The “Internet of things” applies to our homes — remember a time when the TV didn’t have an Internet connection or when it took hours to connect the modem to a wireless transmission system so you could have cable-free Internet access throughout your place? Things have seemed to become so simple that it’s easy to miss getting the best setup for your home network. So to alleviate this concern, we asked Jeff Smith, Product Developer of BearExtender (a company specializing in long range Wi-Fi technology for computers) to help us out.
What has made home networking so much easier today than before?
Jeff Smith: Today, Wi-Fi coverage is much better than in the past, as there are so many home networking devices — you can easily connect them to an existing Wi-Fi network rather than having to run various proprietary cables through the house. The existence of Wi-Fi boosters also helps easily extend Wi-Fi coverage.
Is there a simple way to set up a home network?
Jeff Smith: While there is no specific series of steps people should follow to have a good home network, typically people will get a Wi-Fi router from their carrier, such as Verizon or Xfinity, and they may find they get poor reception/coverage in some areas of their house.
Has mobile devices influenced the makers of home networking devices?
Jeff Smith: Yes, absolutely. With the proliferation of tablets and cell phones in the last five years there has been much greater demand for access to Wi-Fi networks particularly, and the industry has responded by producing longer range Wi-Fi routers and network extenders as well as newer standards that provide users with faster speed.
Wireless networks have evolved to increase their speeds. What’s the advantage of the new “AC” speed?
Jeff Smith: 802.11ac offers network transfer speeds up to three times that of 802.11n, but another essential aspect is that it can support more users at once with better bandwidth management technology. So you can get better throughput even when a family member or roommate is streaming video on their computer at the same time.
But if not all your devices use “AC”, does that mean you don’t get its speed?
Jeff Smith: Yes, that’s correct. To take advantage of the AC standard both the router and connecting device must be 802.11ac standard. If the router is N and the device is 802.11ac, the device can still connect because 802.11ac devices are backward compatible with N routers, but the connectivity will be the same as with an 802.11n device.
So what can you do to maximize your wireless connection’s speed?
Jeff Smith: It is a good idea to have all devices on the network be 802.11ac. However, because AC is dual band, you can create a 2.4 Ghz signal for your older 802.11n devices and use the 5 GHz connection just for your 802.11ac devices.
What about those people who want to extend their home network?
Jeff Smith: The best option would be the use of a wireless repeater. This can help cover dead-spots inside a home.
Are they hard to set up?
Jeff Smith: Repeaters are generally pretty easy to set up. You configure them on a computer to connect to your home network, and then plug them in somewhere in between where your router is and the dead-spot is. In theory this takes the signal and rebroadcasts it to the dead-spot.
And finally, what about extending a network outside to balconies and backyards?
Jeff Smith: For extension in outdoor areas, using a repeater may not be possible if there is no AC power outlet nearby. Repeaters are also mostly for in-home use and cannot cover very long distances.
This is a long range Wi-Fi receiver with an integrated directional antenna that connects back to the computer using a 16 foot USB cable. This allows you to put the BearExtender Outdoor device higher off the ground in an open outdoor area where it can pick up the signal better. These kinds of products are also useful on RVs or boats to help you pick up Wi-Fi at a campground or Marina.