WiFi 101

How your home wireless network actually works

Nobody wants to think about their home WiFi network - we just want it to work and give us the speed we’re paying for. Understanding how your WiFi network operates  is a great first step to making sure you’re getting the most from your internet service.

THE SCIENCE

To understand how WiFi works, it helps to understand what it is. The term “WiFi” isn’t short for anything; it simply refers to the technology that carries internet signals to your devices without a cable. It’s basically two radios communicating over short distances. One radio is in your router and the other in your laptop, phone, TV, etc.

Home WiFi signals are transmitted through radio waves on two frequency bands, 2.4GHz and 5GHz (Gigahertz). The emerging 5GHz frequencies can transmit data more quickly, but over less distance indoors. Tried and true 2.4GHz frequencies transmit data slower, but over more distance indoors. IMU Fiber utilizes both frequencies when setting up our customer’s home wireless networks.

FACTORS THAT IMPACT PERFORMANCE

When you choose fiber internet through IMU, we provide you with modern equipment, and our technicians consider placement of your gateway (router) an important factor in maximizing signal to high priority locations, like a home office or your primary smart TV. IMU also offers a variety of bandwidth options - up to 1 GB for both downloads and uploads. 

It’s a great foundation, but there are a few factors that can degrade performance over any WiFi network.

Network Overload: Radio signal and bandwidth are finite resources, so the more devices active on your network at the same time, the heavier the demand on both your available radio signal (WiFi) and speed (bandwidth). Maxing your resources can slow performance.

Device Technology: Devices might not be equipped with newer technology designed to take advantage of today’s signals and speeds. That’s why an older mobile phone, for example, might have poor signal while a newer one in the same room has full bars.

Physical Interference: Thick walls, duct work, and even furniture can block your signal, leading to decreased speeds. In a home larger than 2,000 square feet or multi-level, it can be difficult for the signal to reach the far corners of your house.

Third-Party Service Slowdowns: Sometimes streaming services (Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV, etc.)  or even websites get overloaded. If your movie keeps buffering, try a different service first, to confirm it’s not coming from the provider’s side.

WiFi Hitchhikers: WiFi can be secured with a strong password to prevent unauthorized devices from connecting to your WiFi network. Without one, anyone within range can use your signal, adding active network devices and slowing your speeds. IMU Fiber always enables passwords when installing your service.

Signal Interference: Commonly used household gadgets also transmit on the same radio band as WiFi, including baby monitors, microwaves, and Bluetooth connected devices. These transmissions can interfere with your WiFi, leading to slow speeds and spotty connection. 

Want to learn more about making the most of your home WiFi network? Click here for some great tips!