WiFi weak spots? Boost your home networking

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

Back at the dawn of time... well, okay not that long ago, but it feels it sometimes. Back when the internet was just a whisper on the horizon, you would have hooked your computer up to the internet via a modem. Things change rapidly in the world of technology and the days of having a single computer connected to the outside world are over.

Think about all the things that can use your home network, either by plugging in directly using an ethernet cable, or wirelessly using a WiFi signal. PCs and laptops are obvious choices, but so too are smartphones and tablets. Then we must not forget WiFi enabled printers and scanners, games consoles, internet radios... there is even a WiFi enabled doorbell system coming on the market!

With all of these modern conveniences, you may have noticed problems with your home network. Perhaps your WiFi signal strength doesn’t reach to all parts of the house, so you can’t listen to that internet radio, or surf the internet on your tablet while in bed. Maybe your smart TV only has an ethernet port and no WiFi, but your broadband router/gateway is in another room.

There are ways round these problems.

If you don’t mind running cabling round the house, then you can buy a network hub. All it needs is an ethernet connection and a dedicated power source to work. Most simply add additional network ports and do not produce their own WiFi signal.

Powerline adapters convert your mains electricity circuit into a network connection. You need two or more devices for it to work, with one plugged into your router with an ethernet cable. Once they are synchronised, you can plug in your other devices around the house. Some powerline adapters also have their own WiFi capabilities. The only downsides are that they only work if on the same mains circuit and the capacity of the connection is shared, so the more you have plugged in, the slower it will be.

WiFi range extenders link up to an existing WiFi signal and then blast out their own. This can circumvent issues with poor signal strength around the house, although it does mean you will have more than one signal. You will need to make sure your device is configured to connect to both signals to benefit. The downside with this method, is that you may sometimes find yourself connected to the weaker of the two signals.

Lastly, a WiFi repeater broadcasts the same signal as your router. Some routers can be configured as repeaters, but you can also buy WiFi access points which can do the same job. The only limitation is that the repeater needs to be connected to your home network using an ethernet cable.

Alan Stainer