By Andrew Rasch
Published: Wednesday, November 1, 2023
Whether you use it to work from home, shop in your PJs, or stream the latest episode of your favourite series, the internet has become as ubiquitous as electricity and running water.
Unfortunately, Australia’s internet performance remains poor by world standards, but there are some tricks you can try to boost your home Wi-Fi network and make sure everyone gets their fair share of screen time.
1. Run a speed test
Connect your computer to a modem with an ethernet cable and visit speedtest.net to check the internet speed coming into your home. Check that the actual speed is within 5Mbps of the speed you’re paying for in your NBN internet plan. If you have a non-NBN plan and low speeds, contact your internet service provider (ISP) for advice.
Next, connect your smartphone to the Wi-Fi network and use the Speedtest app or website to check download and upload speeds in different parts of your house. If your Wi-Fi speed is well below the speed of your wired connection, it’s time to do the following.
2. Move your modem
Chances are you’ll have an all-in-one modem with a router to create your home Wi-Fi network. Your Wi-Fi speed will suffer if you’ve banished your modem to the inside of a cupboard or the floor in a corner at one end of your home.
Try to place your modem in the centre of the house, up high and away from walls and other obstructions. Keep it away from appliances like microwave ovens and if it has external antennas, position them vertically to boost your coverage.
3. Do some tinkering
Log in to your modem to see what’s happening behind the scenes. Make sure the firmware is up to date and, if you have a dual-band router, try switching to 5GHz instead of the more common 2.4GHz band. The 5GHz band will generally offer faster speeds and less interference, although it won’t necessarily reach as far as a 2.4GHz signal, so experiment to see which is better at your place.
Make sure your network has a complex, unique password to help prevent internet freeloaders from hacking in and using your bandwidth, which slows the Wi-Fi speed. Check the user guide or online for hints on optimising your modem’s performance, like changing the channel and adjusting the Quality of Service (QoS).
4. Upgrade your hardware
If you’re still using the modem your ISP provided, and have for years, it might be time to invest in a better one. There are plenty of websites, like CNET and PCMag, that review and compare a range of makes and models to help you find the one that suits your needs.
Buy equipment that supports wireless-N technology, which is twice as fast as wireless-G, with better range and stability. You can also try connecting a standalone router to your modem via an ethernet port. These routers often have better antennas and processors and can increase your Wi-Fi speeds.
5. Install a mesh router
The size and configuration of some houses make it hard to get fast and reliable Wi-Fi coverage. In such cases, a mesh Wi-Fi router might serve you best. Mesh Wi-Fi routers have two or three individual nodes, with one connected to your existing router and the other(s) placed elsewhere in the house.
Mesh Wi-Fi routers flood your entire home with Wi-Fi and help extend coverage to dead zones, thanks to the way the nodes work together to route traffic back to your modem. Mesh Wi-Fi routers cost a bit more than range extenders, but they’re generally more effective. They also include apps that help you to set them up and find the best placement points.
6. Consider a better internet plan
If you regularly have several devices connected to the internet at the same time, you might want to contact your ISP to see if they offer faster plans. Bumping up your speed from 50Mbps to 100Mbps will improve your Wi-Fi and should give you many trouble-free hours of surfing, gaming and streaming.
Lastly, consider contacting an electrician or network specialist to assess the wiring setup in your house. Upgrading your wiring or cabling can work wonders for your Wi-Fi speed.
Here’s a list of Wi-Fi lingo but look online and you’ll find plenty more.