This technology is called Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA). Essentially this means that a Wi-Fi 6 enabled access point can talk to more devices at once.

Wi-Fi 6 also has improved MultipleIn/Multiple Out (MIMO). Again, this lets the access point talk to multiple devices at once through multiple antennas. The difference between this and Wi-Fi 5, is that while the latter enabled an access point to talk to multiple devices at the same time, it couldn’t allow the devices to respond at the same time, thus slowing things down. The new improved MIMO on Wi-Fi 6 is a multi-user version (MU-MIMO) which enables devices to respond to the access point at the same time.

Let’s look at another potential scenario. Wireless access points that are locating close to one another may transmit on the same channel. This means that the radio needs to listen and wait for a clear signal before it can reply. Wi-Fi 6 uses spatial frequency re-use which allows you to configure Wi-Fi 6 wireless access points with different Basic Service Set (BSS) colours, which consists of a number between 0 and 7. The device can then determine whether a particular channel has a weaker signal, and thus ignore it and transmit without waiting. This is another way in which Wi-Fi 6 will improve wireless performance in congested areas.

These are just a couple of the improvements to be seen from the new Wi-Fi 6 standard. There are many more, smaller enhancements which will improve the speed and performance with Wi-Fi 6.

How Do I Know If Something has Wi-Fi 6 Compatibility?

Luckily, thanks to this handy article, you’re now familiar with all the technical names of the different Wi-Fi standards, so you’ll know exactly what to look for. Right? Don’t panic! We’re only kidding. Thanks to the new versions, it’ll be easy for you to find devices that are certified Wi-Fi 6 (rather than hunting around for 802.11ax!). Device manufacturers are able to say whether their product is Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5.

You may also start to see a logo saying ‘Wi-Fi 6 Certified’ on relevant devices. This means that the product has gone through the Wi-Fi Alliance’s certification process. The old Wi-Fi Certified logo simply told you it was Wi-Fi Certified, rather than what generation of Wi-Fi a product was. The new logo will make it clear if it is Wi-Fi 6. So there will be no need for trawling through product specifications!

When Can I Get Wi-Fi 6 Enabled Devices?

Wi-Fi 6 is here!

The new Wi-Fi 6 standard was finalised in 2019, with hardware being released in the latter part of the same year and into 2020. So you should be seeing Wi-Fi 6 enabled products in the market now.

It shouldn’t be something you need to put too much thought into – As new routers, smartphones, tablets and laptops are released into the market, they will just start to come with this new Wi-Fi 6 technology.

 

You mentioned Wi-Fi 6E earlier – what’s that?

As we well know, technology is constantly moving forward to be better, faster, more reliable.

Just as Wi-Fi 6 has superseded Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6E is just the next upcoming Wi-Fi standard. An extension of Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E enables the operation of features in the unlicensed 6 GHz band. This is in addition to the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands which are currently supported.

 

So is Wi-Fi 6 really worth it?

We’ll let you make your own minds up.

We think Wi-Fi 6 will certainly bring stronger, faster Wi-Fi, with unrivalled solutions for busy, congested networks.

With technology, it’s nigh on impossible to always have the top-of-the-range device for very long before another one is launched. (Hello, Wi-Fi 6E!)

With Wi-Fi standards, you know that the latest one will offer faster speeds and stronger connections. But that’s not to say that the standard before can’t still offer useful features.

As more Wi-Fi 6 devices are released on the market, we can slowly replace the wireless devices we own. But we wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you rush out and replace all your hardware with Wi-Fi 6 enabled alternatives. Wi-Fi 5 will function just fine for the time being.

It’s worth remembering that to benefit from the improvements on the new Wi-Fi 6 standard, you need both the sender and receiver devices to support this latest generation of Wi-Fi 6. Whatever the connection, it will only operate in the mode that your device supports.

For example, you may have a Wi-Fi 6 enabled router, a Wi-Fi 6 enabled smartphone, but a laptop that only supports Wi-Fi 5. You’ll see the advantages of Wi-Fi 6 on your smartphone, but the laptop will only work at Wi-Fi 5 capacity.

