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Wireless Quick Reference Guide

Wireless Computing Networks

The most immediate advantage of wireless routers is access to multiple devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones without having to be hard wired to a modem or a router. Wireless access enables you to use your devices anywhere in your home. This is all done through a wireless router installed in a central location in a home or office.

Typical Range of Wireless

A general rule of thumb in home networking says that 802. 11b/g routers support a range of up to 150 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoors. 802.11n devices typically have twice the range of 802.11b/g devices. 802.11ac should have the same or better range than 802.11n. The 5GHz band used with 802.11ac doesn’t have quite the same range as 2.4GHz (802.11b/g). Although the 802.11ac standard is backwards compatible with all 802.11n/g clients, 802.11ac devices will operate exclusively on the 5 GHz frequency only

All of these rough estimates fall on the high end of the range. Obstructions in the home such as brick walls, metal frames or siding can greatly reduce the range of the wireless router by 25% or more.

Multiple Users

By using a wireless router, your home can support numerous devices capable of wireless access simultaneously and without the need to run Ethernet wires throughout your home. Wireless enabled devices, including MP3 players, tablets and video game systems can all enjoy the benefits of accessing the Internet without a cable connected to an outlet. Some newer Smart TVs can also utilize a wireless Internet connection to stream movies, stream music, play games and even update their internal software.

Bandwidth Usage

Although wireless access can increase the amount of devices connected to your network at any given time, it can increase your monthly bandwidth usage. Bandwidth usage refers to the amount of data traffic being sent from and received by your home network. There may also be “utilization overage” charges if usage is exceeded over a given period of time.

Security

Though wireless routers increase where you can extend wireless service within your home, the signal from your wireless router may extend beyond your home in some cases. Wireless routers give users the ability to set a network password to protect others from using or accessing the network in the home or office. Failure to utilize this feature leaves the network open to others to use the network and the Internet connection is open, unprotected, to anyone within range of your broadcast antenna. Not setting a network password could also result in slower speeds on your home network due to unauthorized users accessing your home network.

Slower speeds than traditional wired connections

Related to bandwidth, the speeds of wireless devices have been found to be slower than wired connections that are on the same network. Your wireless router’s positioning can greatly affect your coverage area and the strength of your signal due to placement and interference. Follow these quick tips to position your router for the best signal:

  • Try to place the router as close to the middle of your home as possible. If you place the router in a room off to the side of your house, you won’t get as strong a signal on the other side of your house.
  • If your router has an external antenna(s) position the antenna’s vertically, so that the antenna is standing straight up. Many antennas can be adjusted and lie horizontally, but standing straight up is generally the ideal position.
  • Elevate your router away from floors. You’ll get better reception if the router is on a desk, not on the floor.

Other factors affecting wireless connectivity:

  • Frequency interferences: If your router is near any other appliances that emit wireless signals on the same 2.4 GHz frequency (i.e. microwave ovens, baby monitors, home automation equipment, cordless telephones, etc.) it may cause a disruption in your connection, you may even have the wireless network cut out when the microwave or cordless phone is in use.
  • Physical obstructions: Do not place your router against physical obstructions such as walls, large metal objects or even place it in a desk drawer.
  • Check your computer for viruses, spyware or a full hard drive: Your Internet connection will be impacted greatly by viruses, spyware, or a physical hard drive that’s reached its full capacity.
  • Out of date wireless drivers: For best performance, make sure your wireless adapter device driver is up to date. An out of date driver, a missing driver, or a generic driver may affect throughput if it inadvertently applies the wrong configuration settings to the wireless adapter.

Wireless Throughput

Throughput is the speed at which a router can transfer data. The transfer speed of your wireless connection is dependent on the wireless standard it uses. The most common standards used are 802.11g and 802.11n (also known as "wireless G" and "wireless N", respectively). Wireless N is faster than wireless G, though routers that support wireless N are also more expensive than the G routers. The newest technology is wireless AC and can achieve speeds up to 1.3 Gigabit per second. Most new devices, like smartphones, tablets and laptops, support the faster wireless N and AC technology.

Your router isn't the only thing that determines wireless speed: you also need the correct kind of wireless card in your computer. If you have an older laptop, it might have an older wireless G card inside, meaning it can't take advantage of the faster N or AC speeds. However, running both N and G devices on the same network can lower overall speeds across the network, even between a wireless N router and wireless N computer.

Generally speaking, a device can typically achieve 60% of its specified throughput rate. So, an 802.11n wireless adapter that can potentially achieve a maximum throughput of 300 Mbps is more likely to achieve an actual throughput of 130 Mbps (or less due to interference/placement).