Beamforming and band steering can get your WiFi network back on track
If your old wireless router is struggling to satisfy all your new wireless gadgets then tricks like beamforming and band steering can come to your rescue.
Flaky home WiFi isn’t just frustrating, it can also become expensive if it’s forcing you to switch your smartphone across to expensive 3G/4G mobile broadband. Rather than just making do, there are a few tricks for improving your WiFi signal such as moving your WiFi router up higher and away from other electrical equipment, especially wireless gear.
Eventually you might decide it’s time to upgrade to a new WiFi router, but the spec sheet can make for daunting reading. Your eyes might glaze over but all that jargon is pretty important if you’re looking to deal with flaky wireless performance – as there’s more to WiFi performance than just speed.
These days 802.11ac is the fastest home WiFi standard. Even if none of your current wireless gadgets support it, their successors probably will so opting for 802.11ac is a sensible choice as it means you’re ready for the future.
Many new wireless routers also support MU-MIMO, which bounces signals around obstacles in your home to help deal with blackspots. It also creates an express lane on your wireless network to ensure that your slower WiFi devices don’t impede the faster devices.
Along with MU-MIMO support, also look for a WiFi router that supports beamforming. This lets your WiFi router focus your network on compatible devices which are struggling to make a strong connection. It might not make much of a difference in a small home, but beamforming really makes itself felt in a large home, especially a multi-story house. Beamforming can temporarily bend the network towards wireless devices at the far end of the house to improve their signal strength.
When you’re shopping for wireless routers also look for a dual or tri-band wireless router which is capable of running both a 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks. The 5GHz band offers faster speeds and is less susceptible to wireless interference, while 2.4GHz networks reach further and are better at punching through solid objects like walls.
Often there’s the option to give your 2.4 and 5GHz networks different names, which helps to segregate your devices so the slow gadgets don’t hamper the fast ones, but this can work against you if your wireless router supports band steering.
With band steering enabled, your 2.4 and 5GHz networks use the same SSID name and password. All your devices connect to this network and your wireless router decides which band to put them on in order to get the best performance.
For example when you’re close to your wireless router your smartphone will use the faster 5GHz band but, when you’re down the other end of the house where 5GHz struggles to reach, your smartphone will seamlessly switch to 2.4GHz. Once the 5GHz signal improves your smartphone will automatically switch back again.
The new generation of wireless routers are working harder than ever to direct WiFi traffic around your home, so it’s worth doing your research before you upgrade.