Did you receive any Wi-Fi 6 enable devices for Christmas?

Wi-Fi Woes at Home: Could it be your Router?

Wi-Fi is one of those things that we don’t tend to take much notice of – Until it breaks.

Just like when a power-cut stops our electric, or cloudy water comes out the tap – When our Wi-Fi goes down, we notice! Slow or faulty internet might be one of the most frustrating things of all time. There’s nothing quite as annoying – Whether you’re in the middle of a Netflix binge or an important Zoom meeting.

The last time you thought about your internet probably coincided with one of those moments. Maybe it was back when the first lockdown came in and you were suddenly thrust into a world of remote working. Or when schools were closed and you abruptly and unexpectedly became a teacher and had to navigate an online classroom with your children.

Never have we had to rely on our home Wi-Fi networks like we have the last 2 years. The world still looks like a bit of a scary place right now – Don’t let your home network be an added source of stress.

We might have electricians to sort out our electrics and plumbers to sort out our plumbing – But who sorts out our Wi-Fi in our homes? Here at Geekabit, our Wi-Fi experts are here to help you. Most people get sent a router from their broaband provider, plug it in and hope for the best (no judgement here!). But what about when that’s not enough to provide you with a reliable home Wi-Fi network?

We’re going to take you through the basics of Wi-Fi so you can make sure your router is providing your home with the network you need.

So let’s start from the beginning.

Wi-Fi Standards – What are they?

What we understand as Wi-Fi was only named that after the ability for us to connect to other computers and the internet has long been around.

It started out as 802.11 (The first Wi-Fi standard). Not quite the description you’d expect for such a transformative piece of technology! And certainly not a word that lends itself to the general population of internet users.

So what came next? Along came 802.11b (there was a 802.11a but we won’t go into that). Catchy huh! This was the first major revision of 802.11 which came in 1999 alongside the name Wi-Fi. These numbered standards come from the Wi-Fi Alliance – A global group of technology companies who ensure that anything labelled as a Wi-Fi product has been adequately tested as such.

This means that if you buy a product with Wi-Fi, such as a laptop, and you have a functioning Wi-Fi network, then the 2 will be able to connect. That’s the rule!

In the 20 years since we’ve had more revisions and improvements, taking us through more standards: 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac and 802.11ax. They don’t exactly roll off your tongue do they?

What they have done however, is:

  • Increase the maximum speed
  • Minimise congestion in built-up areas
  • Improve connections when multiple users on different devices are accessing the same network

Wi-Fi Standards and Compatibility

What these complicated names also mean is that even the most technological savvy people don’t have much knowledge about how their home Wi-Fi network actually works. Again no judgement – It’s not your fault!

Without Googling or hunting down hardware – Do you know which of the standards above your home network supports? How about your laptop, tablet or smartphone?

Without also knowing what standard your router runs on, how could you know whether the standard your devices are running on is compatible?

Backward compatibility has its costs. If you have a new router running on the latest standard of 802.11ax, but your laptop is 20 years old with 802.11b compatibility, the laptop can only go as fast as the old standard. It can’t access the benefits of the newer standard that the router supports. Unfortunately, having this laptop connected to the network can cause the whole Wi-Fi system down to its level. For this reason, the default settings on many networks automatically kick off any older devices to stop problems arising for other users.

For this reason, it’s wise to make sure that the Wi-Fi standard that is supported, is common amongst your router and the devices connected to it.

The re-branding of Wi-Fi Standards

Thankfully assessing compatibility will become a lot easier now that the Wi-Fi Alliance has rebranded the Wi-Fi standards.

You might be surprised to find that you are already acquainted with the latest Wi-Fi standards – Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E.

