With South Africans spending more of their time on the internet to carry out a wide variety of activities, and now even increasingly working from home, they need to give more consideration to the WiFi networks in their home – and rely on advice from their ISP – in order to ensure they benefit from the best and most consistent online experience possible.

Mike Kuczmierczyk, senior product manager: WiFi and SD-WAN at Vox

Many users tend to get confused between the internet and WiFi – using these words interchangeably – and poor or unreliable connectivity often tends to get dismissed as ‘an internet problem’ that might probably be caused by the infrastructure provider or your Internet Service Provider (ISP). However, it is important to note that the internet connection you get from your provider, and your home WiFi network are two different parts of a broader ecosystem that rely on each other to provide the optimal WiFi experience.

While users increasingly prefer WiFi for its convenience (who wants to still be using cables?), user behaviour and requirements are a far cry from even just a few years ago, when you could simply connect the WiFi router you got from your ISP and simply get on with it. In today’s homes, each user likely has multiple mobile devices, while equipment such as newer TVs and gaming consoles crave high bandwidth in order to display content in 4K.

It’s not the same situation in every home though, and WiFi cannot simply be a one-size fits all solution. Rather than simply plugging in the default router and hoping for the best, users should work with their ISP in order to better identify their specific requirements, and then ensure that they get the best home WiFi solution to match their needs. So, what do people need to keep in mind when looking to improve their WiFi experience? Having a resilient home WiFi network comes down to the following:

Connectivity: while dependent on what is available to you in your residential area, the type of connection that you use has a major impact on your WiFi experience. Fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) is the preferred option due to stability, consistency and cost, though wireless options such as Fixed LTE-A and 5G are gaining in popularity. Having more than one type of connection is ideal as it provides you with redundancy should your primary means of connectivity fail. This is recommended for those who are working from home, and need to ensure uptime.

Planning: several factors need to be taken into account to ensure the quality of your home WiFi network, including the size of your home and the materials it is built with, the desired coverage area, the number of devices that need to be connected (adding a high number of devices to your WiFi network without accounting for it can lead to congestion, resulting in limited bandwidth being available to each device), where these devices are located and what their speed requirements are. Considering a home mesh network can help eliminate weak signal spots, enable truly seamless roaming around your house and provide lag-free connectivity for a high number of devices. Using incorrect or outdated equipment can also result in regular WiFi connection problems. It is more efficient and cost-effective to get the design right at the start, rather than spend extra money to fix your network once problems arise.

Installation: this includes ensuring your access points are positioned in the right areas, cabling is added where necessary, and ensuring that your critical network infrastructure makes use of an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) so that your network stays up even during loadshedding. It’s important to note that an incorrect router or access point placement can lead to a poor network (and slower speeds) as signals have to be transmitted through different materials. The biggest culprits of WiFi signal degradation include concrete, drywalling, wood, glass, mirrors and even fish tanks. Also keep in mind that other devices in your home, such as microwaves, TVs, baby monitors and even other Bluetooth devices can interfere with your WiFi signal.

Security and control measures: ignoring this aspect leaves your home WiFi network at risk of being hacked, or just being abused. Your ISP should be able to help you to set up your home network properly, as well as guide you on getting the right security software to protect your network, devices and data.

A home WiFi solution to suit your needs

With an increasing number of South Africans working from home, having stable and secure WiFi access isn’t just a nice-to-have, it is a critical necessity to carrying out their jobs or running their businesses. Rather than just taking an educated guess at matching their requirements with the technicalities of installing a secure, stable and scalable WiFi network at home, they should turn to their ISP for a fully managed WiFi offering if they want the best possible outcome.

WiFi experts, such as the engineers from Vox, can provide you with a home WiFi solution that is suited to your exact needs. They should be able to manage the entire process, from comprehensive scoping to installation by professionals, and use centralised monitoring and management tools to ensure optimised speeds and consistent network coverage throughout your home.

They should even be able to provide you with 24/7 customer support – providing you with worry-free connectivity for all your wireless devices ranging from smartphones to tablets, computers, smart TVs, gaming consoles and even WiFi security cameras. Of course, with even more connected devices coming to the home – think of smart fridges, smart access control systems and even smart switches and plugs that can help you switch on and off lights and appliances from an app – networks will have to handle all of this traffic effectively.

This is where WiFi 6 will make a big difference, thanks to its superior performance when it comes to bandwidth capacity, throughput speeds and even advanced functionality not available in today’s devices. It is still early days though for Wi-Fi 6 in the consumer market, with the technology only starting to appear in devices such as the latest high-end smartphones, and piquing the interest of users. However, we have yet to saturate the full capabilities of WiFi 5, and it will take some time before there is mass adoption of the newer standard. In the meantime, shouldn’t your ISP be able to help you get the best out of your home WiFi network today?