Slow Wi-Fi is exasperating. Here’s what’s slowing you down to snail’s pace—and what you can do about it.
With nearly 90 percent of K–12 schools allowing students and staff to use personal devices on their networks, BYOD offers tremendous learning and cost-saving opportunities.
But it also means a lot of people are vying to get—and stay—connected to your Wi-Fi network. And that may be an exercise in frustration.
Here are six possible culprits for slow Wi-Fi and what you can do to remedy the sluggishness.
1. Overloaded Access Points
Say you have four classrooms, each with 25 students. Throughout the day, everyone’s trying to connect to a single access point in the hallway—so you’ve got 100 devices clamoring to get on the network via AP. Good luck! An access point with that much demand won’t perform well.
Solution: Reduce congestion and increase your connection capacity by adding more access points and/or using APs with multiple radios—which will open up more channels.
2. Device Interference
Wi-Fi equipment and APs in neighboring buildings, mobile and cordless phones, microwaves, Bluetooth devices, and cordless baby monitors all run on radio waves—just as your Wi-Fi system does. There’s limited space on the airwaves for radio waves, so if your Wi-Fi has competition from other devices—especially those on the 2.4GHz band, which have just three non-interfering channels—you can lose signal strength.
Solution: Choose frequencies not in use by other electronic devices.
Note: While not likely to happen, it’s worth mentioning another type of interference. Schools—which operate on the unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum—may find the frequency they’re using interferes with one being tapped by a licensed user (an amateur-radio operator, for example). Here’s the rub: If the licensed user complains about the interference, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) says the unlicensed user must stop operating on those channels. This does not apply in the reverse scenario: An unlicensed user cannot request that a licensed user stop interfering.
3. Access Point Interference
When you deploy a bunch of APs throughout a multi-story building, you may run into interference from neighboring access points if they share the same channel. This will sabotage throughput and connectivity.
Solution: Opt for dual-band access points that support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, so you can open up all 12 non-interfering channels (the 5GHz band has nine non-interfering channels, plus three channels from your 2.4GHz band). Note: Be sure you have enough APs to provide adequate signal coverage, and position them far enough apart so you can assign non-overlapping channels to access points within range of each other.
4. Bandwidth Hogs
Video and music streaming, Skyping, gaming, downloading large files, and online backups like Dropbox are just some of the ways users can devour bandwidth. These will seriously slow down your system.
Solution: Manage your settings to restrict access to YouTube, Pandora, gaming apps, and other bandwidth-hogging activity.
5. AP Power
You can program access points to transmit too much power or too little—neither of which is ideal. Give them too much juice, and they’ll interfere with distant APs on the same channel. If they’re underpowered, you’re jeopardizing speed—any device trying to connect will go into slow mode.
Solution: The key is ensuring that your balance of power is just right. Use performance data and analysis to determine ideal levels.
6. Slow Internet Connection
You could have the fanciest, fastest routers and access points on the planet, but if your Internet speed is slow, they’ll never realize their full potential. What you’ll get instead are bottlenecks and complaints from students and staff.
Solution: To optimize your Wi-Fi performance, make sure your Internet-connection size can accommodate your high-performance accessories.
7. Unbalanced LAN Design
Ensuring that your equipment and connections are of compatible size and speed is the key to a fast, efficient network. But too often they’re lopsided. For example, if your Internet access is 50 MB and your internal network is way faster (say, 1GB), you’ll end up with bottlenecks depending on usage—and you’ll need to upgrade your Internet-connection speed.
Solution: Consistency is key when designing your network. Make sure your components have comparable power and capacity.
What are your fixes for Wi-Fi slowdowns? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
About the Author:Lisa McComsey is a freelance writer, marketing consultant, and contributor to K12USA’s website and blog. In addition to her passion for technology, Lisa is a running and bicycling enthusiast, author of two books ("The Vegan Cheat Sheet" and "Seagan Eating"), and a hopeless chocolate addict.