The Wi-Fi networks have become essential parts of our daily routine technology. We use them constantly with our mobile devices and our computers, but doing it optimally depends on something as simple as the location of the router that allows us to connect to them. so, where to place the router to improve coverage and internet speed?
If you have ever had problems with your Wi-Fi connection because the signal is weak, is cut or does not reach certain corners, pay attention: here we explain what are the keys to put the router in the best position and always have Wi coverage -Fi optimal.
The router, the closer the better (and watch out for the antennas)
Wi-Fi networks are based on a technology much older than the internet: radio technology . The same one used to listen to radio programs, but with a fundamental difference: it uses frequencies in the microwave range, which are somewhat higher than the electromagnetic spectrum used in radio broadcasts.
What happens with all sources of electromagnetic waves is that the further you move away from the source (in this case, your router), the weaker the signal. This reduction is also exponential : if the signal is optimal at 1 meter, at 2 meters it is a quarter of how strong it is at a meter, and at 3 meters it is a ninth part of how strong it is at a meter.
So, the fundamental rule is to place the router as close as possible to the devices you want to use connected to the Wi-Fi network, but here are some “tricks” that you should know.
For example, one might think that directing the antenna of your WiFi router towards the device with which we want to connect will make the signal arrive optimally. Actually you have to do it in another way , because the antenna emits more strongly in a kind of ring that has the antenna as its axis.
What should be done is to place the router antenna perpendicular (and not pointing for example to our laptop) so that the wave or ring that is formed reaches it optimally. And if possible, do not hide the router at the bottom of a shelf or cabinet: leave it in plain sight, and if it can be in a more or less high position, the better.
Barriers to Wi-Fi networks
It should also be noted that the electromagnetic frequencies used in WiFi networks have another problem, and that is that any physical obstacle also reduces their range and strength to a certain extent.
It happens with the floor, the ceiling or the walls of the house, and there is an especially singular effect in that fight of the Wi-Fi networks to get everywhere: the water pipes that run through our house absorb those Wi-Fi waves especially well .
In fact, if you have a fish tank and the signal does not reach you well , perhaps you should place the router (or the fish tank) in another place, because wireless signals have a particularly difficult time transferring those water tanks. The same is true for areas with a lot of people: human beings are largely water, so Wi-Fi connections also happen in areas with large crowds.
There are other elements that can interfere with these transfers and that are emitters of other frequencies by themselves. Microwave ovens or even televisions operate at similar frequencies, which can cause conflict. The metallic surfaces that reflect the waves of the Wi-Fi signals also affect the quality of the connection.
Refrigerators, game console controls, video surveillance cameras for children or even wireless speakers also interfere to a greater or lesser extent by using other wireless technologies, and although the impact is not noticeable in certain cases, it may be responsible for interference. Even Christmas lights can affect performance, although as we’ve already seen, reducing signal strength probably won’t be important.
There is one more element that your home Wi-Fi network struggles with: your neighbors’ Wi-Fi networks . Most Wi-Fi networks continue to use the 2.4 GHz frequency on which there are a number of channels (subdivisions of the frequency ranges).
If you are connected to the same channel as your neighbor, the signals may overlap and make it difficult to enjoy a stable connection. The 5 GHz networks of modern routers that support the WiFi 802.11ac standard have more channels and offer more options in this regard, but not all devices are compatible.
Position the router optimally: Maxwell to the rescue
More than 150 years ago the physicist James Maxwell formulated his dynamic theory of the electromagnetic field . In that scientific work he discovered a series of equations that would end up being fundamental to reveal to us, among many other things, how placing the router in certain places helps to obtain optimal coverage.
A doctoral student from Imperial College in London named Jason Cole became interested in the subject, and thanks to the use of the power of modern computers simulated the behavior of a WiFi signal , allowing him to see how it affected the coverage that this router moved from side to side of a conventional floor.
That work confirmed expected data on Wi-Fi radiation, which moves best in open spaces and has the worst time when it has to go through walls, especially if they are thick. It also showed the behavior of standing waves , in which the WiFi reflection overlaps and causes the wave and its reflection to cancel each other.
Cole ended up creating an application for Android called WiFi Solver FDTD ( 0.63 euros on Google Play ) that allows us to precisely simulate the behavior of a router in our home , something that helps in a remarkable way to place it in the best possible position. In iOS these tools are not available because Apple does not allow access to the wireless hardware of iPhones and iPads for this purpose.
There are other alternatives that allow us to create those “Wi-Fi heat maps” with which we can determine the best location for our router. Among them are NetSpot (Windows, macOS), Ekahau HeatMapper (Windows), Acrylic (Windows), VisiWave (Windows9, or AirMagnet Survey PRO (Windows).
In Linux, we can use indirect tools that indicate the quality of the signal and that can later help us with scripts such as wifi-heatmap, which its creator tells us about here. There are other tools like this that also help in this area.
Place the router well and if you need it, use repeaters
These tools will allow us to determine the best location for our router and thus achieve the maximum theoretical transfer speed , but even so, it is likely that the distribution of our home makes it difficult for coverage to be sufficient in all corners.
It is there where other hardware solutions come into play that allows expanding coverage. Among those alternatives are WiFi repeaters that allow expanding that coverage by acting as “speakers” of the signals that reach them, but much more relevant in recent times are routers with Wi-Fi Mesh technology.
These Mesh routers are sold in packs of two, three or more units and are especially interesting for large homes with many walls or plants in between, since they connect to each other to offer a single WiFi network that our device detects as unique, but always connecting to the router of that system that gives more quality.
Another possible option is the use of PLC technology that allows you to make use of electrical wiring to obtain a good connection in different rooms in which each access point is for both cable networks (Ethernet) and WiFi networks .
All these options are therefore useful and will allow us to achieve that ultimate goal: not to run out of Wi-Fi in any corner of our home.
There are, of course, other alternatives in this area to ensure more connectivity: 5G routers are increasingly attractive in view of the emergence of unlimited data rates. However, we have Wi-Fi networks for a while, especially if we take into account that the new Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) standard has just started to appear in products of all kinds —in fact, we are already talking about its evolution, Wi-Fi 6E ) and that is projected as a great evolution of this type of connection.
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