With the branding of these newest standards, comes the relabelling of the older ones. They become:

  • 11 – Wi-Fi 1
  • 11b – Wi-Fi 2
  • 11g – Wi-Fi 3
  • 11n – Wi-Fi 4
  • 11ac – Wi-Fi 5
  • 11ax – Wi-Fi 6

The ones we need to know about and look out for are Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6. Simply put – Your home Wi-Fi network will run better if use routers and devices that support the latest Wi-Fi standard.

We mentioned Wi-Fi 6E. This is the latest Wi-Fi standard which arrived this year. This standard, for the first time since the beginning of Wi-Fi, it uses 6GHz. This band is a new section of the radio spectrum which hasn’t been used by Wi-Fi before. This new standard will minimise interference with other networks and help achieve speeds we haven’t seen before.

Where do routers fit into all of this?

As you have seen, there has been a steady stream of Wi-Fi standards since the internet first emerged.

As with most things technological, improvements are constantly being made. We live in a world where there is always the newest device – Faster, more compact, better this, better that. Always competing with what came before it.

You probably replace your phone quite regularly, especially if you are on a contract or plan. Getting an upgrade is the norm! You may also do the same with laptops and tablets, TV’s and other smart devices around the home.

But do you do the same with your router?

Have you ever stopped to think that the router you’ve had since you moved in is stopping all your new devices from working to their optimum ability?

Your smartphone might support Wi-Fi 6, but that’s no good if your router is ten years old! Could your router be the cause of your home Wi-Fi problems? Slow internet speeds, bottlenecks, buffering?

What’s the point in spending thousands of pounds on the latest phone, tablet, laptop, smart TV etc if you haven’t invested in a router – And instead connect all your top-of-the-range devices to a box you got free from your provider when you moved in nearly a decade ago.

It seems pretty obvious now we’ve pointed it out, but so many of us do this very thing. We’re not trying to shame you – the majority of people don’t consider that their Wi-Fi woes could be a result of an older router.

‘I think my router could be causing my Wi-Fi problems – What do I do next?’

Assuming that the connection coming into your home is not ‘dodgy’ then a new router could be the answer to your Wi-Fi problems.

The majority of households have a pretty straightforward set of needs when it comes to Wi-Fi coverage. A simple change, such as a pair of Wi-Fi 6 ‘mesh routers’, could be just what you need to to provide a bit of extra bandwidth and even cover those annoying ‘black spots’. Esepcailly if one of those happens to be out in the garden where you desperately tried to catch a bit of sun whilst working from home during the summer!

For the cost of skipping the latest smartphone upgrade, you could fix the Wi-Fi problems for your entire household.

No more buffering mid Netflix binge. No more dropping out of video calls and online meetings. No more being ‘that colleague or friend’ that causes the tech problems.

This one small switch could be far more beneficial that upgrading your devices or doubling your monthly BT bill.

What if replacing your router could give all your Wi-Fi devices a new lease of life in your home?

 

What’s the difference between LTE and 5G?

There has been much hype surrounding 5G, relentlessly for years. Now as part of a global rollout we see 5G available in most major cities as well as some towns and more rural areas. Soon enough, we’ll be using 5G just as we use 4G as the standard.

But 5G is still new to the wireless scene. And for some, the question is – Do we really need 5G when we’ve got LTE?

Many of us are still depending on long-term evolution technology. Indeed, there are only a few areas in the UK that don’t have any LTE presence.

What is LTE?

LTE was first launched back in 2009, and whilst it took a number of years to become part of our national connectivity fabric, it is still now a standard for wireless communications.

The reason for its staying power is down to its reliability and stability – Leading many wireless users to wonder if they even need to move over to 5G.

What is the difference between 4G LTE and 5G?

It was necessary to identify LTE as an element of the 4G standard as many telecoms companies weren’t actually able to provide 4G speeds due to infrastructure. The regulator ITU-R (International Telegraph Union Radiocommunication) established LTE as a standard to show the progress being made towards true 4G.

The download/upload speeds of a particular standard can be different in theory and in practise. Whilst in theory, 4G LTE can achieve data transfer speeds of up to 150Mbps for downloading content and 50Mbps for upload speeds, in practise is is more likely to be 20Mbps and 10Mbps respectively.

