Troubleshooting Your Home Wi-Fi

Despite being busy behind the scenes working on other areas of the business, we’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front during the Covid-19 crisis. But there’s nothing quite like throwing you back into it like a request from the Guardian for some home Wi-Fi tips!

You might not know this, but our Managing Director Steve set up Geekabit after years of having issues with Wi-Fi at his own home. He set to undertake as much education about Wi-Fi as possible, and uncover the myths of this surprisingly complex technology. Very few qualifications exist in this specialist area that aren’t provided by commercial vendors, and so it was necessary to go through a lot of online courses, and read extensive literature.

Geekabit were set up to be the UK’s No.1 dedicated specialist Wi-Fi consultancy. We are the educated, experienced and expert voice for helping business with solving Wi-Fi issues, not just for home and business premises, but outdoor events as well such as Glastonbury Festival.

So don’t just sit twiddling your thumbs waiting for your Wi-Fi to be better! Before we get into the nitty gritty Wi-Fi bits, here are Steve’s quick top tips:

  1. Check if it’s a Wi-Fi or a Broadband issue by plugging in
  2. Change the frequency band
  3. Change the Channel, especially in built up residential areas
  4. Place the router centrally, as high as possible
  5. Remove older devices from your network.

If you want some more in-depth advice advice, read on. Below are the answers to some commonly asked questions when it comes to home Wi-Fi.

 

  1. Is it a Wi-Fi or Broadband Issue?

First you need to define whether a problem is a Wi-Fi issue or a Broadband issue. The little box that your supplier provides includes a broadband modem and all the equipment needed to provide a Wi-Fi signal throughout your house or business. So people often get confused about whether it’s a broadband issue (any issue causing a connection problem coming into your house), or whether it’s a true Wi-Fi problem related to the connection between the antenna’s inside your router and each of your devices.

To see whether the issue is a Wi-Fi one or with your Broadband connection, start by plugging in your devices using the ethernet ports on the back of your router. If the problem goes away, then you know it’s most likely related to Wi-Fi.

 

  1. Don’t block it.

Most people hide their Wi-Fi router in the corner, often because the telephone connection point is in the corner. They are choosing to make the signal and speed between their devices and their router worse by physically blocking it, with cupboards, TV’s, mirrors. The magical Wi-Fi signal is a set of radio waves like any other, and when it gets interrupted, we can’t expect it to still be at its optimum.

Think of a Wi-Fi signal like any kind of wave at the seaside. When it hits something, the wave of water gets deflected, reflected and bounces off in a different direction. Every time you put something in the way, you’re making it more difficult for the signal to reach its destination. Thick brick walls, pipes, bodies of water, many people in a small space, can all cause an issue.

Your router is designed to provide a signal 360 degrees around it relatively evenly. So placing it in the corner often wastes 50% of the potential coverage.

The best place to put a router is in the middle of the home, and high up as possible to get the best coverage for the antennas sat inside it.

 

  1. It’s a competition between two.

Your Wi-Fi signal is in huge amounts of competition with other devices that can work on the same frequency bands. Commonly, signals can get worse near a kitchen because of microwaves. Underfloor heating controllers, gaming controllers can all cause trouble on the busy 2.4GHz frequency band.

Many Wi-Fi routers send out signals on two different frequency bands – 2.4GHz and 5GHz. 2.4GHz is heavily congested, but signals travel much further than the quieter 5GHz frequency band. Sometimes your Wi-Fi router combines these and tries to figure it out under one name, so you would never know. If you can separate these, and always choose 5GHz frequency band, it can make a huge difference.

In heavily built up residential areas, this can make the biggest difference, as there are lots of Wi-Fi routers sending out signals in the same space, mainly using 2.4GHz frequency band.

 

  1. Change the Channel.

On each of these frequency bands, they are made up of Channels, and you can choose to manually pick which channel to use inside your Wi-Fi router. Modern routers are designed to listen out to all the other Wi-Fi signals they can hear, and choose the quietest channel. You always want the quietest, with less competition for other signals. Quite often your router will allow you to do a scan of the wireless environment and tell you which is the quietest.

In a built up area, you can often have tens of routers all constantly scanning and trying to find the quietest channel, hopping around all over the place. When they move around, they can sometimes drop all the users off for a short period of time, so suddenly the Wi-Fi disappears, and comes back straight after. But at that moment, it could be the time when you’re trying to load up something on the internet, and it just gives up. Choosing the channel manually stops this.

Wi-Fi works quite simply. Say you have a phone. It sends a broadcast to the Wi-Fi router. If there is something else it can hear on that channel, it has to stop broadcasting. It then waits a little while, and we are talking milliseconds, and then tries again. If there’s other Wi-Fi devices on the channels close to the one you’re using, then the whole network will slow down to the device which is communicating slowest, based on Wi-Fi standards. So older devices could be slowing down your network speed, or perhaps older devices in your neighbour’s house!

On the back of your router, there are usually instructions on how to navigate to the router admin area.

 

  1. The radar effect

When using the 5GHz frequency band for your Wi-Fi signal, be careful of a set of channels, which are marked as “DFS”. These channels are reserved for radar use usually, and Wi-Fi signals can use them the rest of the time. They happily broadcast a Wi-Fi signal, but as soon as they hear a radar, they have to go quiet. So if you live near an airport, or close to marinas, this could be the issue. But most Wi-Fi routers do their best to not select these channels automatically.

The DFS channels are numbered between 52-64 and 100-140 in Europe in the 5GHz frequency band.

 

  1. Don’t just add more routers

The common thing people try is to add more Wi-Fi routers, extenders and access points if there is a slow network or they are struggling to get a signal. But these need to be setup properly in order to be beneficial. Adding more Wi-Fi communication to the same channels and frequency bands has the potential to be slowing down your network even more. You could be making the problem worse.

