Purchasing Internet service often brings up questions about equipment. Should you rent or buy? How much will it cost? Where will this equipment come from? And what should you get? In today’s world, shopping for anything can be overwhelming with choices. But that doesn’t have to be the case regarding your Internet router.
Mind your router
Whether you’re working, gaming, streaming, or video chatting, you’ll need a router to handle everything. Think of it as a turnstile that funnels your Internet connection to the devices you want to use. You may be working remotely in your office while your son is streaming a movie, your daughter is gaming, and your husband is cooking on his Wi-Fi-enabled smart grill. All your lightbulbs, security devices, and various gadgets make your house a well-connected smart home. But for all those things to operate efficiently, you have to have a strong Wi-Fi signal supported by a router that can keep up.
Your Internet provider will often allow you to rent a router or even furnish one free of charge. Ensuring the router will work for your needs is up to you. If you’re doing things that require a good deal of speed — lots of online games or movie nights — you’ll need a router that you can wire devices into directly, so make sure yours has multiple Ethernet ports.
Also, determine the Wi-Fi standards your router delivers. Better standards mean faster performance. The current, most advanced Wi-Fi standard is Wi-Fi 6. Look for this when selecting a router. Store-bought routers may work, but they’re often not supported by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and can lead to unnecessary hoops to jump through when technical issues arise. If you rent or buy a router from your ISP, the provider can help you troubleshoot and get you connected quickly.
The extender route
Next, think about where your online activities take place. For instance, if you work in a room on the other side of the house from your router, you’ll need to ensure you can get strong wireless service there. Microwaves, stucco or brick walls, baby monitors, and many other items may interfere with your Wi-Fi signal. Proper router placement and knowing how you use the Internet is essential to a satisfactory online experience. Your ISP should recommend where to place the router during your installation visit. They can also tell you if an extender is recommended for optimal Internet performance.
Wi-Fi extenders are easy to use because they work with your existing router. You won’t typically see them in your Internet plan, so you’d need to rent or purchase one, but you can usually do that for less than $100.
Extenders can slow your Internet, and with some models, expect to visit a web page to download updates or adjust settings.
The mesh route
If the extender route seems too complicated, consider replacing it with a mesh system. A mesh system relies on access points around your home to forward traffic across your network no matter where you are.
Although mesh systems can work alone, they may also work in tandem with a router. Either way, they use the same network name. They also function more efficiently than extenders in relaying network trafficking and are typically better at maintaining speed. ISPs may offer one or more mesh units to achieve Wi-Fi coverage across your home and charge a nominal monthly rental fee (less than $10) per additional unit beyond a certain number.
Like your router, you’ll need to ensure mesh units can support your online activities. If you want to wire in devices, look for WAN ports, and ensure units are Wi-Fi 6-compatible.
The most notable difference between an extender and a mesh is that often the extender creates a different network name and the connection from router to extender may not be smooth and consistent. Imagine walking between parts of your house and losing your Internet connection. When this happens, you have to disconnect from your Wi-Fi and reconnect.
Your Internet experience is only as good as the equipment that supports it. Now that you have a little know-how, you can confidently move forward with Internet equipment decisions. If you have questions, visit us online or call 641-357-2111.