How to choose a Wi-Fi router

Good Wi-Fi connectivity in every corner of the home has become a necessity for the growing number of connected devices and increasing use of streaming services like Netflix and Spotify.

When choosing a Wi-Fi router, you need to consider a number of things. How big is my home? Does my Wi-Fi need to cover upstairs and downstairs? Are my walls thick or can Wi-Fi signals penetrate them easily? How many devices are going to be connected?

A basic router might be fine to connect a few devices in one room but, for more than that, you’re likely to want a router with better performance.

Here are some of the things to consider.

Design speed

Design speed indicates the theoretical maximum speed of the router. For instance, 2100 means 2,100 Mb/s (megabits per second) and 3000 means 3,000 Mb/s. The bigger the number, the faster your Wi-Fi connection. Remember, though: the broadband connection into your home also affects your Internet speed.

Frequencies

Today’s Wi-Fi routers have at least two radio bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz and your home devices—smartphones, smart TVs, computers—connect to the router on one of these frequencies. However, many household appliances, such as microwave ovens, Bluetooth devices and wireless phones, also radiate signals in the 2.4 GHz band. This can cause interference with your other devices. So it’s important to be able to switch to the less crowded 5 GHz band which has much less interference. And when you have a busy network—streaming videos, online gaming, using cloud storage—a dual-band router is vital.

Wireless protocol

Wireless protocol is a standard that defines how data is sent and received. Older wireless networks use 802.11bgn, while most current Wi-Fi networks use 802.11ac protocols. Protocols define things like speed and range and can also have differences in things like traffic management and power consumption. Generally, the newer the protocol, the better the performance. For example, 802.11ac enables speeds up to 5,400 Mb/s.

Security

Strong security is crucial for preventing unauthorized access to your network. Like with wireless protocols, the newer the security protocol, the better. Older routers might still use Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), but this is highly unsecure. This been superseded by Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). Currently, WPA2 is the most commonly used, while the latest wireless protocol 802.11ax (also known as Wi-Fi 6) will use WPA3.

Wi-Fi mesh network

A Wi-Fi mesh network consists of two or more Wi-Fi access points—for example, a router and an extender—that create one seamless Wi-Fi network. The objective is to have perfect broadband throughout your home, from corner-to-corner. The access points in a mesh network need to communicate with each other to ensure they work in unison, for example, all using the same radio channel.  

Coverage

Mesh systems greatly extend your Wi-Fi coverage. As an example, a single Nokia Beacon 3 can cover up to 185 m2 (2,000 sq.ft), while a mesh network with four Nokia Beacon 3 units can cover up to 740 m2 (8000 sq.ft).

Intelligent switching

We know that most Wi-Fi routers now have at least two frequency bands: 2.5 GHz and 5 GHz. Both bands also have multiple channels within them. There are typically 11 to 13 channels in the 2.5 GHz band, though it’s important to note that these channels overlap each other. The best performance in 2.4GHz can usually be fund on channels 1, 6 or 11/13. 5 GHz has a lot more channels and there is a lot less interference.

Nokia Wi-Fi mesh systems have an intelligent feature that detects both congestion and interference. It then automatically switches between the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands and even between channels to always give you the best connection.

Seamless roaming

One of the key benefits of a mesh system is that the various access points create one huge Wi-Fi network with the same SSID/password across the whole home. That means, as you move through your home while on a call or streaming a video, you will switch automatically between access points without losing your connection or even noticing a change. This is called seamless roaming. In contrast, less sophisticated Wi-Fi extenders and repeaters create separate networks with a different login and password, making it impossible to roam seamlessly.

Installation

With mesh devices, you don’t need to use cables to extend your network. You can simply use Wi-Fi for the interconnection (known as the backhaul) between your different access points.

With Nokia WiFi, our Beacons from a multi-pack are pre-paired. That means that after you’ve installed the first Beacon, all the others connect to each other automatically. You just need to switch them on.

 

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