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Four things you may not know about WiFi connectivity

by Plume Product TeamConnected Living
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We all love WiFi. It brings us our favorite Netflix shows and allows us to order tacos without getting off the couch. But if you've been working from home during the pandemic and struggling with internet connectivity issues, you may be falling out of love with your WiFi. According to a recent survey, fewer than two-thirds of Americans find they have fast enough speeds to support video calls for remote work. And even if you do, you might find that your WiFi connection is spotty in different parts of your home. The trouble is that the traditional modem-plus-router setup isn't adequate for most households. It doesn't consider how many connected devices you have, how much bandwidth those devices require, or your peak usage times. If your connection isn't spectacular, your outdated home WiFi system could be to blame. Here are a four things everyone should know about WiFi connectivity:

Router placement matters

With all the fuss about download speeds, most homeowners expect that if they're paying for the most expensive package offered by their Communications Service Provider (CSP), they should be getting top speeds. But what many Providers fail to mention is that where you place your router impacts the quality of service. The fastest internet in the world won't give you the best WiFi connectivity if your router is tucked in a corner behind the TV and your laptop is all the way upstairs in the opposite corner of your house. If you're relying on a single router for your entire home, that router needs to be in a central location, as close to heavy-use areas as possible. Unfortunately, even if you pick the perfect spot, there are plenty of common household items that can sabotage your WiFi's performance. Mirrors, appliances, metallic blinds, fish tanks, reinforced concrete, and even energy-efficient windows can all cause interference or weaken a WiFi signal. To get fast, reliable internet in every corner of your home, you really need an in-home WiFi system with multiple access points.

WiFi routers need regular reboots

When was the last time you powered down your WiFi router? If your answer is “the last time the internet went out," you probably aren't getting the most out of your home WiFi. Most people don't realize that the magical black box that connects their computer to the internet is actually a tiny computer itself. It has finite memory and processing power, and some older routers simply aren't able to distribute the connection to the large number of WiFi-enabled devices that many of us have in our homes. If you haven't replaced your router in the last four years.), an old router might be the issue. If it's a newer router, it might need to be rebooted. One reason your router benefits from the occasional reboot is that most CSPs assign temporary IP addresses to smartphones and personal computers. When your IP address changes and your router gets out of sync, it's like your provider changed your computer's phone number and didn't tell your router. Another issue is that all the WiFi-connected devices we have in our homes today can bog down a router and a reset becomes a necessary break.

All WiFi isn't created equal

If you're old enough to remember dial-up internet, you probably think regular WiFi is pretty awesome. You can carry your laptop around without being connected to the wall, and you don't have time to go make toast while you wait for a page to load. While our untethered internet usage has climbed dramatically in the last ten years, traditional home WiFi hasn't adapted to meet either our increased demand or our increasing interest in smart, connected gadgets. If you're interested in getting the best connectivity, it's important to understand the differences between home WiFi systems:

Good: traditional WiFi

If you live in a small studio apartment, traditional WiFi will probably work fine. But if you live in a larger home, you might experience connectivity issues with a traditional modem-plus-router system. You may notice YouTube videos take a long time to buffer, or your teenager might complain that the internet is slow upstairs. Now that many of us are working from home, a spotty WiFi connection just won't cut it. If you've found yourself frantically moving around the house trying to get Zoom to work better, you're probably overdue for an upgrade.

Better: mesh WiFi

The advantage of whole-home WiFi or mesh WiFi is that it's designed to distribute your WiFi signal throughout your entire home. If you find that the WiFi is particularly weak in your upstairs bedrooms, for instance, you can place a node near that area to distribute the signal to your devices. While mesh WiFi nodes might sound similar to range extenders, they're actually a big step up. Any time your network travels through a range extender, your connection is going to weaken. Whole-home WiFi nodes, on the other hand, maintain a high signal strength. Mesh WiFi certainly beats traditional WiFi, but it's far from perfect. With mesh, several WiFi access points connect to provide a consistent blanket of coverage across your entire home. They connect each device to the next nearest device and use the same frequency channel for all hops between internet access points. This can create congestion. Another issue is that mesh systems configure the network upon initial setup, but they don't change according to conditions in your home or adapt to your usage.

Best: adaptive WiFi

To get the very best performance from your CSP, you need Plume HomePass with the first-of-its-kind AdaptTM service. Adapt uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to map out the places and times of peak internet usage in your home and optimizes your network accordingly. For instance, if you have a Zoom call every morning at nine, your family watches Netflix in the evening after dinner, and your teenager plays Overwatch from nine to eleven, Adapt will learn to send the appropriate amount of bandwidth to those who need it most. Adapt works with your existing CSP, while relying on pods spread throughout your home to distribute your WiFi signal. It harnesses the cloud for network data, memory, and computing power (not to mention instant updates as they become available), so it's constantly learning and adapting to your usage and the types of devices in your home.

Not all WiFi-enabled devices require the same level of service

Plume internal data shows that households currently have an average of 17 WiFi-connected devices, and Plume CTO Bill McFarland predicts that this number will exceed 31 by 2022. Do a quick count of your gadgets. Do you have a Ring doorbell? Cloud-connected cameras? A smart TV? A smart speaker? How about a tablet? The rise of always-connected devices has put a huge burden on static home WiFi systems because they deliver the same share of the network to every device, regardless of how much bandwidth it actually needs. Adapt fixes this issue by funneling more bandwidth to your hungriest devices while allowing the less needy ones to maintain their happiness at the lower volume. Our technological needs are changing every year, so shouldn't our WiFi's capabilities adapt right along with them? Life moves too fast to be stuck with slow internet. And in 2020, you don't have to be. If you're experiencing connectivity issues, it might be time to upgrade to a whole-home, self-optimizing WiFi system. Check out Adapt and the entire HomePass suite of services to enhance your smart home today.