Improving your wifi experience

Published: 19 February 2024

The internet plays an important part in our lives. We rely on it to communicate, work, learn and have fun. Most of us use wifi to connect devices such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets to our home broadband internet connection without wires. This makes it important that our wifi meets our needs. Here we set out ways you can improve your wifi.

But first, there is an important question you should ask:

Do you need better broadband?

There are many ways to improve your home wifi but no matter how good it is, your wifi connection will never outperform your broadband service. If your wireless connection is slow or you have problems when many people connect at the same time, it could be your broadband service that’s the problem. Upgrading to a faster broadband service might fix this.

What can I do to improve my wifi?

Move your router

Where your router is placed can affect your wifi. Wifi signals weaken as they pass through objects and some materials block the signal more than others. For example, it is usually more difficult to get wifi throughout a house with brick internal walls than one with hollow walls. Water, metal and glass also block the signal, so it’s better to place your router away from objects like radiators and fish tanks.

Routers send wifi in all directions, so placing the router centrally in the home and off the floor (for example, on a shelf) will mean the wifi signal is not lost by being sent outside or into the ground. If your router has more than one aerial, point them in different directions (for example vertically and horizontally) to maximise coverage.

Some electrical devices can interfere with the router’s signal, so place your router away from other electrical equipment, such as microwave ovens, baby monitors, fairy lights and cordless phones.

Upgrade your router to a newer model

If you have an older model of router, or if you have frequent disconnections, you could benefit from upgrading your router. The latest routers can often support a higher number of connected devices and offer better coverage and speeds than older models.

Speak to your broadband provider – they might be able to send you a newer router. Another option is to buy a router that isn’t provided by your broadband provider. These can provide better wifi but can be tricky to set up and your broadband provider may not be able to help you if a problem occurs.

Use a mesh network

Mesh networks connect to your existing router and create their own wifi network by connecting boxes that are placed around the home. Mesh systems improve wifi signal strength and coverage without reducing the performance of the broadband connection. They can be quite expensive with starter packs ranging from £60 to over £200 and larger homes may require more mesh units for full coverage.

What should I look for when choosing a router or mesh network?

There are several things you might want to think about when choosing a router or broadband service.

  • Connection speed: How fast can the router transmit data to your devices?
  • Coverage: Does your broadband provider offer a whole-home coverage service?
  • Number of connected devices: Newer routers can connect a higher number of devices before there is a noticeable drop in wifi performance.
  • Optimisation: Does the router automatically change its settings to provide the best connection?
  • Security: Does the router/broadband offer security features like anti-virus and parental controls?

There are different generations of wifi technology, for example wifi 4, wifi 5 and wifi 6. Those with higher numbers are more advanced and can provide a faster data connection. These generations of wifi can also be identified by the letters after the “IEEE 802.11” wifi code (for example, ‘n’, ‘ac’ or ‘ax’) and devices can also be described using these letters. Wifi operates in different radio bands – lower frequencies provide better coverage, but at the expense of lower speeds.

Wifi standard Radio band Typical maximum speed
Wifi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax) 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Ultrafast (600 Mbps+)
Wifi 5 (IEEE 802.11ac) 5 GHz Superfast (200 Mbps)
Wifi 4 (IEEE 802.11n) 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Fast (100 Mbps)
Wifi 3 (IEEE 802.11g) 2.4 GHz Basic (20 Mbps)

Other ways to boost your wifi

  • Wifi boosters, extenders and repeaters: These amplify your wifi signal. Putting them where the existing signal is weak can extend coverage but, unlike mesh systems, they can affect your data speeds and how responsive your connection feels. Make sure you buy adapters with the ‘CE’ mark.
  • Powerline: Powerline technology uses your home’s electrical wiring to transmit data around the house. Adapters are plugged into electrical sockets, one of which is connected to the router with an Ethernet cable and the other to the devices being used either with a cable or wifi. Powerline is inexpensive (starting at around £20) but how well it works depends on your electrical wiring. Again, you should only buy Powerline adapters that carry the ‘CE’ mark.
  • Optimise your router settings: Many routers have features that automatically optimise wifi performance, for example by choosing the least congested channel. Some of these features can be configured manually if you have the technical knowledge.
  • Upgrade older client devices: Phones, tablets and laptops that only support older wifi technologies will not take benefit from the better performance features provided by the latest ones, such as wifi 6.
  • Reduce the number of devices connected to your wifi network: Your bandwidth is shared between devices, so reducing the number of devices in your network will improve data rates for the remaining devices.

Can you use a cable?

Ethernet cables often provide a better internet connection than wifi. If your device has an Ethernet socket and you don’t need to move it around the house too much, using a cable may improve the connection. Make sure you use one that can support the speed of your broadband, or performance may be limited.

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