How to Give Your Wi-Fi Network a Health Check

You might think that once you’ve got your Wi-Fi network all set up and running, then that’s it done. But it’s not! Having a reliable wireless network involves ongoing maintenance and health checks to make sure that it’s performing at its optimum level.

There are plenty of variables in a wireless network that could change. Things like user demand or changes in the radio frequency that could have an impact. Seemingly simple things like rearranging your office furniture, onboarding new employees or using more applications requiring bigger bandwidth can all be negative factors affecting your Wi-Fi network.

Ongoing, regular surveys can help you catch these changes before they start to cause you too many problems.

So what do you need to do to keep your wireless networking functioning effectively?

 

Monitor New Client Devices

Just as when you are in the design and planning stages, it’s vital to know the number of users that are connected at any one time, and what devices they are connecting to the network with. Your network performance depends on this!

This could likely change with company growth or if your business has seasonal staff where connections peak and trough.

It’s also worth bearing in mind how old the devices are. Older laptops, for example, won’t work so well with today’s modern networks. And vice versa!

You can counteract this by semi-regularly updating your devices to align with your network.

Likewise, if your network was originally deployed a while ago, without being monitored or updated it will fail to work with modern devices to their potential.

You need to also monitor the applications being used and ensure that the bandwidth matches the demand. Organisations like schools that now have a plethora of laptops connecting wirelessly to the school network need to have strong, reliable Wi-Fi. Hospitals also have high bandwidth demand with the ‘workstations on wheels’ that are now prevalent.

The more end users you add to your network, the more bandwidth you will need.

In simple terms – Make sure you are monitoring new client devices. Make it your business to keep track of how many devices are connecting to your network and make sure you can meet the Wi-Fi demand consistently. Your business operations depend on it.

App Usage and Progression

As we all know, technology is constantly evolving. Device manufacturers are always striving for the fastest, most powerful offering to stay ahead of their competitors.

This means that apps and software also move fast to keep up. This constant evolution means that you need more and more data with every update. Thus, the requirements of your Wi-Fi network are likely to change and be modified accordingly.

Wireless is often the first choice – If not the only choice! So you need to make sure your business Wi-Fi offering is up to scratch.

 

Physical Changes in the Office Landscape

You might not think too much about rearranging the office, but this could have a significant impact on your coverage area and how your access points function.

Tweaks like going from open plan to individual offices (or the other way around) will change the way your AP’s perform in your office space.

Interior walls (or lack of them) will affect the radio frequency and how it attenuates. You might be thinking, surely removing partition walls to make an open plan office couldn’t cause Wi-Fi problems. Ut actually it could! The RF will be able to travel further without any attenuating interior walls, meaning it could start contending with other channels and cause interference.

Any physical changes in your office environment need to be surveyed to see if and how it will affect how your Wi-Fi network functions. This means you can make the necessary adjustments before problems arise.

 

Identify Common Causes of RF Interference

Following on from physical changes in your office environment, you need to also be aware of other possible causes of RF interference.

Once possible source of interference on your Wi-Fi network could be noise from neighbouring networks. Other AP’s in range of your coverage area could cause RF interference, especially if their power levels are turned up.

Wi-Fi interference is when you have AP’s that are operating on the same or adjacent frequencies. This can cause interference or contention on these channels, or Overlapping Basic Service Set (OBSS). If your network is experiencing this type of interference, you could see your ability to send or receive data significantly reduce or even completely disabled.

You can also get non–Wi-Fi Interference from devices that use other radio networks. Things like microwaves, monitors, blue tooth or surveillance cameras could all cause interference problems.

 

Your Business Depends on your Wi-Fi Network

If you’ve gone to the effort of designing and planning the optimum network for your business, then don’t waste that work by not monitoring and maintaining it.

Even the best networks will need tweaks and changes over time, to make sure it can keep up with the demands of new users and modern devices.

Regular monitoring or ‘Wi-Fi health checks’ can help identify problems while they’re still small – Allowing you to get them sorted out before they start causing your business serious issues. Don’t wait until the IT department are inundated with calls from frustrated, unproductive employees.

If you think your wireless network is in need of a health check, why not give us a call here at Geekabit? Our wireless experts have the knowledge and expertise to diagnose and solve your Wi-Fi problems, improving the reliability and functionality of your business Wi-Fi.

