How to get the most out of your Wi-Fi connection

The nbn™ broadband access network is bringing fast broadband access to all Australians, but to ensure the best possible speeds, you need a setup to match your home.

Imagine a downpipe. When it rains, the water runs down your roof, along the gutter and enters your downpipe at full speed before plunging downward. But what if there is a stick or two wedged somewhere in there? That will slow the water down a bit.

Maybe a little further along a bunch of leaves. Then a bird’s nest. Or maybe all of these at once. By the time the water comes out the bottom of the downpipe, the rate at which it is travelling might be a lot less than when it went in.

So how do you fix this problem? You get a pair of gloves, a long stick, and you clear that downpipe out. (Or you should, anyway!)

Broadband internet can face a similar challenge. When the nbn™ broadband access network pours into your home, it does so at a certain speed. But by the time it reaches your device, be it while you’re watching Netflix in bed, working on your laptop in the study or playing on your gaming console in the lounge room –  or to any of the 30-plus connected devices you’re expected to have in your house by 2021 – is the speed the same as when it arrives at your home?

It may not be. You may have some issues with your router placement that is blocking the drain, so to speak.

The way your Wi-Fi signal travels through your living space is greatly influenced by your home’s layout and construction. And every home is different. Understanding what can impact your signal and positioning your router to reduce or even nullify their effects is important. 

How Wi-Fi works

The first step in understanding how to get your Wi-Fi setup “fast broadband ready” is understanding how Wi-Fi works. Your broadband arrives in your home at your modem or Network Termination Device (NTD).

The modem is designed to receive this torrent of information and convert it into a language the devices in your home can understand. A Wi-Fi router – which may be built into your modem or a separate box – then takes that converted signal and transmits it as radio waves.

Those radio waves emanate throughout your home. Your devices pick them up and, in doing so, gain access to the internet. Of course, that signal needs to go in reverse, from your device back to the router; then to the modem; then out into the world. Then it must come back, and the cycle repeats.

It’s a constant two-way street, and one of the great benefits of the nbn™ access network is turning that two way street into a two way highway. 

The home modem and router placement checklist

Below you will find a checklist of things to consider when choosing where to place your router.
1) Is your router placed in the centre of your home?

Wi-Fi signals degrade as they travel, so the larger the distance between your device and the router, the more opportunity the signal has to dissipate. Getting your router as central to your home as possible will ensure the shortest distance to all living spaces.

Plus, the closer your router is to an external wall or window, the more of your signal you are just sending out to the street or yard. Alternatively, if all your devices are on one side of your house, it might be better to place your router there.

2) Is your router elevated?

For the best results, your router should generally be placed around two metres off the ground. In the ideal scenario, your devices will have line-of-sight with the router to ensure the radio waves don’t have to travel through any objects. It’s hard to achieve that down on ground level in a busy family home.

3) Are there any Wi-Fi dampeners between your router and your devices?

Radio waves can travel through solid objects, but the constitution of that object changes the effort required for it to do so effectively. In addition, other devices that send out radio waves can add interference that disrupts the efficiency of the receivers. Both of these situations can impact the signal strength, and thus your Wi-Fi signal. Some common Wi-Fi dampeners include:

  • bodies of water, such as a fish tank or water tank.
  • electronic devices that use radio wave signals to function, like phone base stations, wireless video game controllers, radios, DVD players.
  • appliances like microwaves, TVs, ovens, fridges, washing machines and dish washers.
  • thick walls, such as brick, stone, ceramic, concrete, metal and mirrors. Also floors, if you live in a multi-storey building.
4) Do you have too many devices connected?

The more devices you have connected to your Wi-Fi network, the more communication lines your router is trying to juggle at once. If you have a device that is typically used for activities that consume a lot of broadband capacity, look to use a wired connection. For example, the main TV you want to stream high-definition Netflix through is a good candidate to wire directly to your router, rather than run off the Wi-Fi network, if possible.

5) Do your neighbours have Wi-Fi?

If so, their Wi-Fi may be adding interference to yours. To prevent this from happening, there are 13 channels through which your Wi-Fi can be blasted out from your router. Make sure you and your nearby neighbours are on different channels if you suspect this is an issue.

6) Does your router match your needs?

Over the last two decades the quality of Wi-Fi has improved greatly, so old equipment may not be up to the standards your lifestyle requires or that your newer devices advertise. For more information about the different frequencies of Wi-Fi, read up on how to check if your router needs an upgrade.

So how did you go with our checklist? If you want to learn more, explore our guide to optimising your home internet experience.