We take wireless communications for granted nowadays, but it’s easy to overlook the complexity of cable-free connectivity.
Plugging a broadband router into a phone socket doesn’t give us an automatic right to ultrafast internet access throughout our homes and gardens.
For one thing, the hubs supplied by broadband firms tend to be assembled on a strict budget, lacking the multiple aerials and tri-band compatibility of the most powerful wireless routers.
For another, they have to run the gauntlet of other wireless devices attempting to send information around our homes.
Contrary to public perception, there isn’t a boundless array of bandwidth for every appliance to communicate over.
Instead, think of your home’s wireless networks like the old MW/LW radios with their manual tuning dials.
It wasn’t uncommon for two frequencies to overlap, resulting in classical music on one station being overlaid by political speeches from an unrelated broadcaster.
Our homes are equally congested, as baby monitors talk to their satellite units, car alarms percolate into front-facing rooms and microwave ovens heat up our supper.
Wireless interference occurs all the time, as unrelated devices attempt to use the same frequency bands to communicate.
But given broadband’s importance, it’s crucially important to minimise wireless interference around the home as far as possible.
Ways to reduce wireless interference
Reposition your router. Interference can be caused by inanimate objects like walls and wooden furniture, so ensure your router isn’t being blocked by anything.
It should ideally be several feet off the ground, located fairly centrally within the property, and not surrounded by troublesome materials.
Metal is most prone to causing interference, though concrete and plaster are problematic, too. Dense materials like marble and brick may also block or compromise signals.
Change the channel. Most broadband routers have a number of selectable and slightly varied frequencies, between 2400MHz and 2485MHz.
There’ll be a significant degree of overlap from one channel to the next, but channels 1, 6 and 11 don’t share any bandwidth with each other.
Experiment with different settings (usually managed through a web browser), to determine whether there’s any improvement or deterioration in signal quality on different signals.
Although the 5GHz frequency band is supposedly less prone to interference, your neighbours might be using it for that very reason – so keep trying different combinations.
Permit channel-switching. Some wireless routers support automatic channel-switching, in an attempt to find the least congested frequency.
If this facility is offered, ensure it’s enabled by going into the router’s settings or diagnostic menu.
Move or replace other wireless items. Traditionally, broadband routers sit on a table or unit next to the landline house phone – which is also usually wireless.
Providing there are phone sockets elsewhere in the property, moving the phone to a different room could eliminate that particular source of interference.
It may be worth upgrading one or two other pieces of domestic technology as well.
Modern microwave ovens tend to have better shielding than their predecessors, reducing radio frequency noise.
Newer Bluetooth devices are less likely to cause interference than older hardware, even though they communicate over similar swathes of the wireless spectrum.
Add a range extender. These take various forms, from mesh extenders to Powerline adaptors, boosting signal strength across a wider area.
The strongest signal often wins the battle to be heard – so make sure the most important one receives top priority.
Finally, if the router has an external aerial, ensure it’s positioned vertically rather than horizontally.