Wi-Fi extenders take the signal which they can hear, and then re-broadcast it. if the initial signal they are hearing isn’t particularly good, then they can only re-broadcast this bad signal. So in many ways they can’t make much of a positive difference.

 

Well, it feels good to be back – Keep an eye on the blog for lots more expert Wi-Fi advice and top tips coming soon! And if you need some help with your business or home Wi-Fi get in touch with us today.

COVID-19 Lockdown

As we continue to navigate this unprecedented time in our professional and personal lives, the Wi-Fi Expert blog here at Geekabit will be taking a little break.

We are following all government guidelines, and as such, we as a business like so many others are now working remotely. As many of our clients are doing the same, the need for Wi-Fi support, network design and Wi-Fi installations are all temporarily on-hold.

There are a couple of articles that we have blogged previously that could prove useful during this time – How to fix common Wi-Fi problems, and how to spot people stealing your Wi-Fi! We’ve linked these for you below.

Common Wi-Fi Problems and How to Fix Them

Who is Stealing my Wi-Fi and How Can I Block Them?

We look forward to getting back to it once all of this over. Here’s hoping that everyone reading this will have secure and reliable Wi-Fi to stay connected to colleagues, friends and family for the next couple of months.

So for now, stay safe and stay home.

Simple and Secure Management of your Wi-Fi Network Access

There seems to be a common misconception that you can use WPA Personal (what you would use on your home network) in a business environment, especially if it’s a small business with less than 500 employees. What’s the issue? You have a password, you use it to connect, safe and secure right?

Not necessarily.

Imagine your office is in a shared building. You have someone, let’s call him Bob, come in for an interview but their presentation is saved in their emails, so you give them your network password and they connect. The interviews for the day finish, and unfortunately Bob doesn’t get the job.

3 months later Bob goes for another interview in the office next door to yours. Their network is down and he can’t access his presentation – So he tried his luck, and hey presto, your password is still the same! He connects to your network using the password you previously gave him, delivers his presentation and gets the job (let’s give this a happy ending!).

Now, this is all fine, assuming that Bob is not feeling malicious about not getting the job, and only wants to use your connection for legitimate reasons. But what if he wasn’t so amenable?

It’s important to take steps to simply and securely manage your Wi-Fi network.

 

Wi-Fi Present Access:

Whether it’s an internal employee or someone that isn’t always present in the business (a salesperson, consultant, delivery person, security guard etc) – Whoever is connecting to the network, needs to be able to do so as automatically (and securely) as possible. We’re not advocating making it inconvenient just for the sake of it – But sensible means to protect your network. There are a wide range of issues that administrators regularly face when trying to control the who, what, when and how of Wi-Fi access – But there are systems out there that can help make all of this simple.

 

WiFi Previous Access:

Imagine someone like an ex-employee who hasn’t been in your office for over a year can still automatically connect to the company’s Wi-Fi network from a nearby area. Not a nice thought to think about them having the means to have a little mooch around your network without you having any type of control over what they’re doing. Another way of putting it – You pop out the house leaving the keys in the front door, and a passer-by let’s themselves in.  This type of lack of control in a corporate network is not acceptable. It’s often blamed on the insecurity of the Wi-Fi network itself, but actually goes back to what we said earlier about using WPA Personal in a corporate environment. This really needs to be a thing of the past, but shockingly seems to actually be the majority of what businesses, particularly small ones, use.

Why is that then? Perhaps this is due to WPA Personal being seemingly easier to deploy on a network. How many offices can you think of where the SSID and password are stuck up on the wall for all to see?  Sounds nice and easy – Everyone can connect when they need to!

But what about the security risks? Our earlier example with the interviewee could be very different – Someone with access to your network for non-professional purposes and malicious intent would not be good.

Instead, you could use WPA Enterprise (this is nothing new, it’s been around more than a decade) and increase the security of your company network. With features such as dynamic VLAN assignation, AAA management via RADIUS, authentication against a user database, and many others, it could be the best solution for securing your business Wi-Fi network.

 

Improving the security of Wi-Fi network access

This whole thing doesn’t have to be a headache. Available on the market, there are systems for automating WPA Enterprise to easily manage the internet access of employees, subcontractors and visitors on your Wi-Fi network.

Using one of these systems, you can establish different access policies for certain users, groups of users, device operating systems and even periods of time. You can also monitor and control the connections on your Wi-Fi, as well as attempted connections.

Is your Wi-Fi network security up to scratch? It’s worth thinking about.

 

Best Practice Guide to Setting Up Multiple Wireless Access Points On The Same Network

Best Practice Guide to Setting Up Multiple Wireless Access Points On The Same Network

Creating a solution to your Wi-Fi woes or making an even bigger mess? You might think that covering a large area with Wi-Fi is as simple as just popping wireless routers on every floor, but it’s not as straight forward as that unfortunately.

Having too many or overlapping access points can create just as many issues as not having enough AP’s on your network. When you are deploying multiple wireless access points on the same network, there are some rules you need to be following – Luckily for you that’s what this Best Practice Guide is here for!

First things first – You need to consider the building materials around you and how they can affect Wi-Fi.

There are various and many structures that can weaken, disrupt and cause negative internet experiences when it comes to Wi-Fi signals. Walls, stairs, lifts, wood, water – There are a multitude of factors that can negatively impact your Wi-Fi network.

