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How strong is your Wi-Fi signal? Here at Google, we care about these things. Especially in my team, where we engineer the technology that helps you connect to the Internet. We know how frustrating it is when your Wi-Fi doesn’t work like you need it to.

An understanding of how Wi-Fi works can help you solve your Wi-Fi woes. For example, did you know that a router on a shelf works twice as well as a router in a closet? Choosing where to place your router can be just as important as choosing what router to buy. To get the best Wi-Fi signal, you should place your router in an open space at eye level.

Wi-Fi strength affects Wi-Fi speed

Imagine you just unpacked that shiny new Wi-Fi router you’d been waiting for. With the spectacular reviews you saw on Amazon and Best Buy, dead spots should be a thing of the past. Yet after it’s all set up, you walk around the house and find that in the rooms you’re in the most— your living room, bedroom, and perhaps out in the backyard—the Wi-Fi signal is still poor and perhaps even zero. Forget about going upstairs. So now you’re out $300 or more and your Wi- Fi problem still isn’t solved!  What’s going on? Let’s explore...

Wi-Fi is a technology that delivers network connectivity to mobile devices using radio waves. A router delivers Wi-Fi to users and manages the network traffic. If the radio signal is strong, you can experience great network connectivity. However, think of your favorite radio station. You’re not always in range of its signal, right? First of all, the farther away the connecting device is from the router, the weaker the signal strength will be and the slower the network speed becomes. Also, obstacles such as walls, fish tanks with water, or metal objects like appliances can cause a Wi-Fi signal to weaken even faster.

Unfortunately, we can’t just increase the radio strength at the router. Regulatory authorities limit the legal radio strength of routers to ensure that home Wi-Fi networks don’t interfere with government radio services (e.g. weather radars), and to minimize interference between Wi-Fi networks. Besides, even if the router signal strength were increased and mobile devices could hear the router, the communication wouldn’t necessarily work both ways. Since mobile devices run on batteries, the signal they can put out is limited. Cranking up the phone’s radio power would rapidly reduce battery life. So we need a better solution.

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What comes between you and your router?

Luckily, there are steps you can take to provide good Wi-Fi signal strength throughout your home. Ideally, you should put your router where you spend the most time in the house. This would guarantee great signal strength, overcome the impact of any interfering radio signals, and reduce the impact of obstacles like walls, since the router is where the users are. That’s not usually where routers are placed, though.

People are often forced to install their Wi-Fi routers where the Internet connection comes into their houses rather than where they actually need the signal. The Internet service provider will typically drill into a side wall of the house and then place the cable or DSL modem (or a device that functions as a combined modem and wireless router) there. Since most people plug their router into their Internet modem, the highest concentration of Wi-Fi is often in some room to the side of the house that’s rarely used. Meanwhile, on the other side of the house, the Wi-Fi signal is massively reduced. Even a few walls in between the router and the user can make the Wi-Fi signal completely unusable.

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Keep your Wi-Fi close, and your router closer

In newer homes, a wired connection is usually available where the users are (i.e. the living room or kitchen areas), but there’s another problem. You can put the router where you hang out, but would you? These things—with their tangle of wires, grotesque antennas, and jarring, blinking lights—look simply horrendous! There goes the ambiance of the kitchen and living room. Even in the ‘computer room’ where the Wi-Fi is out of sight, routers are often such an eyesore that they end up being relegated to a closet or beneath a desk. Out of sight, out of mind. But putting the router out of sight, even within the same room, can reduce its signal by as much as 50%. What a waste of perfectly good Wi-Fi!

So what can you do to ensure a good and fast connection?

  1. Make sure the signal is strong where you actually use Wi-Fi. OnHub has a feature in the mobile app that performs a Network Check for you, to make sure that your signal is strong.
  2. Place your router as close to the users as possible so it can hear their mobile devices, which are way lower powered than the router.
  3. Don’t hide your router. Put it front and center! Placing the router in plain sight can boost its signal by 2x compared to hiding the router under a shelf.

Wi-Fi problems require innovative solutions

Circling back to where we started: why did that swanky new router of yours fall short? To be blunt, this is a case of Marketing vs. Reality. Typical router vendors want to charge you more, so they include features that cost more yet don’t solve your Wi-Fi problems. Features such as 4x4 data streams, MU-MIMO, 160 MHz channels, and 1024QAM, while costly to produce, aren’t compatible with the majority of today’s devices. Paying for unneeded technologies simply doesn’t make sense.

Google’s innovative approach solves the Wi-Fi problems real users face. OnHub’s hardware is aesthetically designed to encourage placement in plain sight. Up to thirteen antennas provide strong signals along multiple axes to ensure every device is reached and heard. Google’s cloud processing technologies constantly analyze Wi-Fi network health and optimize it as the environment changes. Regular software updates ensure the utmost network security and continuously upgrade the network with the latest features.

We will have a lot more to say about this, so please do stay tuned. Until then, here’s to great Wi-Fi!

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