These figures will vary depending on:

  • Location
  • Network deployment
  • Traffic

How does 5G compare to 4G LTE in terms of download speeds?

5G connectivity offers theoretical download speeds of up to 10Gbps. A pretty staggering difference! Of course in practise, it may not reach this, but even real-world examples seem to still be dwarfing the speeds of 4G LTE.

Why does 5G reach higher speeds?

5G uses a different spectrum to 4G – Called mmWave which are high-frequency bands. The higher speeds are mostly reached because these high frequency bands support more bandwidth than the ones that LTE uses. This means that more data can be transferred at once.

5G can also use frequencies above low-band but lower than 6GHz. Despite these not supporting the highest possible speeds, they will still outclass 4G LTE. It’s worth noting that 5G coverage could be further expanded by using connectivity below 6GHz, especially as walls and surfaces can block mmWave frequencies.

Basically, 5G uses a different spectrum to 4G LTE and thus:

  • Delivers stronger, faster connections
  • Has a higher capacity for traffic
  • Has low latency (1ms)

Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it! It’s worth remembering that the rollout of 5G is still in its infancy, and therefore coverage is still limited. Before the big networks like EE, Three and Vodafone can deliver the top scope of what 5G has to offer, more work needs to be done.

So should we be choosing LTE or 5G?

As with most techy things, there are lots of factors, such as:

  • Your budget
  • Where you’re based
  • What your connectivity needs are – Personal or business

The more countries adopt and expand their 5G infrastructure, the more 5G-friendly hardware we will start to see. The best way to know whether to choose LTE or 5G is seeing what is on the market and whether it meets your needs.

You may find that some of the 5G devices available don’t have a 4G alternative. You may also find that they are rather on the pricey side! So definitely shop around.

Of course, the more 5G devices we see on the market, the more we will see the prices start to come down. So the time for adopting 5G over LTE may not be quite yet. Patience could also serve you more of the promises 5G has to offer – The more the 5G coverage continues to expand, the higher the speeds and the more consistent the connection to mmWave networks.

Since 2019, we’ve seen prices start to come down as competition in the market starts to heat up, but 5G is still costly. If you have a big budget then you could just go for it now, but we feel like the overall coverage, packages and prices will continue to rapidly improve. We’re inclined to hold out a bit longer and stick to LTE for the time being.

What about 5G for business?

If your business relies on heavily on connected sensors and other similar IoT networks then 5G may be the network you’ve been waiting for. The bandwidth and low latency that 5G could bring to your business cannot be easily ignored.

Think driverless cars navigation and smart sensors – 5G could well be the communications technology that will enable some great and creative deployments.

What are the health concerns associated with 5G?

With 5G comes questions about whether it could harm our health. Do you remember when mobile phones were beginning to emerge into mainstream use and there was much anxiety about what the radio waves were doing to our health? Mobile telephone has never been without concerns, but 5G seems to have evoked more than its fair share of health worries.

The installation of 5G masts have been banned in multiple UK locations. And it’s not just parts of the UK that are opposed to 5G – Back in 2017 180 scientists from 36 different countries made a public appea to the EU to pause their plans of 5G expansion whilst investigations were carried out looking at the long-term effects on human health.

Whilst both 4G and 5G use radio waves, 5G uses higher frequency waves. It’s these high frequency waves that provide better network capacity and speed.

Studies that have looked into any potential health risks from 5G haven’t seemed to identify any specific danger from 5G.

What is the future for LTE and 5G?

With the rise of 5G comes potentially society-changing connectivity – Like self-driving cars.

But technological advances can be slow if not steady. Whilst there is definitely potential for 5G to take over, it could take considerable time for 5G-enabled devices to really take hold of the market. Even from the likes of Apple!

There is still space for 4G LTE in our networks, and whilst it may be 5G’s predecessor, it’s not going anywhere just yet.