  1. Glass
    Glass is a bit of an ‘in thing’ when it comes to more modern workspaces. Plenty of natural light and open, airy offices. Unfortunately, whilst this looks pretty good, it doesn’t lend itself well to Wi-Fi signals. A standard clear window can reduce signal strength by -4db (decibels relative to a milliwatt). This number increases if the windows are double glazed, or even triple. Treatments on the glass such as insulation or light deflection can also have negative effects. This might not sound like a lot, but if you were to be attempting a video conference over Wi-Fi in your glass-walled meeting room with already weak Wi-Fi signals, that -4db reduction could cause some big problems.
  2. Plasterboard and Insulation

Most walls are made of plasterboard which thankfully won’t cause you too many problems in itself (only a loss of about -2db). However, with most plasterboard walls come foam insulation, metal wiring or other structures inbetween which can cause a reduction in signal strength.

  1. Wood

Older office buildings, and indeed the majority of homes are made from a wooden framework. You’ll also find it throughout buildings, used for flooring, doors and furniture. Wood is perhaps one of the lesser known materials for affecting Wi-Fi aside from the more obvious ones, but it can have a big effect on Wi-Fi signal strength by reducing it by as much as -6db. This figure will of course only get worse, depending on the thickness of the wood, as well as its water content – Some wooden structures could cause a reduction of -20db.

  1. Brick Wall

Even just one brick wall will cause you problems. Due to the dense and thick nature of brick, having a wall between an access point and the end user could render the Wi-Fi unusable. Exacerbated further by the mortar holding it all together, you could see a reduction in Wi-Fi signal of -28db.

  1. Metal

A lot of modern commercial buildings, often used for offices, are made of metal building materials. Unfortunately, metal and cellular signals are not friends, making metal another enemy of Wi-Fi. This is one of the most important elements to consider when planning your network – Overlook this and you could be looking at a reduction in signal of -50db. That’s not good for a business environment relying on Wi-Fi to work! Metal can really obstruct Wi-Fi signals and create dead zones so it’s a must to take into the account any metal structures when planning a network and where to place Access Points.

 

You might be wondering how to go about all this. One way is to download one of many free apps (Wi-Fi or network analysers). These apps can measure the strength of your Wi-Fi signal as you move around your home or office.

To understand the effects of the structures around you, you can start next to an access point, and then slowly move around the building, past walls and structures that could cause issues.

Wi-Fi signal strength is measured in milliwatts but due to the large numbers can get extremely complex. An alternative is to use dBm (decibels relative to milliwatt). Excellent Wi-Fi signal strength would equate to -30 (a high dBm) with a dead zone being at the lowest of -120 dBm. Ideally, you need your Wi-Fi to be measuring between -60 and -40 dBm.

 

Unfortunately, even in an ideal environment with no obstructions in the form of the structures mentioned earlier, there are still things that can have a negative impact on your wireless network performance that will mean you will need to set up multiple AP’s.

  1. Interference from Nearby Networks

If you have another Wi-Fi network nearby, the signal from this and other access points can cause interference, negatively impacting the performance of your network. Any access points on the same channel can cause dropped connections or lost packets while the internet is being used.

  1. Densely Populated Areas

Unfortunately, not all access points are made for densely populated areas. We may not be a structure, but human bodies (being made up mostly of water) are awful when it comes to Wi-Fi signals. Radio signals and water are not friends. In an area such as an open office where there are lots of bodies in one place, you will need multiple access points to ensure that signals can spread properly and that the required capacities can be supported.

 

A Best Practice Guide for Multiple Wireless Access Points

It’s pretty clear from our points above that there are many reasons why you may need to set up multiple wireless access points on the same network. You could save yourself a potential headache and get the experts in to do the job for you (that’s us here at Geekabit – Hi!) but if this is a project you want to do yourself then here are our top tips for you to follow.

  1. Conduct a wireless site survey before setting up your Wi-Fi

We really can’t stress enough how important this step is! Don’t miss it out. It is so important to carry out a Wireless Site Survey as it will give you a clear plan, indicating where to mount your access points. There is really no room for guesswork when it comes to this, if you want a reliable network.  Not only does it help with placement of AP’s, but it can also shed light on how best to configure your access points for their optimal performance. Don’t create issues further down the line by skipping the site survey.  If you’re not sure where to start, look up our blogs on Site Surveys or get in touch with one of our Wi-Fi experts directly.

  1. Placement

Thanks to the Wireless Site Survey you’ve done, you should have all the information you need to decide the best locations to place your access points.

If you’ve opted not to go with a site survey, then the old method of just ‘winging it’ had a general rule of thumb of putting access points in the middle of each room where you need WI-Fi. Far be it for us to say that this way won’t work, but it’s probably not the smartest way to install access points. If your business is heavily reliant on WI-Fi for day to day business operations, then we would strongly recommend carrying out a site survey, and using the information you find to place the access points in the optimal positions.

One of the mitigating factors we mentioned above was high density, so a good place to start would be to place access points in the areas where it will be used the most. These areas will require stonger Wi-Fi signals so should be addressed first. Once you’ve got this covered, you can then look at the remaining areas where wireless coverage might not be as important. In this approach, you’re favouring capacity over coverage which seems to be the current trend for network installations.

  1. Ethernet Cables Keep ethernet cable under 328 feet when connecting access points

So you’ve carried out your site survey, planned where to put your access points – Now you need to check that you can run Cat5 or Cat6 ethernet cables between access points without exceeding 328 feet. The reason for this is anything over this length could cause the dropping of packets which will end up negatively impacting wireless internet performance. If you ask most wireless networking professionals or engineers, you’ll find that they usually limit cables to 300 feet, giving them room for patching.

Need to go further than 328 feet? Don’t despair! You’ll need to use an active component, for example a small (inexpensive) switch that you can place somewhere before 300 feet. This will allow you to extend the cable by another 328 feet without issues.

In some situations, you may need to run the cable for a much longer distance. In these cases, you might want to consider using fibre optic cable – These can be run for several miles in some instances!

Top Tip: Review the costs before carrying it out! Cable runs over big distances can prove pricey, so don’t get any nasty surprises.

  1. Indoor / Outdoor

Do you need any access points to be outside? If so, make sure you choose the appropriate outdoor access points to get the right coverage. Of course, depending on structure and placement, your indoor access points might provide some coverage outdoors but it’s definitely worth checking where you need coverage and whether you’ll need some additional outdoor access points. The great thing about outdoor access points are their ability to withstand the weather and difference in temperatures (pretty important here in Britain!).

If you’re not just covering an office environment, you might find yourself needing to use an outdoor access point inside. For example, a refrigerated warehouse with cold temperatures would benefit from these. They are also condensation resistant and have internal heaters so are able to function where an indoor one would fail.

  1. Manage Your Access Points with a Controller

You can get various versions of wireless access point controllers. Some are physically on site where your actual access points are deployed, but you can also get cloud-based controllers which you can use to manage multiple access points across different locations. Access points themselves can also host controller software.

Whichever controller you choose, the benefits are that you can use one interface to control all of your grouped access points. You will also be able to give all access points one SSIS and password, meaning you don’t have to join different networks when you’re moving between different rooms or floors.

Using a controller will give you much more control over your network, keeping it all in order. You will be able to utilise automatic channel management and seamless roaming, which is vital whn setting up multiple access points on the same network.

  1. Channel Choice

If you want excellent wireless coverage, then proper channel selection is essential. Luckily, you’ve heeded the advice above and opted for a controller which in most cases will choose the correct channel for your access points.

When you are deploying multiple access points on the same network, there is the potential for neighbouring access points to overlap. This will only cause a problem if they are on the same channel – If you don’t use non-overlapping channels then the access points will interfere with each other, causing packet loss during browsing which will result in a negative Wi-Fi experience for the end user.

If you have a high-density network then you’ll need to use the 5GHz band. It offers much more selection when it comes to non-overlapping channels and hence tends to be the favourite when installing networks for high-density wireless deployments using multiple access points. The 2.4 GHz band is rarely used for this type of network due to it only having 11 channels which only provides 3 that don’t overlap (1, 6 and 11).

  1. Power Settings

You’ll need to bear in mind the coverage area that your access point needs to cover and thus what the power settings need to be in order to function well. For example, if coverage cells are too large then they may then overlap each other, which could cause a device to stay with one access point further away when it could get a better signal from one closer. Obviously you don’t want roaming issues such as this!

Again we find ourselves coming back to the controller – This will likely control the power levels of the access points automatically. In some higher density deployments, you may need to intervene and perform manual power selection. And, once again, you’ll be needing the information gleaned from the site survey to inform your choices here and tune the access points for optimum use in your unique network.

 

Bit of a lengthy read but if you made it to the end, there’s a good chance you’re ready to go and deploy an efficient wireless network with perfectly placed multiple access points. If you’re not feeling confident, then you’re still in the right place – We’re the Wi-Fi experts and can help with site surveys, network design and installation, just get in touch!

 

When Should I Use an Ethernet Cable?

You know we love Wi-Fi (it’s probably pretty obvious how much) but there are occasions when there is actually a better way to connect to the internet… Shock horror! What is this blasphemy? Well, ethernet cables.

Picture a time before we had Wi-Fi (if you’re old enough). Fighting between the computer and the phone line, the sound of the modem dialling up, the plodding speed. Are you on that t’internet yet? (Peter Kay fans, that one’s for you).

We automatically just opt for Wi-Fi now and connect without being conscious of it. Connecting via cable is probably not something you would ever consider. We’re now in an age where we can connect to the internet pretty much anywhere in our house, stream HD video, play online games, the list goes on.

But what if the signal strength isn’t good enough for any of that? You might not realise it, but wired internet is still a thing, and there are situations when it might be better to go back to the old fashioned way. The fact is, that actually for just about anything a wired connection would be better – Sometimes very subtly, and other times radically.

Just because Wi-Fi has come along and revolutionised how we use the internet, doesn’t mean we have to use it all the time for everything. So here are some reasons why ethernet could be better than Wi-Fi.

  • Inconsistency – There is an entire industry devoted to combatting inconsistent Wi-Fi through additional devices. The signal from your router could be blocked or interfered with by so many factors including thick walls, metal objects, water, microwaves and other common household items. This unfortunately means that your house or workplace could have dead spots or areas where the connection runs very slow. Annoying if you’re trying to stream Netflix, and not very productive if you’ve got a workforce relying on it for work.
  • Signal Drops and High Latency – Depending what you’re using the internet for, this may not be very noticeable, but Wi-Fi is more prone to signal drops and high latency. If you’re using the wireless connection for playing online games then this would be causing you problems, but less so if all you’re doing is having a leisurely scroll.
  • Connection Speed – By no means least is the speed itself – Possibly one of the most frustrating things when it comes to bad Wi-Fi. Wired connections are always going to be faster – You may have a very good connection speed in your home or workplace, but the bottom line is it could be 2 or 3 times faster if you plug in an ethernet cable.
So when should you use a cabled connection?

We said earlier about how it could be a very subtle difference – In which case it’s maybe not worth putting in cables. But in the more radically different cases where an ethernet cable could bring internet access to a dead zone or reduce latency during online gaming, a wired connection could just be your knight in shining armour.

For most, A Wi-Fi connection is perfectly suitable – browsing the web, scrolling social media, answering work emails, watching non-4K video streaming will likely be unaffected by the potential drawbacks of Wi-Fi.

For those streaming 4K videos (rather than the default 1080p), people who frequently need to download large files or those that play online video games, a wired connection should be a very real consideration.

In the online gaming scenario – Do you want to be the person ruining someone else’s gaming experience because of latency problems? A wired connection could drastically reduce this problem – And you wouldn’t be the only gamer happy about it!

