Cables, repeaters, adapters: Ways to make your home Internet faster

The quality of the WLAN network of your router won't dip too much in the same room. Two rooms down, things looks quite different. — Christin Klose/dpa

Never before has your home Internet connection been more important, be it to work remotely during the pandemic or stream movies during a lockdown.

It's all the more annoying when your connection acts up or slows down. Often your WiFi be the source of the problem. Fortunately, there are some solutions.

"The reasons for an unstable network connection can be varied, but often it is due to the distribution of the signal in the rooms," according to router expert Ernst Ahlers.

The distribution of WiFi within a building among smartphones, televisions, and tablets can mean that devices receive significantly less bandwidth than the Internet connection actually provides.

“W-LAN is convenient, but this radio technology is ultimately a crutch. The cable is and will remain the ideal solution," Ahlers says.

Whenever possible, stationary devices should be connected directly to the router using a LAN cable.

Ideally, a wireless router can transmit up to 30 metres. Structural peculiarities can affect the WiFi signal, such as glass panes, aquariums, and walls with wire mesh in them.

Repeaters can help strengthen a WiFi signal. These receive the router's signal and set up a WiFi network of their own to broker the data packets going in both directions.

If it's a simple repeater with only one radio module for both directions, the data throughput is halved.

"If the signal is to be distributed over two floors, it is advisable to expand the network," Ahlers advises. A so-called mesh system can work here — that's a wireless network consisting of at least two components with two or more radio modules.

These components can talk to each other to coordinate which one supplies which end device.

Another alternative is a so-called Powerline adapter. Here the signal is transported via the existing power grid. It can be useful, for example, for devices in basements or attics that are hard to reach by network cable. They'll often also come with LAN connections.

"The weak point here is the power grid, because it is very branched and the signal is accordingly prone to interference," Ahlers says.

For that reason powerline adapters should always be plugged into a wall socket and not attached to an extension with multiple sockets.

In the end, if you want the best possible connection in all rooms you can't avoid using cables. "CAT 5e or CAT 6 cables are ideal as bandwidths of one gigabit and more are possible," Ahlers says. – dpa

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