Most offices use WiFi today to provide internet access for staff and visitors, and it can be very frustrating when WiFi performance begins to slip. Providing internet for your guests is one thing, but since the internet is more of a utility, the convenience of not having to use their LTE network is secondary.
How WiFi Works
If you are experiencing slow speeds in the office, it may be more difficult than you think to troubleshoot the speed issue. Knowing more about how wifi works may be helpful.
WiFi speeds are directly related to the underlying Internet service speeds provided by your Internet service provider (ISP). If your Internet service has a maximum speed of 5 Mbps, then your maximum WiFi speeds can only be 5 Mbps – and realistically, WiFi speeds will typically be slower.
As the number of devices accessing WiFi network increases – not only in your office space but also in the surrounding spaces – the quality of your WiFi connection can decrease. Here is a normal scenario that plays out in offices all the time:
You start an office with five employees, who bring smartphones, laptops, and tablets that connect to your WiFi. There are no other tenants in the office spaces around your suite. Over the next 12 months, you increase to 15 employees who connect to WiFi. Now all the surrounding office suites are also occupied, and each of those offices have 5-10 people accessing WiFi. You decide to allow your guests to access WiFi, and you provide them with a guest password.
At this point, the WiFi density has increased dramatically and everyone is vying for the same wireless frequencies. Even though the other office suites are on different ISPs, the Internet is being broadcast over the same frequencies and everyone is sharing those frequencies. It’s hard to catch this gradual increase in usage in your own office – but it’s even harder to notice it in the offices that surround yours. But this overall increase in WiFi usage is going to deteriorate your WiFi performance – and the technical setup that used to work for your business may now need some upgrades.
The Limitations of WiFi
Often times business users of wifi have lofty expectations of just how much work their wireless access points can handle. You may want to use tablets throughout your building, or wirelessly access software in the cloud while also doing VOIP calls. While these things are technically possible, the WiFi performance will likely be poor. Also, the basic technical limitations of VOIP solutions ensure that wireless internet calls are not going to deliver the same consistent quality that you’ll experience from a wired Internet connection or a landline phone. More companies want to provide better WiFi access for their guests, who are often important customers. This is a great idea – but it does put additional pressure on the WiFi service. The more guests you have using your WiFi service, the less WiFi service is available for your internal staff.
How to Speed Up Your WiFi
If you want to speed up your wifi, here are five tips:
1. Have your IT service provider perform a detailed wireless assessment of your office space. Doing so will tell you the density of usage in your office and surrounding spaces, which areas in the office have poor coverage, and which frequencies are used and how often.
2. Based on the wireless assessment, have your IT team make improvements by adding or moving wireless access points (WAPs) to cover dead zones. They can also fine-tune WAPs to use the frequencies with the best coverage.
3. Cap your guest WiFi. First, make sure you guest WiFi network is secured by its own password. Then, segment it from the company WiFi with a “cap” configured to keep guest users from hogging all the WiFi bandwidth. For example, if you have 5 Mbps total bandwidth available, cap the guest WiFi to use no more than 1 Mbps to ensure employees always have the bandwidth they need to do their jobs.
4. Evaluate how your office is using WiFi to confirm your current setup can actually meet expectations. If you are asking it to do too much, you should lower your expectations accordingly.
5. If you have done all of the above and still want/need better service, go to your ISP and ask them to provide options and pricing for an increase in service. Going from 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps doubles the available bandwidth for everyone to use – and that includes WiFi.
In most cases, the best approach to increasing your WiFi speed is to educate yourself. Find out how your office is using WiFi and confirm what is actually possible with your current setup.