A general rule of thumb would be to wire up devices that stay in one place. If they don’t need to move about, then there’s no reason not to wire them up. If it’s something that you move around a lot – Like a laptop – Then leave it connected to Wi-Fi.

You might be thinking it’s all very well us telling you to cable up more of your devices, but many of them don’t actually support that connection. Why?

Possibly because in general, Wi-Fi is good enough for the job. We all rely heavily on Wi-Fi and don’t tend to even think about a wired connection, so the market reflects that. But by only offering Wi-Fi compatible devices with no ethernet ports, they’re also dictating to us what we use.

There are devices you can buy relatively cheaply that you can use as adaptors, for example for streaming sticks, but if the Wi-Fi is good enough then why would you bother?

It also, like everything, comes down to money. Devices are easier and cheaper to manufacture if they’re just wireless enabled, rather than adding in additional ethernet ports that the majority of people likely wouldn’t think to use. This means the price of the product can also be cheaper, again making it the more popular choice in many cases. For example, the Amazon Fire Stick can be plugged straight into an HDMi port and you can be watching high-quality video streaming for less than fifty quid. An ethernet compatible alternative would be much more expensive.

The appeal to these little devices is also often their size, and as ethernet ports are rather big they don’t lend themselves well to streaming sticks.

You will however find ethernet compatibility with the Google Chromecast Ultra which is included by default.

Will 5G internet fix this problem?

There has been much hype about 5G internet and how it’s going to be a big step forward in mobile internet. The 5G revolution is starting, and wireless internet will be much, much faster than it already is.

However, it’s not properly here yet and it will take some time to be accessible everywhere. It’s going to take quite a bit of time before 5G is automatically the default, and even when it is, it doesn’t automatically mean the end for wired connections.

The issues with consistency and interference that we spoke about earlier could still be problems for 5G.

So in summary, there are certainly times when ethernet cables can be the best option and will work well, especially for stationary devices. But 9 times out of ten, people are going to choose wireless. ‘I’ll have one of them Wiffy’s! Two if they’re free!’*

 

*Another Peter Kay reference… The video’s here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_H1Wu3s77Y

 

The Weird and Wonderful Ways People Believe Their Wi-Fi Is Being Affected

Ghosts, the government, aliens – What do these 3 have in common? Well they’re all some of the weird and wonderful things that people believe are affecting their Wi-Fi.

When your Netflix starts to buffer, do you look to the router or feel goosebumps prickle up your arm and a cold shiver run down your spine?

A new study of 2000 British adults has revealed that the most common culprit for dodgy Wi-Fi is thought to be the weather. Perhaps you’ve experienced this yourself this weekend at the hands of Storm Dennis. But wind and rain aren’t the only thing that these respondents blamed for their Wi-Fi running slow – Also on the list were ghosts, heavy road traffic, house pets, aliens, the government, bright lights, thick walls and fish tanks.

1 in 10 adults also believed that Wi-Fi speeds were slowed down by someone else being on their phone nearby.

But although some of these sound a bit far-fetched, some absolutely can affect your Wi-Fi if the placement of your router isn’t well thought out.

One of these is water. On the face of it, Wi-Fi and water don’t sound like they’d mix well together. Only 3% of respondents listed water as a contributing factor to Wi-Fi connectivity problems, but it is a very real threat.

Fish tanks, weather and even human beings (remember we’re mostly made up of water!) can adversely affect Wi-Fi.

Perhaps this is also linked to the fact that the bathroom and kitchen seem to be identified as the rooms with the worst internet connection. The best room for signal was found to be the living room.

10% of people had 10 or more devices connected to their home Wi-Fi at any one time, and 13% didn’t realise that having more devices actively connected at the same time could cause slow connectivity.

We all get slow internet from time to time, whatever the reason may be, and we all know how frustrating it is. Maybe you’re trying to binge watch a series, or attempting to catch up on work emails – But how many of you have tried to fix the issue by hitting your router? 1 in 10 people admitted to doing just this! Not something we would particularly recommend.

The study also found that 14% of people switched their router off before going to bed. We’re not sure what the aim of this would be, but it could certainly cause connection problems when it gets switched back on and another item for the ‘not recommended’ list.

Researchers also asked respondents what they thought the term Wi-Fi actually means. Is it short for something? 40% thought it stood for ‘Wireless Frequency’ or was short for ‘Wireless Fidelity’. What would your answer be?

Geeky fact: Wi-Fi doesn’t actually stand for anything and isn’t a shortened version of other words. Pure and simple – It’s just what the inventors named it. There’s one for the pub quiz! You’re welcome.

So whether you’re someone that suspects the government is to blame for your slow connection, expects a BOO when you’re buffering, or even gives your router a good old whack when your Wi-Fi is making you woeful – Just know you’re not alone.

All Aboard! 4G, Calling At: London Underground

How often are you commuting through London, jumping on and off the tube? And how often are you disrupted by loss of signal during said commute – Your music streaming service stops, you’re unable to check or reply to emails, can’t access WhatsApp, no leisurely scroll through Instagram? Unfortunately this is all too familiar.

But that’s all set to change as early as next month!

Last year Transport for London announced that 4G signal was coming to the Jubilee line before dispersing to the entire Tube network by the middle of this year.

Fantastic news for London commuters who rely on the tube to get around the capital, but who would rather like to be able to also make phone calls and access the internet whilst on their journeys.

Starting next month (March), TfL will be introducing 4G to the eastern half of the Jubilee line on platforms as well as tunnels.

This section is serving as a bit of a trial, covering stations between Westminster and Canning Town, and means that passengers will be able to stream music, watch videos, scroll social media, reply to emails and even check travel information for the rest of their journey.

Apart from London Bridge and Waterloo stations, there will also be 4G connectivity in ticket halls and corridors. The above two exceptions are due to join the party later this year.

