One of the questions we ask ourselves most often when we go on vacation or move for some reason, is: will I have WiFi coverage to use? By now we can find it everywhere, in bars, clubs and restaurants, but it can still happen that the WiFi signal is not so strong as to cover all areas inside and outside of our home or studio or business premises.
How can we boost WiFi in these cases? The solutions are many and different, ranging from optimizing the WiFi coverage, to a better configuration of the router, or there are many hardware solutions that the market offers. Let's see them together.
Enhance the WiFi signal: change channel
Not the TV set! Especially in areas where many wireless networks are active in rather small areas, a good solution to improve the WiFi signal is to change the communication channel. In fact, if we use 2.4GHz we may have difficulty in finding a channel that does not overlap with those already occupied, an operation that will be much easier if we work on 5 GHz.
Obviously, we must first verify that our router supports both frequency bands, it is therefore necessary that it is a dual band or even tri band router, that is, in addition to the traditional WiFi band on 2.4 GHz can also use one or more bands on 5 GHz. In this way we can improve a lot the WiFi coverage, the performance of the router during data transfer will be much better. Unfortunately there is also a small con: to reach environments far from the router, generally the 2.4 GHz are often decisive because they can overcome more obstacles. However, if we want to boost the WiFi signal at short range, let's change the channel and go to 5 GHz
How to increase the WiFi signal with hardware devices
especially for very large rooms, with many rooms or on different levels, it is difficult that every corner is reached by WiFi coverage, it would then come to mind to have to make another subscription so that everyone can benefit from the connection. But no, it is necessary to improve the WiFi signal, here are some devices that can help us.
External Omni-directional Antenna
Maybe not everyone has noticed that routers have the presence of one or more external antennas that must be positioned correctly to boost the WiFi signal. Your router doesn't have one? Don't worry, it's obviously an old model that doesn't yet support MIMO and MU-MIMO technologies: in this case to amplify the WiFi signal you can consider buying an external omni-directional antenna, nowadays quite cheap on the market.
To position it at best and increase the WiFi signal, remember a simple physical rule: the antennas radiate WiFi coverage on perpendicular planes to the antenna itself, this means that if we keep the router antenna in a vertical position it will not radiate upwards or downwards and we will not be able to have a good WiFi coverage on all floors of the house. Practically all omnidirectional antennas have an extension cable to optimize the positioning of the device and be able to reach all areas with WiFi connection.
If we have to buy the external antenna, one of the main things to look at when choosing is the gain expressed in dBi - or isotropic decibels. What is this gain? In a nutshell, the higher it is, the greater the antenna's tendency to transmit the signal in a specific direction, and thus it will boost the WiFi signal in that direction. In any case, we need to evaluate our needs, whether it is the case to choose an omnidirectional antenna to boost WiFi indoor, indoor, or outdoor, outdoor, which also allow you to share the connection with remote locations.
Use a WiFi repeater or Range Extender
If we want to increase the WiFi signal by extending the range of WiFi coverage itself, a good device can be a WiFi signal repeater, also known as a range extender. However, before deciding which WiFi repeater to buy to increase the power of the WiFi signal, it is essential to check the positioning of the router: it should be in the center of the building to be covered, never in underground environments, we avoid as much as possible the barriers "important" as the reinforced concrete, plasterboard and cardboard and metal elements.
If the positioning is done ad hoc but we still need to increase the power of WiFi, we must buy a repeater, the prices on the market only very varied, we start from 10 euros to get to 150 euros, it is up to the pockets of each choose their own model. Obviously the technical characteristics vary greatly from one model to another, but we can find the top of the range even remaining in low price ranges, if we are not experts, the ideal is to be advised by those who know more than us and let us guide you in buying the repeater to increase the WiFi signal.
If we do not intend to make any expenditure, we can extend the WiFi using an old wireless router. Obviously, first we have to check if it can also act as a WiFi repeater, but sometimes this function is provided directly in the firmware and can be activated quietly from the configuration panel.
In case this is not the case, there are anyway some actions we can do to change the configurations, like replacing the firmware used by default by the old router with DD-WRT, Tomato or OpenWrt. At this point it could be possible to activate the WiFi repeater functionality, either in Repeater bridge with DHCP and NAT disabled or as Repeater, with DHCP and NAT enabled. In short, the solutions to amplify the WiFi signal are really a lot!
More and more often we hear about Mesh networks to improve the WiFi signal and extend the range of coverage of the wireless network. A Mesh network is a network in which each router becomes a node that allows you to extend the WiFi signal, each node can be added or removed without alternating operation and the entire network uses a single SSID. Mesh networks are an inexpensive way to boost the WiFi signal and very reliable: each node is in fact connected to other nodes and if one were to fail - for example, due to a hardware problem - the neighboring nodes would automatically look for other paths to transmit the WiFi signal.
A mesh network allows you to overcome those disadvantages that characterize traditional WiFi networks: a network of this type is optimized to extend the coverage of the wireless signal without users and client devices in use noticing at all the passage from one node to another. The mesh network is in fact a peer-to-peer network with the various components that contribute to maintaining a high quality of service and reducing any malfunctions.
It is no coincidence that mesh networks were born for use in the military: each node acts as a router for the others and if one were to come to mark, the others can easily compensate. The various nodes of the network, in fact, have the intelligence to understand the best path that data packets should follow.
Another way to improve the WiFi signal is to connect a Powerline adapter that helps us transfer data at the highest possible speed. A Powerline device is a piece of hardware that allows you to turn any electrical outlet into a network outlet: they allow data to pass from a router to one or more adapters using the electrical system of the house, increasing WiFi coverage.
There are many models that also allow you to act as a WiFi access point: in this way, data will travel at maximum speed through the electrical system and you can connect to other devices via Ethernet cable or wireless using the available ports.
How to improve WiFi signal with NetSpot
We repeat that the best way to increase WiFi signal coverage is still to focus on the positioning of the router, in case it is positioned at the best but we are still not satisfied with the results, we can use a software like Netspot. This is used by professionals to study how the WiFi signal is radiated and then generate the so-called heatmap - translated is heat map - which graphically indicates the areas where WiFi coverage is stronger and weaker.
This way you can determine any interference with the WiFi signal by moving around the different areas with a laptop and detecting the strength and reliability of the wireless network, offering solutions to improve the strength of the WiFi signal, such as choosing a new router location, or upgrading your home network with hardware or additional access points, as well as suggesting the correct choice of WiFi channel.
There is also a free version of NetSpot for Windows, although it has some limitations compared to NetSpot Home and NetSpot Pro; of course there is an updated version of NetSpot Pro for macOs as well and recently the developers have launched NetSpot for Android as well. This app, however, is more of a simple WiFi network scanner: one screen shows the networks detected in the area, the other the WiFi signal trend over time and the occupancy of various channels on the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands.