Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Best Wireless Network Tips

The Best Wireless Network Tips

There are many benefits when you tune up your home network, such as more bandwidth, a more stable network and secure connections. We did some research and tried out the best tips

In the old days, the grey PC was the only device that could access the internet and it had to use a cable. Today, WiFi networks are dominating the scenario. According to a survey, there are about 21 million internet users in Malaysia alone. Furthermore, each home network contains an ever-increasing number of devices that are transmitting via radio, such as TVs, notebooks, tablets and smartphones. Some households even use NAS, radios, speakers and devices like Google’s Chromecast. The number of devices is set to rise even further in the future, with Smart homes beginning to integrate lamps, heaters, cameras and refrigerators into the home network.

All wireless data traffic is controlled from a router. Its capacities, configuration and location exert a massive influence on the network quality, such that home wireless networks can also be impaired by neighbouring wireless networks and other sources of signals. After all, the radio frequencies essentially have to deal with a jostling crowd. Along with the optimisation of network quality, this article also considers other important factors related to a good wireless network, including range and security. We’re also taking a look at the optimisation of router functions and giving you tips that will make it possible for you to upgrade your smart home.

Identifying disturbance sources

If you use Windows or your smartphone to take a look at the available wireless networks, you might be in for quite a surprise, especially if you’re in an urban area. Chances are you’ll see as many as 15 visible WiFi networks. All of these WiFi networks transmit in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands; the 2.4GHz band alone (between 2,412 and 2,472 MHz) is divided into 14 channels. However, the 2.4GHz band is also used by other devices, while satellite cables and monitors emit radiation passively that similar affect the performance of other WiFi networks. In addition, monitors exert a disruptive influence in the higher-frequency channels lying between 11 and 13, while microwaves affect channels 9 and 10. You can run a speed test on the internet connection to find out whether a disruptive source in a wireless network is powerful enough to put the brakes on it. A more precise value for the quality of the home network is delivered by the open-source JPerf software.

Measuring And Optimising The Network Quality

The JPerf programme takes precise measurements for the data throughput between two computers that are connected via LAN or WiFi. All you have to do is use the LAN to connect the PC to the router and set up JPerf as a server. Download JPerf and extract the ZIP archive, then double-click the ‘‘JPerf.bat” file to launch JPerf. Note that you will need Java Runtime Environment installed for it to work. Now, activate the ‘‘Server” mode under ‘‘Choose iPerf Mode”.

If you’re using a notebook that is only connected to the internet through WiFi, you should set up JPerf as a ‘‘Client”. Enter the IP address of the JPerf server under ‘‘Server address”; you can find this IP address using the router, or by using the ‘‘ipconfig /all’ command-line command on the PC. Now, start the measurement process by clicking ‘‘Run iPerf!”. The programme will send data from the client to the server for ten seconds, after which it will display the result in a graphical form. You can also change various parameters. For example, you could increase the measurement duration to get an even more precise result. It would make sense to take multiple measurements at different locations, in order to find out where the wireless network reception is particularly goo. This would make it possible for you to find an optimal location for the router, such as the top of a shelf or cabinet.

Adjusting the radio channel manually

In some cases, the poor reception quality isn’t caused by poor location, but by the channel on which the wireless network is transmitting its data. In such a situation, you should switch over to a channel that is not used too frequently by other home networks in the area. Software like the Acrylic WiFi Home can identify the channel assignment pattern at a location with poor reception. After launching the programme, go to the upper right section of the screen and click the bar symbol to switch the programme over to the ‘‘Advanced Mode”. Now, the ‘‘2.4GHz APs Channels” tab at the bottom of the screen will identify the channels that are being used by the different home networks in your area. The neighbouring tab displays the assignment in the 5GHz range. The height of the curve indicates the degree to which the channels are being utilised. The ‘‘Wifi Analyzer Android app’’ (which can be obtained from Google’s Play Store) provides the same information on a mobile device. This will make it possible for you to get into every last corner of the home.

Now, your own router might be transmitting on a heavily-used channel. After all, it orients itself towards its own location when it selects a channel automatically and does not consider the client’s location at all. In such a case, you should switch over from the automatic channel selection facility to the manual one. Go to the wireless network settings on your router and change the selection from automatic to a specific channel. There should be a drop-down menu for you to choose the suitable channel.

We recommend using channel 1, 5, 9 or 13, because they do not overlap with neighbouring channels. If another channel has been set, it slows down your reception, as well as that of neighbouring wireless networks. You should also check whether channels 12 and 13 have been activated at all.

Adjusting The Channel Bandwidth

With some routers, the bandwidth could be limited from 40 MHz to 20 MHz, which would cut the maximum data rate in half. This happens automatically when several wireless networks get in each other’s way. Although you can get rid of this restriction by deactivating a few options, it doesn’t always make sense to do so. If several data packets are lost due to disruptions while the 40MHz channel width is being used, the data packets in question will have to be sent again. This can be slower than the process of sending the data through a stable 20MHz channel. You can use JPerf to check whether this is indeed the case.

Optimising The Network Performance

Even if you have used measurement programmes to find the best spot for your router, you might not be able to get a good reception in at all corners of your home. In that case, you might want to source for a wireless repeater, which can absorb and relay a router’s WiFi signal.

Don’t be stingy when you’re hunting for a repeater. Devices that can only transmit in the 2.4GHz band have to receive data on the same band and redirect it to their end devices at the same time, which halves the bandwidth.

The most effective solution would involve a combination of a dual-band router and a dual-band repeater, so that both devices will be able to transmit data on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. That way, the full bandwidth would be retained in the repeater’s sub-network. For example, the device could be connected to the router on the 5GHz band and would transmit data within its own sub-network using the 2.4GHz band. If both devices come from the same manufacturer, this tends to work without a hitch so you won’t even have to make any major adjustments. Because of that, it’s highly recommended to do so.

Determining The Repeater’s Location

It can be a bit difficult to find the optimal location for repeaters. For one, it’s required to connect the parts of the home network that previously had spotty reception. Secondly, the connection with the router needs to be solid as well, because it also pre-determines the maximum data rate for the client in the repeater’s sub-network. If the repeater’s UI has bar graphs for monitoring purposes, even better. It will help give you an initial idea of how well the router signal is reaching the repeater.

The performance can be measured in an even more precise manner using the JPerf tool.

All you have to do is use something like a notebook to connect to the router and key in its IP address to a browser’s address bar. Once you have signed in, scroll to the ‘‘Throughput measurements” point and tick the ‘‘Activate measuring point for an iPerf client in home network” option. The router will now play the role of an iPerf server – with iPerf as the engine, and JPerf as the software’s user interface. Now, carry a notebook into the poorly-supplied corner of the home network that the repeater is supposed to serve. Place the repeater between the two devices, so that the bar graph will be as robust as possible. Let JPerf run as a client on the notebook as described above, and note down the result. Now, change the location of the repeater and take a new measurement, so that you will be able to compare it to the earlier one.

You will want to take multiple measurements to find the optimal location for the repeater.

Upgrading And Making The Most Of The Router

Routers that are particularly inexpensive can only be configured to a limited extent, since the manufacturers only activate the necessary functions in the standard firmware versions. Alternative open-source variants allow you to make a lot more adjustments and activate hidden functions. However, even when it comes to the standard variants, you can definitely save money by using the right configuration.

Installing Alternative Firmware

The dd-wrt ( firmware is quite popular. On the website, you’ll find the adjusted variants for most routers. You can install the firmware with the help of the update function in your router’s web interface. For example, the new firmware allows you to create multiple wireless networks or set up your own media server. When it comes to dd-wrt, the smartphone linking feature is also particularly handy. With the app (which is available in Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store) you can wake devices that are idle. This can be particularly useful if the devices are being used as media servers. Another application involves anonymisation on the internet. You can use dd-wrt to ensure that web connections go through Tor by default.

Activating Energy-Saving Measures

With the right settings, you can drastically reduce your router’s energy consumption. The wireless network function consumes the largest amount of electricity. You should deactivate this function if you’re not using it. There are some routers that allow you to do this by setting a ‘sleep’ mode for the WiFi SSIDs. Depending on your router, you can even specify different periods of time for each day of the week.

However, there are also some routers that might only allow you to specify a fix period of time (e.g. night) daily. Installing an alternative firmware will provide you with additional setting options.

Apart from this, high-end routers have Quality of Service features that apply LAN ports, limiting the speed and bandwidth transferred. This can save even more power, but the benefits are barely noticeable in practice. However, when it comes to devices that do not need a high bandwidth (e.g. IoT bridges), you can slow down the port without suffering any loss in performance.

However, you will be able to have the most out of a router by upgrading to newer models when necessary. Ideally, you should also save your current set of settings, so that you won’t have to painstakingly reenter your configurations.

You can then install them for the new model. If you’re using a router of the same brand as your previous one, there should be a back-up function for this purpose, which you can then upload the new one so that the new router will immediately be ready for use.

Protecting The Home Network Against Hackers

A few simple adjustments will protect your home network against hackers, while simultaneously making it possible for you to surf securely in open wireless networks.

Sealing Off Wireless Network Access

After your wireless network devices have logged on to the internet, you should restrict access to your wireless network. This can be done most easily with the help of MACfiltering.

This ensures that only those devices that have been authorised by you will be able to access the network. The function can be found under the wireless or security settings tab in routers.

Some routers also allow you to create a ‘guest’ network, which is handy for more public spaces like an office.

You should run a DNS check to find out whether your router’s web traffic has already been attacked. This can be done with the help of the website You should also check your router for open ports, with sites like

Using A Free VPN Service

If you’re on the move, you should always use a VPN connection for better protection of data traffic when you’re connecting to an insecure WiFi network. Some routers have access to free VPN servers (depends on brand), but if yours doesn’t have it then you can use services like TunnelBear ( However, this does involve a bandwidth limitation, which is only removed upon paying a monthly fee.

NAS: Deactivate Services

Network-attached storage (NAS) devices are both useful and popular. Many devices (like those manufactured by Qnap or Synology) can be expanded to include apps that provide handy smart-home-related services (e.g. Domotz). However, while these devices can provide extensive services, they are also major gateways for hackers. In addition to stealing data, hackers also distribute ransomware and integrate the NAS devices into zombie networks. Consequently, NAS systems should be maintained and configured properly.

Those who are using NAS devices should ensure that the latest firmware has been installed, because that’s the only way to plug as many of the known vulnerabilities as possible. Furthermore, you should also deactivate the standard admin account after the setup procedure has been completed, then create a new master account with a separate name and a strong password. Deactivate all the services that you do not need, such as FTP, especially if you’re not planning to get FTP-access from the outside. Also, if you are not going to connect to UPNP-capable devices like television sets, you should deactivate it as well. In case of Qnap devices, this can be done using the ‘‘Control panel | Network service” and ‘‘FTP” or ‘‘Service detection” options. If necessary, get rid of the corresponding tick marks. The ‘‘Network access protection” facility (which prevents brute-force attacks) should also be active.

Webcam: Change Password

Thousands of unprotected web video streams can be viewed on the internet. There are even forums that only post the IP addresses of unprotected webcams and webcams associated with standard passwords. This often happens because the manufacturers allow the camera to log on even if the user has not assigned a password. For safety, you should change the password and deactivate the admin account and use another user account.

Smart Tools For The Smart Home

Along with computers, residential WiFi networks also encompass an everincreasing number of smart home devices. This includes everything from light control systems to intelligent heating units. Smart web services like IFTTT or Conrad Connect facilitate useful applications associated with smart home systems. IFTTT stands for the coding concept ‘‘If This Then That”; it creates automation formulas based on the principle of ‘‘If x occurs, then trigger y”.

IFTTT can be used in a variety of ways and the website ( provides socalled applets, which combine different services. For example, if you are using a BMW featuring the ConnectedDrive service, you can activate an applet that automatically opens the intelligent garage door when you turn into the driveway. However, the strength of the system lies in the fact that you’re not restricted to the standard applets; you can also create your own. For example, we might want the outside lighting to stay on all day long every Christmas. To do so, you would go to ‘‘New Applet” and click the blue ‘‘This” option. Now, use the ‘‘Date/Time” and ‘‘Every year on” options, then enter the date ‘24 December’, and set the time for ‘0600’ hours. Now click the ‘‘That” option to select the lamp, connect it and set its desired status (‘‘on”) and the holiday applet is now ready.