Research from Ericsson suggests that the dominant cellular network technology seen in most regions globally is still 4G LTE. 78% of mobile subscriptions in Western Europe in fact! Just because the 5G rollout is well underway, doesn’t mean that everyone will immediately jump ship and drop 4G LTE. It’s expected that 4G LTE will still be the dominant network even 5 years from now.

By 2026 Western Europe is predicted to be using 5G in 69% of all mobile subscriptions. However, Ericssons findings suggest that even as 5G usage surges, 4G LTE won’t automatically decline. It’s even predicted that 4G LTE availability will grow, with global coverage of 95% by 2026, with 5G only seeing 60% in those 5 years.

There is no denying that 5G is the future for telecoms. But by the time we are all accustomed to using it, 6G might well be on the way! Despite 5G becoming more prevalent as time passes, we still think there’s no need to be abandoning 4G just yet.

Can I Use DFS Channels on my Wi-Fi Network?

We’ve recently started to see a rise in customers using DFS channels when operating their Wi-Fi networks, so thought we would write an article all about it in case it’s also helpful for your own network.

What is DFS?

DFS is Dynamic Frequency Selection and is a type of Wi-Fi function that allows WLANs to use 5GHz frequencies (which are reserved for radar, for example, the military, satellite or weather).

What is the benefit of using DFS channels for Wi-Fi?

We’ve written before about how you can improve your Wi-Fi and prevent interference by utilising different channels. The main benefit of using DFS channels taps into this. You can increase the number of available Wi-Fi channels by using DFS channels to use these less-used frequencies.

How can I utilise DFS channels on my Wi-Fi network?

The first thing you need to do if you are wanting to use DFS channels, is to check that your wireless access points and wireless clients support the necessary functionality.

The 5GHz spectrum in the UK is broken into 3 different bands and runs from 5150MHz (5.15GHz) to 5850MHz (5.85GHz). The bands are as follows:

Band A

  • Channels 36 – 64
  • This is used only for Indoor wireless
  • Does not require a license

Band B

  • Channels 100 – 140
  • Can be used both inside and outside
  • Does not require a license
  • Hardware must conform to DFS standards and be DFS enabled

Band C

  • Channels 149 – 161
  • Can only be used outside
  • Requires a license from Ofcom
  • Hardware must conform to DFS standards and be DFS enabled

 

 

Checking DFS Channel Availability

When you enable DFS, the Wi-Fi access points will need to verify that any radar in the proximity is not using DFS frequencies. This is a process called Channel Availability Check and is carried out during the boot process of an AP as well as during normal operations.

Should an AP detect that a local radar is using a certain DFS channel, it will automatically exclude that channel for this list of available ones. This will last for 30 minutes after which time the AP will check again to see if the channel can be used for Wi-Fi transmissions. You’ll be pleased to know that this exclusion of unavailable channels has very little impact on Wi-Fi clients.

DFS channels are not immediately available when an AP boots. This is because the Channel Availability Check can take anywhere between 1 minute and 10 minutes during the boot process.

 

What happens if an AP detects radar use during normal operations?

We know what you’re thinking – What happens if the AP was to detect during normal operations that the channel you are using becomes in use by a proximal radar?

If this happens, then the AP may communicate to its Wi-Fi clients to stop transmitting on that particular channel. The AP will then switch to a different, available DFS channel within the Channel Move Time. This is usually about 10 seconds.

Unlike above, this could affect Wi-Fi clients. An AP won’t always announce that it is changing channels to connected devices. When it switches to the available channel, it will cause those Wi-Fi clients to disconnect from the network and then re-connect to the new channel.

 

Are DFS channels right for my Wi-Fi network?

If you are considering using DFS channels for your Wi-Fi, you need to think carefully about whether business critical operations rely on that connection. If the answer is yes, you might want to avoid enabling DFS and not risk the disconnections caused by DFS frequencies.

 

Can My Christmas Lights Affect My Wi-Fi?

The 1st December means we can officially start talking about Christmas! December 1st also happens to be National Christmas Lights Day which coincides with many people choosing to put up their Christmas tree (if they haven’t already done so!).