Why Is Network Design So Important for Reliable Business Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi is no longer a ‘like to have’ when it comes to successful business planning. It’s vital for businesses to have strong, reliable Wi-Fi in order to business processes to run smoothly.

No matter what industry your business is in – Wi-Fi is crucial. Gone are the days when everything could be wired and cabled. Whether you run a warehouse, a hospital or operate out of an office; Your business needs to run wirelessly.

Organisations tend to have an armada of laptops, tablets, smartphones and other IoT devices that require effective Wi-Fi.

So if the need for a good Wi-Fi connection is so prevalent, why are we still seeing so many businesses struggle with their Wi-Fi network?

The requirements can be demanding, and to be successful a network needs to meet those demands. Plug-in-and-go routers aren’t going to cut it unfortunately. Your business network needs more!

So how can you ensure that your network can be relied upon by your employees every day, so they can do their job productively and efficiently?

It all comes down to the design.

What do you need to consider when designing a Wi-Fi network?

Designing your wireless network gives you the chance to translate your business needs into a Wi-Fi network that will work for you and meet those needs.

So what do you need to consider?

Capacity

You need to think about how many devices will require a Wi-Fi connection. You need to be asking questions like how many employees you have, are there people in addition to employees that will need to connect, how many devices are each of these people likely to have and what type of device are they.

Getting to know how much traffic you will likely have will help you to determine how much bandwidth you need in order to meet consumption needs.

If you don’t get the capacity planning right, you could end up with very unhappy employees suffering with slow internet speeds and an intermittent connection. Neither are conducive to a productive work environment!

Something else to consider is how the capacity changes as you move around your site. Do some locations have a higher capacity demand than others? This information will help you to design a network where access points are distributed according to requirements.

Capacity isn’t just important during the planning stage either. It’s something you will need to monitor so that you can identify when more devices are trying to connect and adapt the network accordingly.

 

Coverage

We’ve talked about capacity and how many devices are likely to connect. Now it’s time to talk about where those users need that connection.

Identifying your coverage area allows you to optimise the distance between your wireless transmitters. Getting this right means that you’ll have the right signal strength for the Wi-Fi enables devices trying to connect.

Coverage is split into two – Primary coverage and Secondary coverage. Interweaving the primary coverage area of your transmitters with the secondary coverage of necessary overlaps means that your end users will be able to roam throughout your site without their connection dropping out on their device.

The idea is to find the perfect balance in the number of AP’s you deploy. Too many AP’s not only costs you more money on installation but can also cause interference. Not enough AP’s and you won’t be able to meet your coverage needs.

 

What is the Least Capable, Most Important Device?

It’s important to identify what device is most business critical – And whether that device poses a risk to the rest of your network. You might find that a warehouse scanner, or even an employees laptop, is critical to the needs of the business, but is also the oldest and least technologically advanced device on the network.

You need to identify this device (or devices) and make sure that your network will ensure the device(s) stay online. You can do this by checking the manufacturer specifications and make sure these align with your network offering.

 

Are there any Obstacles on site?

It’s a good idea to walk around your site and identify any potential obstacles to your wireless signal. Sometimes having an actual walk-around sheds more light on potential problems than just looking at a simple floor plan. You need to know exactly how the radio frequency will behave in your specific environment.

Consider things like high or exposed ceilings, columns, large items of furniture, lift shafts, stairwells and even signage.

You should also look to see where access points could be easily installed, and any areas where this would not be possible. This also goes for cabling.

Mitigating the Effects of Wall/ Door Material on Signal Attenuation

In order to mitigate the risks of attenuation, you need to understand what materials could pose a problem to your Wi-Fi signal.

When you are designing your Wi-Fi network, it’s imperative that you identify the physical characteristics of your environment and understand how this can impact your wireless signal.

The amount of signal strength absorbed by walls or doors depends on what they are made from. A rough guide to this would be:

  • Bookshelf – 2dB
  • Drywall – 3dB
  • Exterior Glass – 3dB
  • Solid Wood Door – 6dB
  • Marble – 6dB
  • Brick – 10dB

Having this information specific to your site means you can design a wireless network that works really well.

Call the Experts

If this all seems a bit overwhelming, then call in the experts. That’s what we’re here for! We have all the necessary technology to survey your site and then design and plan a wireless network specific to your business needs. Give our Wi-Fi experts a call today to see how Geekabit can help.

