Home Wi-Fi Intermittance - Just accept it? Increased Holiday Traffic?

I feel like my situation is likely typical:

  • old house with thick walls, wireless router on finished-attic 3rd floor; a network extender on the 1st floor. Typically get 2 - 3 bars of signal strength.

  • a couple of months ago, we had the router replaced with Verizon FiOS’ most recent model. While it was done, I had the service guy walk through the wi-fi to ensure it was set up properly, the extender was linked properly. He made a couple of minor tweaks - found an old extender that had been set up but wasn’t in use and disabled it - and declard us Good to Go.

  • For the most part, connecticivity has been good.

  • Recently, it has become intermittant. We’ll be watching Amazon Prime or Netflix and it seizes up and reloads for a few seconds regularly.

So - is this a reflection of increased holiday traffic? More folks at home bingeing?

Or is this perhaps a local phenomenon, i.e., some weather or other factor rendering our internal wi-fi more sketchy. Either way, something outside my network that I can’t affect?

Or are there things I should be upgrading? Are there more powerful routers or extenders? The sense I got from the FiOS guy was that I had the latest and they were functioning fine with good signal.

As a final note: I try to discuss this with my family, who are frustrated when this happens. It seems to me that Home Wireless Networks are a far more less-exact science than most folks realize. So many factors, many out of our control locally, affect things. And they expect that, once set up, it will run clean. The concept of intermittant difficulties that can come and go doesn’t seem to make sense.

Am I thinking about Wireless Networks correctly?

Thanks in advance for any insight!

Have you moved something - particularly something metal - to sit between the router and the rest of the house and particularly the extender? Do you have more wireless devices?

You can test your basic connection by connecting to the router with a wired connection and doing a speed test. You can similarly test the wireless connection by putting a device in line of sight.

I would suggest redoing your home network by having a wireless repeater - not extender - on each floor. These will require wired connections to the wireless router. A repeater will ensure maximum signal strength.

You should also look at implementing Quality of Service restrictions on your router so that Amazon & Netflix do not get throttled by someone watching videos on Youtube.

Thank you for this thinking and suggestions! Here’s what I have so far:

No, nothing I can see or am aware of.

Yes, it appears when devices are closer to the router, everyting is find speed-wise.

This sounds interesting. What is the difference between a Repeater and Extender? With some quick searching, I see articles that say the terms are used interchangeably, but that there are different ways to increase range.

If that is so, is there specific functionality I should look for in a Repeater? You discuss it like it is wired to the router, but the articles I see discuss wireless Repeaters as well as wireless Extenders. One article even shows how to transform an old Router into a Repeater - is that worth considering, or, by definition, are you requiring that the Repeater be wired to the router?

ETA - article on turning an old router into a Repeater: http://lifehacker.com/how-to-extend-your-wi-fi-network-with-an-old-router-915783308

Additional ETA: what if I took my Netgear WP2500 Extender and connected it to my router with a physical ethernet cable? Would that make it function as a Repeater like you are calling for?

Interesting as well! I had not heard of this, but of course it makes sense. Once I am sure I have my network set up correctly, this feels like a smart next step. Is there a standard set of Settings one should typically consider doing when updating QoS settings?

Thank you!!

It’s a good idea to have at least one wired connection so you can isolate the problem. It could well be increased Internet traffic on your local node OR wireless interference on a common channel. Funnily enough, my network speed fell to about 2/3 of normal last night, fairly suddenly, and stayed there quite consistently. I thought it might be an issue with the wireless network so the first thing I did was a speed test from a computer with a wired connection, and it was indeed the local Internet service not the wireless. It’s back up to normal this morning and my best guess is that it may have been a lot of people streaming and saturating the local broadband cable segment. It’s very helpful to be able to isolate wireless LAN issues from wider Internet issues.

I don’t particularly like wireless routers integrated with broadband modems because they usually don’t give you a lot of wireless configuration flexibility, but if you can establish it’s a wireless issue you might (if you can) try to force the use of a different channel. Some routers can even scan all the channels and report which are in use and their signal strength so you can pick one that doesn’t compete with your neighbors.

Yes, it can get a bit confusing. Basically, an extender will take the existing wireless signal and rebroadcast it, then transmit back, so you’re limited by the strength of the wireless signal between the two points; a repeater will broadcast - repeat - the same SSID on its own wireless network and all data is sent back to the main router over the wired link.

I’m not familiar with the device.

It’s highly individual. For instance I have an 80 Mb/s internet link and two wifi networks - one for me, one for visitors. The visitor network is capped at 20 Mb/s, and each device on that network is capped at 10 Mb/s. I could further cap it by TCPIP port but do not. This allows my niece and nephew to visit and both watch Youtube et al at the same time without affecting the other, and not overly affect any work I’m doing or Amazon FireTV.

Okay, again, thanks. So can a wireless Repeater be okay? That link I shared discussed adapting a router to be a wireless “repeater.”

Hmm, so for right now, I want to explore both finding my old router and seeing if that article can be used to turn it into a wireless Repeater, and also try a wired connection with my current Extender.

Ah, the holidays.

I double down on the channel interference being the first thing to look at. Way too many people use the default channel on WiFi routers and if you just change to one several steps higher you might get something better.

Using software compatible with your WiFi receiver to check on what else is out there can give you specific answers. Be sure to turn off your own router first to you can more easily see what else is sharing the channel.