Expert interview: How to deal with Wi-Fi issues working from home
by Marika Henriksson
The global pandemic turned life upside down for each and every one of us. For many, working and studying from home has become the norm, which makes accessibility, speed, and quality of Wi-Fi more important in our everyday life than ever before. So, what were the challenges home Wi-Fi users faced when all family members were using the Internet all at once? And what can we do about them? We asked Kajsa Arvidsson, CCO at IOPSYS and Fredik Blümer, CFO at IOPSYS.
In which ways are Wi-Fi-related issues affecting us more now than before the pandemic?
– When we were all home at the same time due to corona restrictions, more users simultaneously needed to share the uplink to send data, for video conference calls or online classes, says Kajsa Arvidsson. Traditionally, we’ve been more concerned with the downlink to receive data. But patterns for data traffic are now changing. As work and education for many families have moved into the home space, the issues of using old technology for Wi-Fi, such as outdated gateways, have become more and more apparent. Old equipment cannot handle the intense use of uplink for multiple users that is now needed. Older gateways were not built for this type of co-existence and only allow specific time slots for up and downlink traffic. Newer technologies allow for more efficient simultaneous use of traffic on multiple devices.
– Another problem that is becoming increasingly noticeable is low bandwidth due to old equipment, adds Fredrik Blümer. As more users are handling multiple devices simultaneously, the quality of Wi-Fi is affected. The way you notice these problems is usually when you try to use different types of video or audio streaming services – the feed is frequently interrupted or buffering. Before the pandemic, one way of saving that all important video conference call with a customer or colleagues, was to ask the kids to stop playing an online video game or to stop streaming a movie. But now when we are competing for bandwidth it is usually because someone else is in an equally important video conference or an interactive online class. Asking the other family members to log off is simply no longer an option.
Are there other Wi-Fi issues that we were having before the pandemic that are now becoming more noticeable?
– Placement is something that many don’t think about but that can have major effects on the Wi-Fi quality, Kajsa continues. We tend to place the gateway close to the fiber socket – usually somewhere around the front door, or in the basement. Some also want to hide it from view, so if possible, they put it inside a cabinet or behind some furniture. By doing so, we block the signal from reaching farther into the house. When more users are competing for those “muffled” signals, the lower quality of Wi-Fi becomes increasingly noticeable. Placing the gateway on a wall or on a shelf, and farther into the home, betters the conditions for the gateway to actually do its job.
– Also, adds Fredrik, placement is not only a question of where we keep our Wi-Fi equipment – it’s also a matter of where the users are located. Now that more users simultaneously needed to work or study online from home, they most likely tried to do so from the different corners of the house, as to not disturb or be disturbed. These are usually also the places where coverage is bad; the far ends of the house where the Wi-Fi signals can’t reach.
How do we meet these challenges?
– Aside from upgrading gateways to next generation, says Fredrik, mesh is a great way to deal with several of the issues that we’ve discussed. With mesh, it matters less where the gateway is placed. By strategically placing the mesh nodes around the house, “dead zones” are efficiently eliminated. What matters here is that the mesh nodes can hear each other’s signals well. So, don’t put them where you need coverage, but where they form a good network and that will give you full coverage. Not only can mesh sort out the coverage problem, but it also creates a self-optimizing network, meaning that it doesn’t matter if someone uses an old device, for example. It won’t affect the other users’ Wi-Fi experience, because network resources are distributed intelligently. This also goes for the use and distribution of uplink which is also used in a smarter way inside a mesh network. It can also block out interference from other networks or units that send out radio waves. A smart solution for a small investment, which literally requires no knowledge to install.
– A lot of these issues derive from the fact that we focus on the wrong thing when looking for solutions for our Internet problems, Kajsa concludes. Many people are subscribing to an Internet plan with more capacity than they can make use of. Still, they experience problems with capacity and coverage. Metaphorically speaking, they are trying to increase the waterflow from the main water pipe (the Internet connection), while they should be increasing the flow from the tap (the gateway).
Are you familiar with the issues mentioned in this blog post? Or did it raise more questions than answers? Feel free to contact us with any questions or if you would just like to know more about IOPSYS!