You might be reading this thinking, hang on a minute, I already get free Wi-Fi from tube stations and Transport for London rail services? That is true for 260 tube stations, but there is no Wi-Fi network in the tunnels. The new rollout of 4G networks will be including the tube tunnels as well.

TfL’s Head of Infrastructure said in interview that this new 4G service should support uninterrupted video streaming. What does this mean to you? Maybe you could continue binge watching Stranger Things on Netflix on your way home from work, or stream live Premier League action on your way to the pub?

Or maybe video on the go isn’t your thing – Either way, there’s bound to be something you’ll be glad of 4G on the London Underground for.

If you’re a keen traveller you might already know that subway systems around the globe are largely already equipped with phone coverage – It’s pretty commonplace. Whereas here in Britain, the London Underground is notorious for being one of the few major public places in the UK without phone reception.

But to be fair, it wasn’t really built with that in mind! As one of the world’s oldest subway networks, the Tube isn’t really ideally suited to phone reception in it’s tunnels. The way in which they were built mean that they consist of narrow tunnels, making it difficult to install mobile connectivity devices. They also twist and turn; if you’re a bit of a Wi-Fi boff you’ll know that that doesn’t make it easy for signals to pass through them.

But the time, and technology, has come for them to take that leap and bring their dark tunnels into the connected world. In the same interview, TfL’s Chief Technology Officer said that despite the London Underground being a very challenging environment in which to introduce a phone network, they are well on track (pun intended) to get 4G mobile connectivity in both stations as well as tunnels.

Millions of people use the London Underground tube network each year, so it’s no surprise that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is completely supportive of the delivery of this project, saying it’s an important step for the capital.

Geeky fact: The upgrading of this new network is estimated to need 2000km of cabling!

This is all very exciting but I bet (if you’re a regular London commuter) that there is a part of you wondering how this is all going to take place without disrupting your route to work? Luckily, the engineers carrying out the work are doing so during the night on weekdays as to avoid disruption to passengers as much as possible. Phew.

What will you be using 4G for on the tube?

Common Wi-Fi Problems and How to Fix Them

We only really notice electricity when there’s a blackout – And Wi-Fi is pretty much the same. We don’t think twice about flicking a light switch except when we get home and everything’s dark and nothing will turn on. The same for internet – We look at our smartphones or power up our laptops and if there’s no connection or things are slow to load, we notice. We notice, and get frustrated. At this point in time we expect Wi-Fi, and when it’s not there we really feel it’s absence. Panic even. But don’t worry! Many Wi-Fi problems are actually quite straight forward to fix if you have the know how.

Here are some of the most common Wi-Fi problems and how you can fix them.

 

My house has certain rooms with slow or no internet access

  • Router placement – First things first; Where is your router located? Wi-Fi uses radio waves to broadcast in all directions. If your router is places in a far corner, then you’re not covering as much of your space as you could be. You’ll also be covering part of the outside world which is rather wasted. Instead try and place your router as central as possible which should improve coverage and reception throughout.
  • External antennas – It’s worth seeing if it helps after adjusting these. Try alternating between putting them completely vertical and horizontal which should help reaching multiple directions.
  • Interference – If you live in a congested area such as a block of flats, then other people’s routers could be causing interference by broadcasting on the same channel. There is software out there that can show you all the nearby networks and what channel they are on. If you’re router is overlapping with others, particularly in a certain room, then you could consider switching to a less congested channel.
  • None of that helps? If after checking all of those, you’re still having problems in a particular room then your router might not be enough to cover your whole home. If you suspect this is the case, then you could try buying a wireless repeater, or setting up an old router to extend the range of the main one.

 

I’ve got slow internet everywhere

  • Speed test – If your Wi-Fi speed is always slow in every room, then you could try plugging in a laptop directly to your modem and test your Wi-Fi using a speed test site. If it’s still slow then that identifies a problem with your actual internet connection rather than your router and you should contact your provider.
  • Overcrowding – If the speed on the test is okay then it could be that you’ve got too many devices connecting at once, or devices on other networks using the same channel. See if there are any devices you could disconnect, or change the channel on your router in the settings.
  • Reset – If you try that and it doesn’t solve the problem then you could perform a factory reset on your router and set it up again from scratch, making sure to configure it correctly.
  • Fault router – If none of that works, and your internet works okay using a wired connection, then it might be your router causing the problems. You could consider getting a new one and see if that solves the problem.

 

One particular device won’t connect to Wi-Fi

  • Off/On – Sometimes if it’s just one device struggling to connect, it’s as simple as turning it off for 30 seconds and back on. If that doesn’t work, then try turning the router off and on too.
  • Delete the network – If this becomes a recurring issue, you could try deleting your current network from the list of saved networks on your device and then re-connect it.
  • Troubleshooting – There will be a way to troubleshoot and run diagnostics on your operating system which should help you repair any network issues and restore connectivity.
  • Nothing worked? Consider rebooting the device in question.

 

Nothing will connect to Wi-Fi

  • Try wired – If you can’t connect to your Wi-Fi at all using any device, then try plugging your laptop into the router directly using an Ethernet cable. If it connects, then the problem is your Wi-Fi, but if it doesn’t then it may be that your internet is down in which case you will need to contact your provider.
  • Reset – We’ve already mentioned this; resetting can solve a whole host of Wi-Fi issues. Try pressing the rest button for 30 seconds to put the router back to factory settings. As we said above, make sure you configure everything properly and hopefully this will fix the problem.
  • Still nothing? – It might be time to buy a new router.

