One of the recurring questions I get a lot, is a fairly simple “Why is my Wi-Fi so slow?”
Needless to say the answer can be quite complicated, but for many people, especially if you live in a relatively built up area, the answer could be quite simple – congestion from other networks. The average man in the street is not going to have network cables running all over the house, so the promise of high speed wireless communication, which if you believe to almost impossible to achieve figures quoted on the adverts seems amazing, is enough to convince them that all they need is a wireless router from their ISP and a laptop. Unfortunately for many people it doesn’t work like that.
By way of an example, we live in a pretty average housing estate, it’s not very densely populated, consisting of single occupancy houses, but this is a snapshot of the 2.4Ghz band, the one used by the vast majority of wi-fi devices.
You can easily see the problem, even in this relatively low density housing area there are sixteen different networks fighting over the available bandwidth. Worse than that because of the way wi-fi works each router actually takes a chunk of bandwidth that overlaps multiple channels. It’s also interesting to note that aside from one or two they are all sitting on particular channels – either 1, 6 or 11.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Take a look at this picture. You’ll see from the network list at the top that this is in the same place, but instead it’s showing the wi-fi units running on the alternative 5Ghz band. Here you’ll see that there are only three signals picked up, and they all have the same name – not surprising as it’s what I’m using to get around the congestion and hook up devices wirelessly. In an area where I can pick up a load of other people using Wi-Fi, there is only me using 5Ghz So if you’ve got wireless issues I’d always recommend trying the 5Ghz channels if you can as you’ll often find almost nobody else using them.
There are issues of course, not least that some devices only work on the 2.4Ghz band, so you can’t usually switch over totally – most of my Apple base stations are running in dual band mode which means alongside the 5Ghz signal they’re also giving a 2.4Ghz signal. But if you’re using wireless and your devices support 5Ghz, give it a try, and you may well find your wireless network will work a lot better…