 

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.

 

 

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?

 

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!

 

The Fundamentals of a Wireless LAN

We were going to call this blog ‘WLANs for Dummies’ but that seemed a bit harsh so we settled on the fundamentals of a wireless LAN instead.

A wireless LAN, or WLAN, might seem complicated on the surface but actually it really just follows simple laws of physics. If you can understand these and follow them, then there shouldn’t be any reason why you can’t achieve high performance and scalability for your WLAN.

If you can understand the basics of wireless physics, then you can start to plan your WLAN for a successful deployment. It will also help you to troubleshoot an existing WLAN exhibiting issues.

How Does Data Travel Through a WLAN?

First things first – Let’s look at wave properties.

Data transmits, or travels, from one point to another – e.g. between wireless access points – via electromagnetic waves. This energy travels at the speed of light and operate at different frequencies.

The frequencies of these electromagnetic waves are defined by how many periodic cycles are completed by second.

For example:

How is Frequency Measured?

As we said above, frequency is how many wave cycles are completed per second. This is measured in Hertz. A 2Hz waveform is 2 completed wave cycles in a period of 1 second.

How Does Frequency Affect a WLAN?

A phenomenon called Free Space Path Loss is something that causes signal loss when a waveform travels from one point to another. This is what affects how well data travels across a wireless network.

Different wavelengths (frequencies) experience difference signal loss. The lower the frequency, the longer the wavelength, and the longer the wavelength, the further it can travel before signal gets lost.

For example, 2.4GHz have longer wavelengths than higher frequencies like 5GHz.

How is Wi-Fi Signal Loss Measured?

We measure the energy that is associated with received wireless signals in Decibels (dB). We can also measure loss of signal in this way.

Decibels are logarithmic. On the linear domain, when you add decibels it grows exponentially and when you subtract decibels it reduces exponentially.

The 3dB rule

Every 3dB change, there is a doubling of energy (if increasing) or a halving of energy (if decreasing).

As a ratio, this would look like:

If we had the wireless signal energy at
1:10dB

Then doubling it would be
2:13dB

Remembering this rule can help with both analysing the energy associated with wireless signals as well as predicting it.
Similarly, if you add or subract 10dB, it changes by a factor of 10.

The Relationship Between Frequency and Wireless Signal

Let’s take a look at 2.4Ghz and 5GHz frequencies or waveforms. 5GHz is a higher frequency, so has more wavelengths in a given time period. 5GHz has more wireless signal loss (attenuation) than 2.4GHz, and thus is better for high-density areas. 2.4GHz has less wavelengths in a given time period and is better suited for wider coverage. Bear this in mind when you are planning or troubleshooting a wireless network.

How is Wireless Signal Affected by Different Materials?

In an ideal world, you would have a clear line of sight between your wireless points. In reality, this is rarely the case and you will often find things that get in the way and stop the wireless signal from traversing effectively across your network.

Different materials will affect wireless signals and attenuation in different ways.

Materials such as concrete will cause more attenuation of wireless signal than wood.

In scenarios where wireless signals can propagate (the action of spreading) normally, there is no interference from other materials. However, there are some things that can alter the propagation of a wireless signal, causing it to behave differently and potentially become unreliable.

For example, a WLAN environment with metal surfaces may encounter unpredictability with wireless signal due to it reflecting off the metal.
Wireless signal can also be absorbed by certain materials like water or people, causing the signal to falter.

Being mindful of materials during the WLAN planning stage can help ensure the environment doesn’t hinder your wireless network and you have reliable connectivity results.

Co-Channel Interference

Different materials aren’t the only thing that can interfer with wireless signals.

Due to the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frewuency bands being unlicensed, there are no restrictions on people when extending wireless networks with access points.

This means that they can become crowded as well as channels not being assigned efficiently. Both of these issues can cause co-channel interference.

When planning your WLAN it’s important to take these issues nito consideration and plan your wireless network accordingly so as not to risk problems with wireless signal later down the line.

You want your WLAN to be as effective and efficient as it can possible be, which takes planning and wireless network knowledge.