Smoke Detectors Connected Directly Via WIFI

Things have to be sped up when something’s on fire. Consequently, intelligent wireless smoke detectors network with each other and sound the alarm in the entire house. In addition, residents can be notified via app or SMS, even if no one is at home. Depending on which country you’re from, it might be good to have something like that. But systems like that, which also come with a wireless base station of sorts, are not exactly cheap. Smoke detectors that feature direct WiFi connectivity to a router are few and far in between, with the Nest Protect being one of the few models that support this feature.

The manufacturer provides the WiFi detector, an extensive app and an audio response for the alarm for a price of about 120 euros (approx. RM576).

The US-based start-up Roost offers the Smart Battery, a 9-volt battery that contains a WiFi chip and can fit into all current smoke detectors. The module is supposed to last for five years and it can be connected to the router using an app (Android, iOS) by using WPA2. Once connected, the smoke detector can then be controlled through the app. Roost can be purchased only through its own website (, or sites like eBay and Amazon, for a price of $34.99.

MU-MIMO in the home network

Some of the latest routers are compatible with the Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) technology. This special multiple-aerial technique comes in handy if many active devices are present in the wireless network, and if all of them are sucking up data simultaneously.

> A MU-MIMO router opens up to four parallel streams, in order to serve multiple clients at the same time. Unlike normal wireless network transmissions, these streams are sent to the clients in a spatially-directed manner. This form of directional radio system strengthens the transmission signal and increases its range. It all sounds good, but there is a catch - the receiving unit also has to be compatible with MU-MIMO.

> Only MU-MIMO clients can receive the directed signal and benefit directly from the arrangement. All other units will function in the usual way. You can find out whether a smartphone already supports MU-MIMO by taking a look at the installed chip. Qualcomm offers a downloadable PDF overview at

Switching between 2.4 and 5GHz

There are routers that are compatible with both ‘ac’ and ‘n’ WiFi. These devices transmit on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. If the client devices also support the 5GHz band, you can take advantage of this to obtain better performance.

> The frequency bands can be deactivated individually in most routers. Look for WiFi settings of your router for a button to disable or enable the WiFi Bands. The 5GHz band allows a higher speed, but it also has a shorter range. The 2.4GHz band is busier, but the signal has better reach.

> You can follow a similar procedure to find out how a dual-band repeater is transmitting data in its sub-network. Access the repeater’s user interface and look for the same setting, then make sure they have separate SSIDs for easier recognition. Once done, you should see two repeater sub-networks.

The data will be transmitted through the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band depending on which SSID a client uses to establish a connection. The repeater-router connection then adapts automatically.

Free Router Selection: This Is How You Can Find The Right Access Code

The option to operate a separate router in conjunction with an internet connection is available in some countries, but the setup procedure isn’t simple.

> Obtaining access data You can obtain the username and the password for web access from your ISP, something that you will have to do on your own; this information is rarely sent automatically. It can get tricky with ISPs that rely on cable network access. In that case, you have to give the provider the MAC address of your cable router, which can be found on the bottom side of the device. The login procedure also makes use of this information.

> VoIP access You receive special access data for telephony function. The setup procedure varies depending on the connection. With some ISPs, the web access data is all you need. If your ISP is like that, then you don’t need any special logins for VoIP. However, when it comes to a few providers in some countries, especially the ones that use cable connections, you might also have to enter the VoIP data in the configuration.

Child Protection With The Help Of A Router

Most of the latest routers allow you to use the web interface to specify which devices are allowed to access which data. For example, let’s take an ASUS router’s Parental Control feature.

> Create access profiles Right off the bat, look for the menu that provides you with user profiling, or in this case, direct user restriction via Parental Control. With an ASUS router, first you toggle the switch for Parental Control to ‘On’. Next, select the client device and click ‘‘Add”.

> Set time restriction Now that you’ve added a client device to restrict, click on the edit icon to set up the time when which the user actually gets to access the internet. A grid will then appear, showing you the days and hours of the week. Next, select the hours of the day you want to allow; other unchecked hours are hours they aren’t allowed to. Incidentally, there are also some routers that can restrict specific websites at specific periods of time, which could be more useful for certain users.