Crummy routers irritate everyone and make your Fibre Internet seem much slower than it is, but it’s not difficult to get it right (assuming you are not tempted by some free ?).

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Home router technology doesn’t move all that fast, but we think the WiFi choice you make should be a 3 year decision.

1 – Are you trying to use cheap hardware?

WiFi routers are like mobile phones. If you’re going to be using your WiFi day in, day out, it’s worth getting a good one. Especially if you are working from home. If you are using your old ADSL router or something else that’s old, you might want to sit down and start accepting that you should probably buy a new router.

2 – WiFi Coverage: Do you need more than 1 WiFi Router?

In big homes or apartments with lots of concrete/steel in the walls you will need more than one WiFi hotspot to cover an entire home. You have a couple of options:

  • Super powerful base stations
  • WiFi range extenders using existing electrical cabling in the home
  • Mesh Networks
  • Hard Wired Access Points

Super powerful base stations. There are a lot of good WiFi routers that can cover a large area and some models are more powerful than others. So there is a lot to be said to getting a very powerful single unit and avoid the issues that might some from running extenders or Mesh networks.

WiFi Range Extenders can be difficult to set up, and if you set the extender WiFi name to the same as your main base station you can confuse your devices and sit without internet while your phone or laptop decides which WiFi to connect to. Extenders can be a cheap and handy solution to get WiFi to your granny flat, but don’t expect a seamless experience or blazing speeds. WiFi extenders (or boosters)

Bring in WiFi Mesh networks. They are made up of more than one WiFi device and offer a very large network area and the ability to offer “seamless” handover from one device to the next. In practice this means you can walk through your house and your device will switch “nodes” without you even noticing. What’s more is the base stations create multiple connections between each other and automagically decide which is the fastest route through the network and if one nodes breaks there is a failsafe to route through the nodes that are still operational. The downside is as the secondary mesh points are connecting to the primary device via WiFi, the speeds on the outer WiFi mesh nodes drops. For example, if you get 170Mbps over WiFi on your primary mesh node (the one plugged into your ONT), you might get 70Mbps on the secondary nodes. Because they are wireless it’s easy to move them around for the best coverage.

Hard wired access points provide the optimum performance as there is no loss in signal between your WiFi points. If you want uncompromised stability and performance, this is the best option but requires cables to be run between the WiFi points. This is sometimes the only option when WiFi just doesn’t reach like in houses with very thick walls, or if you have a granny flat away from your main house.

What does this mean? If you need one router, invest in something decent. We think R500-R2000 will get you something good. If you need a large WiFi area look into a Mesh network and budgets start at around R3000 for a pack of 3.

3 – How fast is your Fibre?

In the world of Wifi there cannot be multiple devices communicating at the same time wirelessly. This is because WiFi is “half duplex”, which means the wifi radio can only speak one direction at a time, one message at a time. In other words everything has to wait its turn. Even if your neighbours WiFi is using the same WiFi channel this will cause a delay on your WiFi.

WiFi’s Dividing Line

To save you time and keep things simple, there is the longer range, but slower WiFi (20-60Mbps). There is the shorter range, faster WiFi (Up to 300Mbps).

With a simple, single band router you’ll be getting real world speeds of about 20-60Mbps – this is with most cheap home WiFi routers.

If you have 30Mbps line or higher, you will want to have a dual channel or higher spec WiFi Router to make full use of your line. However keep in mind when you are close to the router you can make use of the shorter range, faster WiFi (5Ghz) as your device moves away from your router, the device will drop to the slower 20-60Mbps WiFi band (2.4Ghz).

So if you’re only seeing speeds of 20-60Mbps over WiFi you are probably not on the faster WiFi band. You can get around this by splitting out your WiFi names and having one for the longer range, slower WiFi, and another for the shorter range, faster WiFi.

Pro tip: Ignore the advertised speeds and general router marketing when it comes to speeds. These don’t represent the real world speeds you would expect when using it.

4 – How many devices do you have on your network?

Most cheap routers tend to start freaking out with more than 10 devices. So imagine 5 people with a laptop and a smartphone – there goes your WiFi.

Weirdly Easy Tips for Faster WiFi:

  • On 2.4Ghz Wifi, use channels 1, 6 or 11 :

“Non-overlapping channels (1,6,11) work better than overlapping channels. With overlapping channels, you step on each other and can’t do anything about it. With non-overlapping channels, you see each other and share the bandwidth.”

  • For 2.4Ghz Wifi use a 20MHz channel width
  • For 5Ghz Wifi you can use 40MHz or 80MHz channel width and just check to see if anybody else is using the same channels near you
  • Pro Tip: If you get enterprise / pro-grade WiFi you get access to channels home kit doesn’t have – the easiest way to avoid WiFi traffic congestion
  • Use a wifi scanner app like iStumbler or WiFiman on Android to see which channels have the least activity
  • If you have a Mac laptop – consider getting this app: iAnalyzeWifi
  • If you have a WiFI router with 2 antennas turn one antenna 90deg (make one vertical and one horizontal). This is because of the orientation of the radio waves. Laptops antennas are horizontal, phones are vertical, so having aerials on your WiFi router both ways makes it more likely that there is a radio wave aligned to your device.
  • If you have a WiFi router with 4 antennas, point them all upwards
  • Make sure you use WPA2 encryption
  • Choose a secure password for your WiFi
  • On macOS, hold down the Alt key and click on the wifi icon top right in the menu bar to see details about your wifi network status

5 – Can You Run Your WiFi During Loadshedding?

The short answer is YES. If you have backup power and nothing goes wrong with the backup power on the fibre networks you can enjoy fibre internet during load shedding. Read more about this in our Fibre during loadshedding guide.

As you can see there are many factors than work together to contribute to the perfect WiFi network for fibre internet. How large an area you want to cover, how fast your internet is and how busy your WiFi network is going to be, but with these tips you should be more empowered to make the most our of your home WiFi.