Bad wifi irritates everyone and makes your Fibre Internet seem much slower than it is, but it’s not difficult to get it right.

Why WiFi is like HiFi: A simple way to think about wifi network coverage is like an audio speaker. The bass being the 2.4Ghz WiFi and the tweeters (high notes) being the fast 5Ghz WiFi. Bass waves find it easier to go through walls and travel further than the high notes. The further away from the speaker you go, the less you can hear. If you put your speaker in a cupboard, it won’t sound as good as if it’s out in a big open room. If you like listening to music while you work, you wouldn’t have the speaker in another room.

Jump to the relevant section:

  1. Are you trying to use cheap hardware for your WiFi?
  2. WiFi Speed
  3. WiFi Range
  4. How many devices will be on the WiFi?
  5. Extra tips
  6. Can you have WiFi during loadshedding?
  7. What do you suggest I buy?

1 – Are you trying to use cheap hardware?

WiFi routers are like mobile phones. If you’re going to be using your WiFi every day, it’s worth getting a good router. Especially if you are working from home. Home router technology doesn’t move all that fast, but we think the WiFi router you buy is generally a 3-year decision. Get a good quality model.

If you are using your old ADSL router or something else that’s old, you might want to upgrade.

2 – WiFi Speed

Most good WiFi routers have 2 WiFi “bands”. 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. The 2.4Ghz band offers longer range, but slower speeds – usually up to 50Mbps. The 5Ghz band is faster – up to 300Mbps, but you get less range. Best to only use 5Ghz when in the same room as your wifi router.

Pro tip 1: 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.
Pro tip 2: If you are seeing speeds of 20-60Mbps when you do a speedtest, you are most likely on a 2.4Ghz WiFi channel. Try splitting out your 2.4 and 5Ghz WiFi in your router network names (SSIDs) to easily force devices on to the faster WiFi band.

3 – WiFi Range

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:

  • High power base stations
  • WiFi range extenders using existing electrical cabling in the home
  • Mesh Networks
  • Hard Wired Access Points – Ethernet Cables between Wifi access points

High power 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 powerful single unit and avoid the issues that might some from running extenders or mesh networks.

WiFi Range Extenders These 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. 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. Adding a WiFi extender will tend to half the speed of your WiFi network.

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 access point 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, the base stations create multiple connections between each other and automagically decide which is the fastest route through the network. If one of the nodes breaks there is a failsafe to route through the other 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 These 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 Ethernet 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.

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

Most cheap routers tend to start struggling with more than 10 devices. So imagine 5 people with a laptop and a smartphone – there goes your WiFi stability. However high-end access points can handle 40 or more.

5 – 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 often get access to channels home kit doesn’t have – the easiest way to avoid WiFi traffic congestion
  • Ensure you set your WiFi router region to South Africa. Some countries restrict the WiFi channels, South Africa allows access to all WiFi channels, giving you the chance to access the channel with the least, or no congestion.
  • Use a wifi scanner app like iStumbler or WiFiman on Android to see which channels have the least activity and how strong your WiFi signal is
  • 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
  • Big open rooms are best for WiFi, near or next to windows also helps prevent interference
  • Don’t put your WiFi router in a cupboard
  • Make sure you use WPA2 or later 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
  • Ignore the WiFi signal strength icon on your phone or laptop, it will always show a better signal than reality
  • If you do a speedtest.net test on WiFi and you see a very high ping to a Cape Town serve e.g. 10ms or more your WiFi router probably needs to be restarted, or there’s a WiFi problem

6 – 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. All you need to do is power your fibre box (ONT) and your WiFi router. Read more about this in our Fibre during loadshedding guide.

7 – What do you suggest I buy?

Option 1: At the moment (early 2021) we suggest most customers buy an Aircube AC with a DC UPS. If you need better coverage, also buy an extra Aircube ISP (or AC) and connect it with an Ethernet cable to the primary Aircube.

Why?: We like this solution because it’s simple, reliable and relatively low cost. The Aircube routers connect to our network management system – so we can help customers update their wifi network details remotely and we keep the router firmware up to date for you.

Option 2: Get a Unifi USG router and one or more Unifi AP Lite6 access points. Make sure the router and at least one access point is powered by a DC UPS. You’ll need a fairly advanced DC UPS which can provide 48v active POE.

Why?: This solution comes at a higher price point, but works well for bigger homes and small business. You get good IPv6 support, and we can also offer remote wifi network management with router firmware updates.

Please feel free to ask us for more advice.

 


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 out of your home WiFi.