So you fight the knot of Christmas lights that you’ve fetched from the loft, stick on the ‘Christmas is Coming’ playlist on Spotify (thank us later) and flick the switch for the moment of truth – And Bublé buffers as soon as the tree lights up. What’s going on?

There tends to be articles that circulate this time of year about how Christmas lights could be interfering with your Wi-Fi. But is it really the Christmas tree lights that’s causing Mariah to falter on that high note?

If you haven’t put your tree up yet, and you’re a bit of a Wi-Fi geek (like us) then why not do a little experiment to see exactly how much your Christmas tree lights affect your Wi-Fi? Test your internet and download speeds before and after putting up the Christmas tree with the lights turned on.

 

Will my Wi-Fi be affected by my Christmas tree lights?

Let’s face it, no one wants to choose between functioning Wi-Fi and a Christmassy home. People need that bit of festive cheer more than ever this year, but we also need to know we can rely on our Wi-Fi to keep us connected with our loved ones over the festive period (and stream all the Christmas movies…).

There are potential Wi-Fi issues that can arise with Christmas tree lights so we thought it was worth running through a few do’s and don’ts to help avoid any internet interference from happening in your home. But first – what’s the reason Christmas lights could cause internet issues?

 

How can Christmas tree lights interfere with Wi-FI?

Christmas lights emit a very weak electromagnetic field which can theoretically interfere with the radio waves being transmitted from your router, thus affecting your Wi-Fi speed. If the lights were to transmit electromagnetic radiation at or around the same frequency, then it is possible that they could slow down your Wi-Fi.

Between the LED or lamp being completely on or off, it can exhibit negative resistance which in turn causes radio energy. This happens less with modern day lights than older ones though (see below for more info on this).

Is your tree lit up to give a soft glow, or does it look like something fresh out of Blackpool illuminations? The more lights you have, the stronger the electromagnetic field will be.

And the closer the router is to the lights, the higher the chance of interference.

So what can you do to ensure that your beautifully decorated Christmas tree doesn’t knock off your Netflix binge of Christmas movies?

 

Geekabit’s Top Tips to Prevent Wi-Fi Interference this Festive Season

 

Rule #1 – Don’t place things on top of your router

Just don’t do it. This doesn’t just go for decorations, but in general. We can’t stress this enough – Don’t put anything on top of your router.

This includes Christmas lights – No matter how festive they look! Don’t put Christmas lights or anything else directly on top of, or too close to, your router.

Whilst it has been reported that routers that were placed too close to Christmas tree lights could be negatively affected by signal interference, if they’re not directly next to each other or on top of each other, it should be fine.

 

Rule #2 – Use a main plug socket

We get it – Christmas is one of those times of year when you’re struggling for socket space and digging out all the extension cables you can find to be able to power Christmas tree lights and all kinds of other lit decorations.

But don’t be tempted to unplug the router and plug it into the extension cable. It will work a lot better, and faster, if it’s plugged into a main socket.

 

Rule #3 – The more modern the lights, the better

There are generally 2 types of light whose qualities have the potential to cause interference.

Older types of Christmas lights that are arranged in a string of low voltage lamps in series with each other and are designed to blink can cause radio interference which can lead to dips in Wi-Fi speed.

More modern Christmas lights use solid-state LED’s and have an external control for flashing which don’t create radio noise. However, it’s worth noting that some LED’s have a chip inside the bulb to control the blink and these devices can also cause interference.

On the whole though, modern lights are definitely less likely to cause you a Wi-Fi problem, so maybe save yourself the annual horror of trying to untangle your 10 year old string of lights and treat yourself to some new ones.

 

Rule #4 – Don’t put your router in ‘high traffic’ areas

Tis the season for family gatherings, friend get-togethers and all sorts of festive shenanigans. Not to mention the big man in red tumbling down the chimney! Humans are great signal absorbers, so put the router in a place where it won’t get blocked by partying people or round bellies that shake like jelly.