Whilst the 2.4GHz is popular due to its propagation qualities due its waveforms passing through materials like walls more easily and reaching end users at a long distance. This however has meant that its become crowded with competing devices such as cordless telephones, baby monitors and bluetooth devices. This saturation can cause problems with your wireless signal.

In comparison, the 5GHz spectrum has greater availability and relaxed transmission power giving it more flexibility when it comes to wireless networks.

The 2.4GHz band has only 3 channels without any overlap, whereas the 5GHz has 24. This is another reason why the 5GHz band is favoured for high-density WLAN environments.

Understanding Frequency Channels

To ensure you can maximise the performance and scalability of your WLAN, you need to understand how these channels operate and use that knowledge to avoid co-channel interference.

Let’s take an Access Point as an example. An AP will have a specific bandwidth through which it will transmit and receive signals to and from other points. The channel assigned to the AP will be appropriate for the centre frequency of the first 20MHz channel used by the AP.

This bandwidth is specifically the frequency range over which the data signals are transmitted. Peak transmission and power is spread over the range of that bandwidth, with it dropping off at the edges.

These edges are then at risk of meeting other nearby wireless networks and are prone to interference from the ‘noise’ of these other networks.

It’s important to use what you know about channels to prevent the reduction of wireless signal speed and loss of scalability of your wireless network.

In order to minimise interference between neighbouring access points, choose to assign them with non-adjacent channels. Following this will make it easier to scale your network. If you don’t follow this principle, you will likely encounter problems with latency and throughput.

The best way of reducing interference when assigning WLAN channels is to carry out a Wi-Fi site survey. This involves analysing the noise levels across the spectrum so you can make informed decisions for your wireless network.

Call The Experts

If this all sounds a bit complicated, then why not give us a call here at Geekabit? We have Wi-Fi expert engineers working out of Hampshire, Cardiff and London who can take care of all your Wi-Fi woes.

From Wi-Fi site surveys, to planning and installation, we’ve got your WLAN covered. GIve us a call or drop us an email to see how we can help keep you and your business connected.

Do I Need a Wi-Fi 6 Router?

Don’t suffer with the buffer! If you’re finding that your Netflix binge is being interrupted by buffering, or your Zoom calls keep freezing or pixelating then it’s a good idea to make sure that your router isn’t the culprit.

If you’re looking for fast, reliable broadband, then Wi-Fi 6 could be just what you’re looking for. Last time we blogged about the improvements from Wi-Fi 5 that Wi-Fi 6 will be bringing. If that hooks you in then read on and see whether a Wi-Fi 6 router might end up being a great investment for your business or household.

Wi-Fi 6 is specifically designed to improve the performance of your home network and increase network capacity. This latest generation of Wi-Fi standard will offer your home faster Wi-Fi speeds and a more reliable connection. What does this mean in real times? It means buffer-free streaming on Netflix (and other platforms) and quicker downloads – Even if your house is device heavy, it won’t slow down your internet.

More and more internet devices are Wi-Fi 6 ready, but will only work to their optimum if there is also a Wi-Fi 6 router in place. (Likewise, a Wi-Fi 6 router will only offer Wi-Fi 6 improvements for devices enabled with Wi-Fi 6 technology).

We thought we would share some of the reasons why you might want to consider a Wi-Fi 6 router next time you’re in the market for one (or even if you’re not!. )

My household has multiple devices – What will Wi-Fi 6 provide me in comparison to Wi-Fi 5?

Wi-Fi 6 will provide you with the highest level of performance, even in a device-heavy household.

Wi-Fi 5 provided us with great technology – Wi-Fi 6 is an extension of that. Whilst Wi-Fi 5 brought us gigabit speeds, it begins to fall short in homes where there are more and more devices being added. How many devices do you have in your home that connect to the Wi-Fi? Count them and we think you’ll be surprised! And this is only going to increase over time. Wi-Fi 6 helps with this because it uses OFDMA (orthogonal frequency division multiple access). This key feature means that it can increase your overall network efficiency by allowing several devices to connect to your Wi-Fi with various bandwidths.

What real-world speeds and range will Wi-Fi 6 provide?

Wi-Fi 6 will deliver the fastest real-world speeds.

Wi-Fi data travels on component streams on each of the frequency bands 2.4 GHz and 5GHz. Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 can carry the highest amount of streams, which allows for gigabit Wi-Fi speeds. Where Wi-Fi 6 goes further is that it increases the number of streams to 12 – A new high across the 2.4 and 5GHz bands. In comparison, Wi-Fi 5 only has a limit of 8 in a dual band configuration.

