TECHNOLOGY

Improve WiFi Router Reliability

ESTIMATE 4-MINUTE READ

Upgrade Your Broadband Network For 2021

From a technical perspective, the year 2020 built a foundation for more demands on home networks. Learning and working within your house increases the number of devices streaming content. Video quality and random access memory of computers, tablets, and smartphones has become critical.

Many devices you purchased only to send text messages or snap photos have become media streaming equipment. Something requires an upgrade. Like most people, you probably do not want to become a technician. But you don’t want to feel disappointment after installing new equipment.

You just want your internet connection to be reliable. To manage expectations, it is good to know what you are getting into. This requires some knowledge of technology that the information below addresses.

For those that want to cut to the chase, consider the eero mesh Pro WiFi 6 System. From Amazon, it comes with two intelligent routers that are easy to set up and supports up to 1Gbps. An alternative is the eero mesh Pro WiFi 5 System of three routers supporting up to 550Mbps. (First-generation model supports up to 350Mbps.)

You can add additional routers to either system if required. But the network will function at the speed of the slowest mesh router. I encourage you to read further. Recognize that weeks after publishing this, a new device with more bells and whistles can come out. Technology advances quickly.

Network Components

Your network usually includes a cable modem from your telephone carrier or Internet Service Provider (ISP). Sometimes the box has an integrated WiFi router. Or you may attach a separate router.

Think of your cable modem as your airport capacity. Your router is the air traffic controller. Each device is an aircraft. In crowded townhomes or apartments, there are multiple airports contending for the same air space. You controller needs to manage aircraft at different altitudes to prevent mid-air collisions.

What is the capacity of your cable modem? Are you dividing 25Mbps or 1Gbps? Dozens of planes with one runway create departure delays. Upgrade your bandwidth to at least 200Mbps. Your ISP will provide a new modem. It might even have a basic integrated WiFi router. If so, there are ways to disable it in favor of a separate premium router.

Inexpensive WiFi Extenders

If your WiFi drops connection or video is lagging, a $50 WiFi range extender/repeater seems like an economical solution. This is like adding a remote lookout tower at the end of a runway. For devices in that immediate vicinity, there is greater bandwidth visibility. In a 2-room apartment, this may be fine. But an extender does not solve the issue of device proliferation and airspace overcrowding.

WiFi extenders can degrade performance beyond the four walls in which they exist. So a larger residence could require an extender in each room. (Note: eero manufactures extenders that are compatible with its routers.)

Upgrade To WiFi 6 Router

Throughout 2020 and 2021, a proliferation of WiFi 6 capable devices have become available. Some sellers use tricky naming conventions like “Version 6 Mesh” or “WiFi Router 6” when they do not actually support the WiFi 6 standard. Do you need WiFi 6?

WiFi 6 (802.11ax) certified routers include advancements to support many devices on a network with more reliable bandwidth. You also benefit from better security protocols (WPA3/WPA2). This is like getting a brand new tower that equips your air traffic controller with new technologies. WiFi 6 provides the highest level of performance in busy multi-device households. An integrated cable modem from your internet service provider will likely support a single band.

Mesh System

A new router sounds good but there is still a problem. Your residence has walls and signal-blocking appliances to navigate. The solution is an integrated mesh system. It is called a mesh because multiple WiFi routers with overlapping signals cover your workspace. Place each router in a strategic location throughout your home.

The mesh is more comprehensive than generic extenders. A mesh system includes software, RAM, and microprocessors that optimize each router. This overcomes obstacles for reliable performance.

Remember, your modem determines network speed. Routers administer device throughput in various Ghz ranges, or ‘flying altitudes,’ as it were. Mesh systems can manage traffic on one or more bands and intelligently use appropriate security encryption (WPA3/WPA2) for each device.

WiFi 6 Incompatibilities

Some of your older devices may not be compatible the fastest and most secure protocols. Replace any that do not support WPA2 or higher security. Most devices have fast, connections with more congestion in the 2.4Ghz band. The shorter range 5Ghz band is becoming overwhelmed. iPhone 12 supports WiFi 6.

eero WiFi 5 Pro
The eero Mesh Pro WiFi 5 system is a pseudo tri-band (2.4 / 5 / 5.8 GHz) with easy setup for multiple routers throughout your home. Do not use with third-party extenders.

WiFi 6 was designed from the ground up to provide high-efficiency speed improvements to a group of WiFi 6 clients as a whole, not an individual WiFi 6 client. So if you put a WiFi 6 router on a network of WiFi 5 devices, you will not see a dramatic speed improvement.

Get figurative runways and better air traffic control at different altitudes. You enjoy improvements in network reliability, not individual device speed. That requires buying more bandwidth from your ISP. The alternative is to install a router that lacks WiFi 6 and hinders capabilities of new device purchases. Speed will eventually improve as you upgrade legacy tablets, laptops, and smartphones.

Deep Pockets

Buying a WiFi router in 2021 does not guarantee that you have the latest technology. Single- and dual-band WiFi 5 or WiFi 6 routers crowd the market. Though prices are coming down overall, the best technology is the most expensive. Supply and demand dictate price.

I purchased the 2nd generation tri-band (2.4 / 5 / 5.8 GHz) eero Mesh Pro WiFi System of three routers supporting up to 550Mbps. The next week Amazon announced, the backwards-compatible 5GHz eero Mesh Pro WiFi 6 System of two routers supporting up to 1Gbps. Adding the WiFi 6 router to the WiFi 5 network slows it down to 550Mbps. A future article compares WiFi 5 and 6 eero Mesh Pro systems.

WiFiFrequencySpeedBands
WiFi 5≤ 5.8GHz≤ 550Mbps≤ 3
WiFi 6≤ 5GHz≤ 1000Mbps≤ 2
WiFi 6E≤ 6GHz≤ 1000Mbps≤ 3

Future Internet of Things (IoT) devices will benefit from the short-range 6Ghz of WiFi 6E. With the addition of the 6Ghz range, tri-band WiFi 6E is at least 37% more efficient than WiFi 5 (802.11ac). You won’t be able to add 6Ghz to 5Ghz WiFi devices. At least through the first half of 2021, expect to pay close to $1000 for a 6Ghz WiFi 6E mesh system like the Qualcomm® Networking Pro 810 Platform.

In the distant future, there will be WiFi 7. But don’t let that concern you. Most technology is not yet WiFi 6E compatible. Your devices may not even be WiFi 6 compatible. WiFi 5 is now. WiFi 6 is emerging. WiFi 6E is the future.

References
  1. WiFi 6 vs WiFi 5: what’s the difference? minim.co
  2. Wi-Fi 6 Explained: The Next Generation of Wi-Fi. techspot.com
  3. Should You Upgrade to Wi-Fi 6? pcmag.com
  4. 5 Reasons You Should Consider Upgrading to a WiFi 6 Router. netgear.com
  5. Wi-Fi 6 is the fastest standard yet. Wi-Fi 6E will be even better. net.com
  6. 2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz WiFi. sabaitechnology.com
  7. Wi-Fi 4/5/6/6E (802.11 n/ac/ax). duckware.com
  8. Eero 6 and Pro 6 mesh routers mix in faster connectivity to improve your home’s Wi-Fi. cnn.com
  9. Networking Pro 810 Platform. qualcomm.com
Kevin Williams is a Shopify Partner that has been program­ming data­base systems since 1990 and writing since 2010, before main­tain­ing an e-commerce site in Perl. Along with him, explore the Shopify platform and Liquid programming with marketing and writing tips.

Join Discussion