 

Did you do the Wi-Fi speed test before and after? We’re pretty sure the results will be rather negligible but we’d love to hear your results!

 

SpeedScore by Geekabit

Your internet speed has never been so important. Connectivity is as important as electricity, water and gas to a home or business. Decisions are made based on the speed you can offer, yet connectivity is often overlooked until it’s too late.

House buyers, tenants, hospitality customers and even employees are getting more tech savvy and starting to ask questions about internet speeds and reliability.

With a decade of providing connectivity solutions to UK markets, we have launched our innovative Internet Connectivity Measurement Platform.

SpeedScore by Geekabit gives you a variety of tools to help provide an independent certification of your internet speeds and connectivity.

Most internet speed tests are not accurate, as they become affected by the use of Wi-Fi, old devices and different test endpoints. You can’t expect them to provide the same results test after test due to a variety of factors.

Our hardware and software is different, resolving these issues and providing a balanced and independent view. We have no affiliation with any connectivity provider or hardware manufacturer, allowing us to create a truly impartial scheme based on scientific measurement and reporting.

Who is SpeedScore for?
Perfect for Estate Agents looking to prove internet connection speeds in properties for sale, landlords looking to provide accurate broadband measurement for potential tenants, and hospitality hosts giving confidence to those looking for a connected stay.

What does SpeedScore include?
The core platform consists of the SpeedScore ConnectBox – plugged directly into your broadband router (available for purchase or hire) and the SpeedScore Platform and App. You can show live scores within your own online marketing, provide exportable reports and download certificates to provide an independent and balanced view from our experts.

Prove your internet speed and connectivity status, when and where you need it with SpeedScore by Geekabit.

We have limited availability for the first rollout of our platform, and are looking for a final few customers for our initial shipping batch. If you would like to take part, please email .

Locations for BLE Beacons

If you’re in the business of Wi-Fi and other wireless technology – Particularly designing and installing networks – Then you’ll likely know how common it is for architects and interior designers to go on at us about placement of wireless devices.

Sure, they realise it’s necessary to have light switches and fire alarms – But wireless access points and the like don’t get the same concessions. Here at Geekabit we firmly believe that network infrastructure is very much a necessity in any building – particularly business premises but homes too.

Bluetooth low energy beacons (or BLE beacons) broadcast to nearby portable electronic devices, enabling smartphones tablets and other similar devices to perform certain actions whilst in close proximity to the beacon.

For these to be successful, they need to be placed in certain places. And whilst we do try to keep everything looking aesthetically pleasing, we do believe that a reliable and consistent network is as important to a building as the design.

Where can BLE beacons be placed?

We’re going to look at a few different potential locations for BLE beacons and how they effect their functionality (and the design aesthetic of the premises).

Near to the Floor

In some buildings, the design means that using any kind of adhesive or screw fitting on the wall would be abhorrent! This is particularly true if the material is fabric, glass or metal. Whilst you will be mounting the BLE beacon near to the floor, you will need some kind od baseboard and will also need to take into consideration any floor cleaning processes. You don’t want the device to get damaged!

Another reason why the floor is a good option, is that it helps inhibit the BLE beacon from being seen from one floor to another. If you have floor holes, like an atrium or stairwell, the map can get easily confused. The floor then acts as a shadow for these types of areas.

Every ‘portal’ (for example, doors from stairways, lifts and lobbies) needs to have a BLE beacon. This is so the app knows to switch maps when navigating a change of floor.

On the Wall

The easiest way of placing your BLE beacon as close to your users as possible, is to place it on the wall.

Wherever a user goes in the building, they should be within 3 or 4 metres of a BLE beacon. The closer they are to the BLE beacon, the better the accuracy. The more BLE beacons you have, the the better any latency will be reduced. It is however worth noting that it takes approximately 2 to 5 seconds for the app to link to the nearest beacon due to it listening out for all the beacons in the vicinity.

