Hi Dominic, I'm getting a slow connection from my wireless broadband. I've reset the router and tried a few things, but so far nothing has worked. How can I get better home Wi-Fi coverage? Thanks for your help! Kate
Kate, via email on 20 January, 2012
Our expert says...
You first need to find out what broadband speeds you're getting.
Run a speed test
on your Wi-Fi, and also try connecting an ethernet connection
directly to your router, this will allow you to see how much speed
you lose by using a wireless connection.
An ethernet connection - where a cable connects your computer directly - will normally be faster than wireless broadband. That's because there are lots of factors that limit Wi-Fi coverage and reduce your Wi-Fi connection speed many of which don't have the same impact on broadband connected via a cable.
In the modern home, we often have multiple Wi-Fi devices, such as laptops & tablets , so getting a decent wireless connection more than just a convenience.
Let's run through a few simple ways of boosting your wireless broadband...
There are lots of tips and tricks you can try to improve your Wi-Fi connection at home:
- Move your router - Where you position the router can make a huge difference to the quality of your Wi-Fi. The nearer you are to your router via an unobstructed route, the better your signal will be. Choose a central location to help the wireless signal reach all areas of your property (or the areas where you are mostly likely to want to connect from). Ideally, position your router high up in the room, perhaps on top of a book shelf, with no immediate obstacles around it. Don't be tempted to hide it away in a cabinet - it needs to be out in the open and free from obstructions like walls and furniture.
- Upgrade the antenna - The antennae supplied with most routers use an omni-directional signal, meaning one that fires out in all directions. One of these placed near an exterior wall could send half the signal outside your home, drastically lowering Wi-Fi potential. To make better use of your router's power, try installing a high-gain antenna that allows the signal to be focused where you need it. Or buy a high-gain omni-directional antenna and place it centrally in your home. TP-Link and D-Link both produce a range of omni-directional high-gain antennae. Some routers have a built-in antenna, so make sure yours is upgradeable before spending money on a replacement. You might also consider a USB wireless adapter that plugs directly into a laptop boosting its ability to pick up the Wi-Fi signal, TP-Link produce a range of popular USB wireless adapters including a 150Mbps model and a 300Mbps model.
- Use a signal repeater - A wireless repeater can extend the range of your Wi-Fi signal by 'bouncing' it over a greater distance. They are simple and easy to install, and some models, such as the popular Huawei Wi-Fi Repeater and the Netgear Universal WiFi Range Extender, cost less than £50. Just position your repeater roughly halfway between your router and the device you want to reach.
- Add a powerline adapter - Powerline adapters or 'home plugs' can use the wiring already in the walls of your property to send a Wi-Fi signal to parts of the house which otherwise may have had poor coverage. They're usually more expensive than signal repeaters, but can prove more effective. A powerline adapter creates a Wi-Fi hotspot wherever you've got a free electrical socket. They're ideal for getting wireless broadband up to a loft conversion, for example. However, while this approach can work extremely well, improved coverage is not guaranteed. TP-Link produce a wide range of highly rated powerline adapters including the 200Mbps Mini Powerline Adapter and the 500 Mbps Powerline Adapter.
- Change wireless channel - Routers can operate on a number of different wireless channels, and you may be able to strengthen your Wi-Fi by switching between them. You can use handy online tools like Wi-Fi Stumbler to identify the channel you should choose. The trick is to find the wireless channel with the least interference, which could be coming from other electronics in your home or even a neighbour's router that uses the same channel. Read the documentation that came with your router, or visit the manufacturer's website, for details of how to configure it. Your computer should detect the new settings automatically.
- Remove interference - As well as interference from other people's routers, it's possible that waves emitted by other electronics are degrading your Wi-Fi signal. Common culprits include cordless phones and microwaves, so try to keep them as far away from your router as possible.
- Secure your connection - If you don't have a Wi-Fi password then anyone within range of your router could be 'stealing' your broadband. Not only will this slow you down, but could also land you in trouble with the law if the freeloader is up to no good online - their connection would be traced to your property. So always make sure you're using a strong Wi-Fi protected access (WPA) key, and don't hesitate to change it if you suspect someone has hijacked your network.
- Buy a new router - One of the easiest ways to make sure your wireless is as fast and reliable as possible is to make sure you're using up-to-date hardware. N-routers are the latest standard and are offered free with most new broadband contracts. They can be faster than the earlier 'b' and 'g' models because they use multiple wireless signals and antennas. N connections support a bandwidth of over 100Mb, and have a better signal range. If your router's a few years old, there may now be more advanced technologies available, however, a quality router could set you back £100 - so it's best not to rush into buying a replacement until you've tried everything else.
- Contact your provider - Any decent broadband provider will want to ensure it' is offering a positive customer experience. So if you have problems with slow broadband or you're struggling to improve your Wi-Fi, it's a good idea to speak with your provider and see if there's anything they can do to help. They may send out an engineer free of charge, or offer you a better router.
- DIY solutions - If you've tried everything and you're still not happy with your wireless coverage - or you just prefer to fix things without spending money - you may be able to boost your signal with simple DIY tricks. As this Lifehacker video explains, all you need to improve your router's performance is tin foil - even an old beer can or kitchen strainer will do.
See our complete guide to speeding up your broadband for more information.
Video: How to boost your Wi-Fi signal
Switch broadband provider
Your Wi-Fi at home will only ever be as good as the broadband
connection you're using. If you're out of contract with your
current provider, you may be able to get a faster service by
switching to another. Run a quick postcode search to find the speediest
broadband available in your area.
Remember, unlike broadbandchoices, not every comparison service is accredited by Ofcom, the UK communications regulator. Ofcom only awards accreditation to websites put through a rigorous independent audit - so you can be confident about our service.
Popular broadband deals
Monthly cost: £3.25
(for 12 months)1st year cost: £39.00
Monthly cost: £14.50
(free for 6 months)1st year cost: £87.00
Monthly cost: £7.50 1st year cost: £92.18
Monthly cost: £16.00
(free for 6 months)1st year cost: £102.95
|speed up to 14 Mb||speed up to 30 Mb||speed up to 14 Mb||speed up to 16 Mb|
|Eve & wknd calls inc.||Weekend calls inc.||Weekend calls inc.||Weekend calls inc.|
Call TalkTalk on
0800 049 7843
Call Virgin Media on
0800 098 8203
Call Sky on
0844 241 1407