At its most basic W-Fi is a way to share information wirelessly. The technology is certified by a non-profit alliance that sets standards, including radio frequency, power, security encryption protocols and more, so that any wi-fi device can “speak” to another.
Wi-Fi works best when the connected devices have a ‘line of sight,” another way of saying there is nothing in between your router and device. Wi-Fi connections are weakened to a greater or lesser extent by anything between the radio and connected device. Examples of things which may weaken your connection include interior or exterior walls, furniture, appliances, people’s bodies and more.
There have been 6 generations of wi-fi technology that have been used in consumer products. They are named a, b, g, n, ac, and ax. With the last 3 recently renamed Wi-Fi 4, 5 and 6 respectively. The latest generations offer faster speeds, improved efficiency and better resistance to wireless interference in high-density scenarios (like our neighborhoods). DC Access currently deploys Wi-Fi 4 and 5 routers to our clients.
The latest generations of Wi-Fi use multiple frequencies; 2.4 GHz, 5 Ghz, and in Wi-Fi 6E 6 Ghz. The 2.4 Ghz band has long range and good wall penetration, which is both good for your connection and bad in terms of interference from neighbors. The 5Ghz band is weakened more rapidly by walls, so you’ll see less interference when using your “.5g” network. The 6Ghz band offers the fastest possible speeds but is not in broad use yet.
While the different generations of wifi can pass data between them, the speed for any attached device will be capped at the limit of the slowest link in the chain, from your connection to the router or device. So if you are set to our Essential Plus service level, your maximum speed will be limited to around 25 Mbps downloads regardless of how fast your wifi connection is.
A few key points to keep in mind:
- A wired connection will almost always be faster and more secure than Wi-Fi.
- Minimizing obstructions between your router and device will likely improve the performance of your connection.
- 5 Ghz frequency is weakened by walls, so the connection will have less interference and more stability than the 2.4.
- Having a faster wi-fi network may help your connection, but it can be limited both by speeds elsewhere in your network (your slowest/oldest device) or from outside interference (other routers broadcasting on the same frequency)
Sources and Additional Reading
Ars Technica The Ars Technica semi-scientific guide to Wi-Fi Access Point placement 2/23/2020 – https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2020/02/the-ars-technica-semi-scientific-guide-to-wi-fi-access-point-placement/
Fowler, G.A. (4/29/2020) Bad WiFi is slowing you down. Fix yours without spending a dime. Washington Post – https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/04/29/best-wifi-fix/
Microsoft Wi-Fi problems and your home layout – https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/wi-fi-problems-and-your-home-layout-e1ed42e7-a3c5-d1be-2abb-e8fad00ad32a
Wi-Fi Alliance – https://www.wi-fi.org
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi-Fi