How do these streams affect your Wi-Fi? Not only does this increase in streams mean that you have access to a higher connection speed, it also means that your devices can communicate with your router via more paths. Compared to Wi-Fi 5 enabled devices, Wi-Fi 6 show an 40% increase in speed.

How is Wi-Fi 6 designed for the ‘Smart Home’?

Our homes are now full of smart devices. We can control the heating and the lights with the tap of a button on our phones. We can ask the postman to leave the parcel by the gate via our video doorbell. We turn music on via Alexa and we add to our shopping list by shouting Hey Google. We have smart TV’s as well as numerous laptops, tablets and smartphones all vying for a connection to the Wi-Fi. That’s a lot of devices. In fact, the average number of devices in the home has gone from 10 up to as many as 50. All of these put a load on your network.

Where does Wi-Fi 6 come in? Well, it’s been specifically designed to handle this demand on your Wi-Fi through the increase in devices – Without negatively impacting your internet speeds.

How will this affect your home? This improvement in internet speed will provide more reliability – Vital if you’re depending on it for your lights, thermostat and other IoT devices. The last thing you want with all these devices running is interrupted connectivity. Thankfully, Wi-Fi 6 will help with that

How will Wi-Fi 6 help with video streaming?

A Wi-Fi 6 router would be ideal for 4K/8K UHD streaming.

If you’ve tried to stream 4K or 8K video, then you’ll know it requires a constant high-speed connection. In busy, device-heavy households where everyone is trying to stream high-definition video you’re likely to start seeing buffering – It’s a big load on the network.

Wi-Fi 6 routers could help with all that thought. Annoying buffering will be a thing of the past due to a Wi-Fi 6 router’s ultra-fast processors, increased number of radio streams and increased memory.

You should find that Wi-Fi 6 routers will make streaming of HD video across multiple devices a lot better than older Wi-Fi technology.

Are Wi-Fi 6 products available now?

Yes – They’re already here! Future upgrades to smartphones, tablets and laptops will see the rise of Wi-Fi 6 enabled technology, so getting a Wi-Fi 6 router will mean you’re ready to benefit from all the improvements that Wi-Fi 6 has to offer – Like faster Wi-Fi speeds!

The great thing is that WI-Fi 6 routers will also work for Wi-Fi 5 devices (without the improvements) so it’s a great crossover for whilst you’re upgrading devices.

The Wi-Fi 6 portfolio of products is only going to get bigger, so consider whether a switch to a Wi-Fi 6 router would be a worthwhile investment for your home.

 

What is RF Design and Why Is It Important for my Wi-Fi Network?

Let’s face it – Our Wi-Fi expectations these days are pretty high. We want a strong, fast, reliable connection – And we want it all of the time. When we have good Wi-Fi, we barely notice it. But when it’s bad, it’s frustratingly apparent.

Unfortunately, what people don’t tend to realise is that a significant part of your wireless network is the RF environment. If you want your Wi-Fi network to perform to those high expectations, then you need to ensure you get this RF environment right.

Designing Your RF  Environment

It starts with the design. To create an effective RF design, you need to consider the environment that this Wi-Fi network is going to be functioning in. Are their neighbouring networks? What potential factors could cause interference?

You also need to consider how you need your Wi-Fi network to work. How many users are there? Will there be areas of higher density than others? These sorts of things define the requirements of the RF design. If you want good wireless network performance to meet those high expectations we mentioned above, then your RF environment needs to be correctly designed and managed.

The best way to identify what design would work well for your environment is to carry out a Wi-Fi survey. If you’re not confident in carrying this our yourself, then consider calling in the experts! We make it our business to provide comprehensive Wi-Fi surveys for any business or home environment. Our expert engineers can then design a Wi-Fi network tailored precisely to your needs, and then install it for you.

Analysing Your Wi-Fi Network

If your Wi-Fi network is already up and running, but you suspect there may be issues somewhere then network monitoring tools can be a useful way of providing visibility of any problems.

If you’re in the Wi-Fi field, then this will be a fairly straightforward exercise for you if you know the tools and how to use them. More often than not though, Wi-Fi network problems need a more in-depth analysis to really get to the bottom of what’s causing issues.