 

My connection is dropping at random times

  • Is there a pattern? – See if you can identify a common coincidence. Does your connection drop out every time you use the microwave? This is actually quite common, especially if you’re using the 2.5GHz frequency or have an older microwave with shield problems.
  • Interference – Like other Wi-Fi problems, your connection dropping could be do with interference from other networks and devices. For example, if your neighbours are heavy Wi-Fi users at a certain time of day then you could find that your internet slows at this time as well. To solve the problem, try changing the channel in your router setttings as above by seeing which are the most congested and identifying any overlaps.
  • Still nothing? – We’re back to reset. Try resetting your router back to factory settings and hopefully that will solve the problem.

 

My Wi-Fi network has completed disappeared

  • Lost network on a device – This may be down to your router resetting itself. Have a look at the list of networks on your device and see if there is an unproteted network with your router brand name? That could be yours! Try connecting a laptop with an ethernet cable and set up your wireless router from scratch, making sure to properly configure it.
  • No such network in the list? – If you can’t see a network that looks like it could be yours, then plug your laptop into the router with an Ethernet and check if it connects. You can then find your router’s IP address and log in information to reconfigure it.

 

My network connects, but there isn’t any internet access

  • Unplug – It’s like the aged old ‘turn it off and on again’ but it could actually help to unplug the model and then plug it back in. If your router is a separate device, also try resetting it. Hopefully that will solve the problem.
  • Use wired – Again, try connecting a laptop with an Ethernet cable. If it connects, then it’s not the Wi-Fi and your internet may be down in which case contact your provider.

 

My router regularly crashes and I have to restart it

  • Rest – If your router is regularly needing to be restarted, then consider giving it a full rest by holding down the reset button and restoring factory settings. Don’t foget to make sure it’s reconfigured properly!
  • New router – If that doesn’t fix the issue, you might need to think about purchasing a new one or returning it if it’s still in warranty.

 

I’ve forgotten my Wi-Fi password

  • Reset – Let’s be honest, Wi-Fi passwords aren’t the easiest to remember. If you haven’t got it written down anywhere and really have no idea what it is, then you’re going to have to reset your router. Hold down the reset button for 30 seconds and it should restore to factory settings.

 

Hopefully this list will have helped you fix whatever Wi-Fi issue you are currently contending with! But if not, there’s always our experts here at Geekabit who are on hand to help! What is your most common Wi-Fi woe?

Threatening Wi-Fi Name Gets Couple Kicked Off Flight

Imagine being sat on a plane, getting your bits ready for the flight and settling down ready for take-off. Finally, you probably check your phone one last time, maybe send a text or upload a selfie and then switch to airplane mode. But what if at that stage you come across a strange Wi-Fi hotspot name?

That’s exactly what happened before one flight this week due to fly from Detroit to Montreal.

Just before the plane was due to take off, the crew came across a personal Wi-Fi network named ‘Remote Detonater’ and it wasn’t switched off. The passengers were requested to turn off all their phones and any mobile hotspots but this particular one remained turned on despite warnings that police would be called if people did not comply.

The passengers were told that staff were dealing with someone in the back, rousing suspicions that there was someone dangerous on board the plane. Police then boarded and removed a couple from the plane – A 42 year old man and a 31 year old woman who were both arrested but then released pending further investigation.

After a 5 hour delay, the plane eventually took off and passengers who asked what happened were told about the threatening Wi-Fi hotspot name.

Surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly?) this isn’t the first time a Wi-Fi hotspot name has caused some drama on a light. 4 years ago, a plane in Australia had to let 40 passengers off the plane after someone onboard spotted a Wi-Fi network named ‘Mobile Detonation Device’.

Whether a genuine security risk or someone thinking they’re a bit of a joker, this did get us to thinking about Wi-Fi network names and what people choose to name their SSID’s.

 

Obviously spotting ‘Remote Detonater’ on a flight wouldn’t be very funny at all, but there are plenty of times where people use their Wi-Fi networks to rouse a laugh or make a passive-aggressive comment against a neighbour. These are a few of our favourites from around the web…

 

  1. Use this one mum

For the sons and daughters out there who are constantly asked by their mother’s which network it is.

  1. Untrusted Network

Trying to be a bit sly and put freeloaders off trying to access your network with this SSID.

  1. It burns when IP

We actually saw this in real life – You might have seen a screenshot on our Instagram page!

  1. NO WI-FI FOR YOU

Another one aimed at the people trying to steal your Wi-Fi (check out our last blog for how to find those that are stealing your Wi-Fi and how to block them!)

  1. Stop being so loud

The first of the passive-aggressive ones – When your neighbour is noisy but you’re not sure what to do about it. No need for notes through the letterbox when you can just change your network name!

  1. WeCanHearYouHavingSex

TMI? Another one for the passive-aggressive neighbours out there.

  1. WeCanSeeYouShowering / WeLikeItWhenYouWatch

What better way to respond to your nosy neighbour than with a quick quip via SSID.

  1. YourDogPoosInMyYard

What better place to tell your neighbour that their dog is using your garden as a toilet?

  1. Free CeX / Protected CeX / Unprotected CeX

Familiar with the second hand tech shop? One of their networks was apparently spotted with varying access; free (for customers), protected (for employees) and then a funny neighbour who jumped on the bandwagon with their Wi-Fi wit.

 

  1. You’re music is annoying / Your grammar is more annoying

Another neighbour spat via SSID.

What’s the best SSID you’ve spotted? We’d love to hear the network names you’ve seen or used yourselves!

 

Who is Stealing my Wi-Fi and How Can I Block Them?

How protected is your network? Do you think someone might be stealing your Wi-Fi? Read on for how to find out who, and how to block them. Don’t leave your network unprotected!

Have you ever run out of data on your mobile phone? Many people have unlimited data nowadays, but if you don’t and you reach your limit, it can be really frustrating. No spur of the moment Instagram scrolls, no keeping up with WhatsApp messages and no checking emails. And that’s exactly why it’s tempting to ‘borrow’ neighbouring Wi-Fi networks. It might be as innocent as just wanting to catch up with messages or emails, but it can actually cause problems for the owner through a slow or problematic connection.