On the Ceiling

It’s not ideal, but it will work if you have no other option. As we said above, your users need to be as close to the BLE beacons as possible. Thus, placing the beacon on a ceiling means that at best, the user is always about 2 metres away from it – Even when standing directly underneath it.

The Complicated Bit

That was all quite straightforward, but here’s the geeky bit to explain the why!

The wireless engineering reason behind how these placements work comes down to free space path loss.

FSPL is the ‘attenuation (the reduction of the amplitude of a signal) of radio energy between the feedpoints of two antennas, that results from the combination of the receiving antenna’s capture area plus the obstacle-free, line of sight path through free space.’

In the locations outlined above, we are making constructive use out of FSPL.

Due to the inverse square law of RF propagation, measurement of the power present in a received radio signal in the BLE beacon based on determining the exact location of a radio transmitter is optimal within about 0 to 4 metres.

The typical calibrated output of a BLE beacon is 0dBm (1mW). They operate in the 2.4GHz band on a 2MHz advertisement channel tucked between Wi-Fi channels 1 and 6, as well as one just past channel 11, and another one just below channel 1.)

There can also be some variability between receiver devices in terms of their sensitivity and even based on internal antenna configuration and how the device is held/oriented. For this reason, we assume a +/- 3dB for the purposes of this example.

Based on the Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI), when a receiving device sees a BLE beacon, it determines its distance from that beacon, using the beacon’s ID to correlate it with the device’s placement on the map.

When a device sees a beacon at -35dBm, it knows it’s under a metre away. If it sees it at -55dBm, that could be anywhere between 4 and 8 metres away.

The further away you get from the beacon, the wider the margin of error.

You also need to take into account any potential barriers. For example, any walls that get between can also add 3dB or more of attenuation depending on the materials used. This is just the same as when we’ve blogged about the effects of walls and similar barriers on Wi-Fi signal.

Below 1 metre, every time you halve the distance you gain 6dB – so 50cm would be -34dB, 25cm would be -28dB, 12.5cm would be -22dB, and now we’re getting really close to the beacon, and it’s already lost 99% of the transmitted power.

Remember that if you mount them on a metal surface, you gain a little bit back. If your surface is less than one wavelength (~12cm) wide, the maths behind it gets a bit tricky!

What does all this mean for BLE beacon placement?

The main takeaway from all this is that when placing BLE beacons, you should try to get them as close to the receiver as possible which is usually within 4m.

If you are mounting the BLE beacon on a wall, then you need to aim for a height of 1-2 metres maximum. You should also consider the height of traffic going past it – Like the hips, shoulders or trolleys of passing people. You don’t want to damage the beacon or rip it off! (You also don’t want to regularly injure people from bumping into it…)

We mentioned ceilings earlier. BLE beacons can be placed there, but in office buildings that generally means that the receiver is always going to be at least 2m away from it – Even if they were to stand directly underneath. Placing beacons near the floor are approximately a metre closer to the receiver device than one mounted on the ceiling.

What about aesthetic concerns?

Ahh yes. Aesthetics. If you are trying to place BLE beacons in locations where there are particular aesthetic concerns, then you could consider painting the beacons and the mounts to match the surrounding design.

If you are planning to do this, you must make sure that the paint doesn’t contain any metallic materials (lead, aluminium powder, gold leaf, iron oxide etc).

Alternatively, you could also use a vinyl skin to make the beacon more aesthetically pleasing. These can also be used on access points.

If you are planning to do either of these, always check with the vendor to make sure that painting or vinyl skins won’t void the warranty (it does in quite a few cases).

Paintable covers that can snap on to indoor AP’s are also an option which would save you having the paint the beacon directly.

Designing your beacon deployment

As with any radio frequency (RF) planning, you should try and model the BLE access points and beacons.

Make sure you set your BLE coverage requirements to the Received Signal Strength Indicator required for the maximum distance you want to be from the beacon (-52dBm).

You also need to make sure that you are always able to hear at least 3 beacons.

Hopefully this article will have helped you when it comes to the placement of BLE beacons – And how to keep those architects and interior designers off your back!