This again is where it might be best to call in the experts. Our Wi-Fi engineers have the specialist tools and knowledge to look at your Wi-Fi network, analyse traffic flow and examine exactly how data is passing through.

Are you experiencing poor wireless network performance?

It’s important to remember that you have very little to no control over what type of devices enter your network. Your Wi-Fi network may be open to guests or maybe even the general public depending on your business. Even non-Wi-Fi devices can have a significant impact on your wireless network.

Are you experiencing poor performance on your Wi-Fi network? To identify the problem you need to analyse 3 main components of your wireless network.

  • The configuration
  • The RF environment
  • The devices / users in your network

Luckily for you you’ve landed in the right place! Here at Geekabit, our engineers are Wi-Fi experts and can carry out Wi-Fi surveys, Wi-Fi Design and Wi-Fi Installation all from our bases in Hampshire, London and Cardiff. For more information get in touch with us today.

 

How Does Capacity and Coverage affect Wi-Fi Interference?

This week’s blog is the last in our series on Wi-Fi interference and what you can do about it. So far we’ve covered physical causes of Wi-Fi interference, how electrical devices can affect Wi-Fi through frequency interference and today we’re talking about capacity and coverage.

How does capacity affect Wi-Fi interference?

Capacity problems are most commonplace in corporate environments like offices. A potential issue that these environments might face is having too many users per broadcast device. This causes a capacity overload and that’s when you start to run into Wi-Fi problems.

Each Wi-Fi broadcast device, e.g. a router or access point, has a finite amount of bandwidth. This bandwidth is divided by the number of wireless devices connecting to it. So if only 10 devices are connected, then the bandwidth for that router will be divided by 10. It’s almost irrelevant how fast the internet connection is – If 50 people try to connect then the bandwidth is going to split 50 ways.

Ways to avoid issues with capacity and bandwidth, is to make sure that you don’t have just one router or access point serving an area of high density. If you have a lot of users or users with multiple devices in a certain area, then make sure you have the necessary number of broadcast devices. You might find our blog on ‘How Many Access Points do I need?’ helpful for this.

How does coverage affect Wi-Fi interference?

It’s not just about the capacity in an area, you also need to consider the distance that people are needing to connect across. Getting Wi-Fi coverage right is just as important as capacity.

We all know that that closer we are to a broadcasting device, the stronger and more reliable the signal is going to be. If you know that there will be users in a particular area of your office or business that will need to connect, then make sure that there is a device close-by enough to transmit a strong signal.

Coverage isn’t all about distance, it’s also about whether your devices are installed effectively. For example, it’s pointless installing an access point in close range to users if it’s pointing in the wrong direction, or hidden behind something. Wireless broadcast devices like routers or access points emit their signal in certain directions. Obviously you can’t see what way the radio signals are going so make sure that devices are installed properly. Access points that are hidden behind shelves, or wedged in ceiling tiles are not going to work the way they were intended to. Always check the instructions and manufacturers guide when installing any hardware so that they work effectively and reach the maximum coverage possible. If you’re not sure, then ask the experts!

What can we conclude on the types of Wi-Fi interference and their resolutions?

Wi-Fi has come a long way since it first arrived in our lives, and while the gap between wireless internet and wired is certainly closing, there’s always going to be some inferiority for Wi-Fi when comparing the two.

Some of the resolutions we’ve covered in this series of blogs on Wi-Fi Interference are:

  • Check for physical obstruction risks such as metal and concrete, and place your broadcast devices strateigically to mitigate risks.
  • Check your kit and upgrade where necessary. Devices that can use the 802.11ac frequency with dual band functionality are really useful for scenarious where you need to swap from 2.5Ghz to 5Ghz.
  • Always check for firmware upgrades. A bit like how you update the apps on your smartphones, manufacturers are constantly trying to better their performance by enhancing the software that runs them so do keep a watch for updates which are often free.

It’s so important to take careful consideration when designing your Wi-Fi network. If you don’t feel confident assessing your environment for the potential issues in this series of Wi-Fi interference blogs, then consider calling in the experts. Our Wi-Fi engineers can carry out a Wi-Fi survey followed by planning and design and finished with expert installation for effective and reliable Wi-Fi.