Maybe this is you and that’s why you’re reading this! If so, keeping reading.

Nowadays, all means of connecting to the internet (ADSL, fibre optic connection, etc) also comes installed with a Wi-Fi router. This means that in places such as shared office space or apartment buildings, there can be a large number of wireless networks. Potentially plenty of choice for the cheeky people among us who want to avoid getting their own connection

Whilst they are all illegal, there are several different ways of accessing someone elses Wi-Fi network. For example:

  • Passwords that are weak or easily guessed
  • Wi-Fi password cracking, either because the word appears in a dictionary, or by the use of old fashioned security mechanisms
  • Using a default Wi-Fi password created based on patterns

Unfortunately, the last point is extremely common. Routers usually come with a generic or pre-generated Wi-Fi network name and password. This password will have been created based on patterns, which unfortunately have largely been discovered, making them easily calculated. So you could have your Wi-Fi set to maximum security, but could be let down by a generic, pre-generated password.

If you’re at home and having your Wi-Fi stolen, then it will usually be a neighbour who doesn’t want to pay for their own internet connection. If you own a bar, restaurant or hotel providing free Wi-Fi then you could well find that it’s more than just your customers making use of it – It could be neighbours, tourists or really anyone within range!

Whether you’re having your Wi-Fi stolen from your business or your home, you need to take the necessary precautions. If someone engaged in criminal activity is using your Wi-Fi, then your IP address is going to be the one that appears in relation to that activity. Whilst you haven’t committed the crime yourself, it’s not an ideal situation to be in and could cause you some problems.

So first things first – How do you know if someone is using your Wi-Fi or not?

If someone is using your internet connection without your permission, you’re going to want to know about it. Luckily for you, there are 3 simple ways you can find out.

  1. Take a look at the router

Your router or access point will have a list of all the devices that are connected at any given time. If you access the router or access point, you can search the list of devices and check them one by one for any you don’t recognise.

Advantages: The router gives us the information.

Disadvantages: Each time you want to know or check, you will have to access the router. You will have to access the router each time. If you have several Service Set Identifiers (ie. Network names), one for 2.4 and another for 5GHz, you will have to look one by one. Unfortunately, some internet service providers don’t provide the router access credentials, or the option is simply not available.

  1. Search for devices connected to the Wi-Fi network

Each time you connect to a network with a device, via Wi-Fi or a wired conncetion, you will obtain an IP address on that network. This means that it is usually visible by other devices, for example, when you want to share something like a document

  1. Wi-Fi LAN client list

Once connected to a local area network, you can scan and look for connected devices. For example, if you know that you are connected via your iPhone and a MAC laptop, but in the list you can see a Huawei mobile is connected, you know that whoever that person is, is stealing your Wi-Fi connection.

Advantages: Straightforward to do and usually provides good results

Disadvantages: Occasionally networks can isolate user, making it impossible to detect them

  1. Analysing Wireless Traffic

If you use a card in monitor , you can view the Wi-Fi packets that are sent between devices and routers. For example, a mobile phone will send and receive packets from a router in order to communicate. These data packets will have a media access control address readable by anyone who is listening. By doing this, you can see which devices are talking to each other and thus who is connected to that network – Without even being connected to it while you are detecting.

This is perhaps the best method as you don’t need to actually be connected to the network to see who is. It will also work with any router or access point, regardless of its settings and features.

Advantages: It always works, it is independent of the network settings and it doesn’t have to be connected to the Wi-Fi network.

Disadvantages: You will need a card that supports monitor mode.

 

So now you’ve found your Wi-Fi stealer – How do you block them?

We’ve talked about how to identify which devices belong to us and which don’t. This will enable us to detect them and then block them in a simple and effective way.

  1. Change your password

Perhaps rather an obvious one, but if you suspect that someone is stealing your Wi-Fi connection, the first thing to do is to change your password. This will mean that anyone who is connecting to your network will need to know the new password before being able to do so.

If you’ve had your password guessed or cracked once already, then make sure you ensure that your next one is a strong one. Also make sure that the encryption isn’t wired encryption privacy (a security algorithm intended to provide data confidentiality). It’s a good idea to periodically change your password as avid attackers could crack old passwords.

Advantages: It’s the simplest and most effective option.

Disadavantages: Although your device passwords should be periodically changed, it may not always be that simple or possible.

  1. Filter by media access control

If you know the MAC address of your Wi-Fi intruder, you may be able to block that particular device. However, if the intruder figured out what you had done, then they could just change their MAC address to skip your new filter. Unfortunately this is quite easy to do on a computer.

Advantages: It is easy to apply and supported by practically all current routers.

Disadvantages: An intruder will be able to get a valid MAC address or just change their own to skip the MAC address blacklists that you’ve implemented and log back on to the network.

 

What do we conclude?

It’s worth mentioning that merely hiding the SSID (in other words, network name) doesn’t work as a security or protection mechanism. If a Wi-Fi intruder is intent on find out the name of a Wi-Fi network, it is actually very easy to do even if hidden. It won’t provide you any security against potential attackers.

Perhaps your internet connection is running slow or fails every now and again. If this is the case, it is worth looking into the possibility that someone may be stealing your Wi-Fi connection. If this is found to be true, then you must take the necessary actions to stop this Wi-Fi intruder and block them from your network and change passwords

If you’ve done all of this and still your connection doesn’t work properly, then you could consider an analysis of your Wi-Fi network and functionality. Geekabit offer a Site Survey service where we can come to your home or office and identify where any potential Wi-Fi problems may lie. If you think this would be beneficial to you, please get in touch and we can start to take steps to improve your Wi-Fi.