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With so many people working remote due to the coronavirus, schools cancelled and children home as well, home WiFi bandwidth can be hard to come by. My strategy to this point has been to:
- tell my kids to get off their devices or the TV (Roku) when I knew I needed a lot of bandwidth. For example, a video conference call or podcast recording.
- hop on my phone’s data hotspot. I don’t have unlimited data so that’s not a sustainable solution, but works for short sprints. We will see at the end of the month for sure.
To dive into this topic further and offer ideas Liron Segev – The Techie Guy – and Fred Faulkner -According to Fred Podcast Host – joined me on the Business Storytelling Podcast to offer ideas to help you claim back your bandwidth.
“Who knew we all had to become our own IT infrastructure experts?!“said Fred. A good point, because it certainly is taking time to get the home WiFi to work at the level we need it to.
This article is based on our discussion:
Fred mentioned that he uses a Google WiFi router to prioritize devices. Oh what, a great idea. I immediately logged into my router to see if I could easily do that. Of course, I wanted to prioritize my iPad first. Some family members voted for the TV. I couldn’t find the option to do that in the router, though, and CenturyLink also said they weren’t aware of that option.
Fred uses a Google device like the one below that allows him to do that.
(Affiliate links to the products)
He said he can prioritize devices for up to four hours at a time and then needs to renew the prioritization. That’s a good idea if you have a similar device or are interested in getting one. They are currently available via Amazon Prime – so should arrive in two days.
Basically you put the Google device on top of your router.
”I’ve found tremendous improvements by not using the native router,” said Fred.
Certainly not all devices need to have the same priority. According to Deloitte, the average home WiFi in the United States now has 11 devices connected. That includes everything from:
- Work laptops
- Work iPads
- Personal iPads
- IoT devices like the garage door opener or the fridge
“People often make the mistake to think ‘but yea, it’s just a couple of phones’,” said Liron. It’s easy to forget about all the other items connected. “All of those suck up bandwidth. Some just a little bit and some a lot. You have remember that it’s not just your phones.”
Turn off unnecessary functions
Turn off cloud backup on your devices, for example. They often only run on WiFi, which maybe wasn’t noticed previously when there was less usage.
Consider deleting apps that you don’t use.
Setup of devices
Liron mentioned that setup of devices is important. He mentioned that a 2.4 GHz WiFi connection travels farther while 5.0 GHz works best when you are close to the router.
When to buy a higher plan and when not to
It’s tempting to say: “Our internet is too slow. We need to buy a better plan.” I may have even said that myself recently. But that’s not always the right question or solution.
You may already be on the highest plan available anyway. There’s nothing to upgrade to. In parts of the country customers can’t even switch to another provider.
Before doing anything, test your speed. Go to Speedtest.net and click Go.
Here are my results:
Liron and Fred said on the show that my numbers are really low. Some background on what they mean:
Download speed: This is what you use for consumption. So when this number is high you shouldn’t have problems watching Netflix, listening to podcasts and other similar inbound tasks.
Upload speed: When this number is low you’ll have problems sending items so to speak. Uploading a video will take longer. Being on a Zoom video call can be a struggle. And you’ve likely seen companies post pictures of 30 people on a Zoom video call. That takes tremendous upload brandwidth.
Look at the hardware
Hardware in this sense includes:
- the router
- the wires
- the outlets
A couple of years ago my router was actually replaced after the CenturyLink customer service rep noticed “you’ve had this thing for 7 years.” Of course, a 7-year-old router should likely be retired. Is that like 92 years in human years?
The wires. The ones in the wall? Yes. They’ve probably been here since the house was build and I don’t really have any interest into digging into that area. But if old wires are the problem, it might be worth looking into.
Hardwire the setup
While we are talking a out home WiFi here, that’s not the only option. You can also hardwire the internet to your main devices. I actually think the TV is hardwired into the router – which is sitting right next to it. You can do the same with your laptop. Hook it up with a wire.
Does a guest network help?
How you split up the bandwidth likely won’t help as you are getting the same bandwidth at the entry point to your home WiFi network. So if parts go to the guest network and part to the main network it’s just splitting bandwidth differently.
Picking the right home WiFi battles
At the end of the day, working on your WiFi and trying to improve it does take time and effort. Time that now can’t be used for work tasks. Of course, if the internet isn’t working or slowing things to a crawl, you aren’t getting any work done anyway.
Nonetheless, I try to pick my battles. I logged into my router to see if I could easily prioritize devices. I couldn’t and then learned on the podcast that the way I tried to do this isn’t the right way anyway. So I moved on. Right now, I probably won’t buy another device for a hundred-some dollars but you may choose that route.
I may call my internet provider to see if I can get through in a reasonable amount of time. Or maybe they have a call-back functionality.
”We will call you back in 34-45 minutes. You will not lose your place in line.”
Or I may just use my phone’s hotspot when I’m in good shape with my 16GB per month data plan. I usually only run out of data when we are away from the house a lot or I travel a lot. That’s currently not the case with all travel stopped and school cancelled.