by Paul Tucknott
Our home, like most others, is full of devices that connect to the internet. Computers, laptops, games systems, iPads and iPhones… And two teenagers. Then there are the devices that we forget – devices like game systems, televisions and even things like refrigerators and air conditioners. These are all part of the Internet of Things (IoT) – objects with sensors that share data on your network such as weather stations and devices that are part of your ‘smart home’.
All of these devices are a drain on our bandwidth and most people have probably experienced buffering issues when watching Netflix, and the usual internet drops and dead spots in the home.
All our internet connections depend on two devices: a modem and a router. Your modem is usually part of your internet package and is provided to you by your internet service provider. This device can often act as the router as well. Instead, many people use a third-party router. In our case, we use an Apple AirPort Extreme at home which has served as well for many years. This is also part of our internet connectivity problem.
Apple no longer produces wireless networking products. The AirPort Extreme was introduced in 2013. While it was a great product at the time, internet technology has changed a lot in the last few years. So while our current router still works, the technology is way out of date.
Our neighbourhood network infrastructure is being upgraded to fibre so I thought that it was time to start looking at upgrading our router as well.
Up until now, wireless internet protocols have been a bewildering alphabet soup… 802.11a, 802 11.b all the way up to the newest specification 802.11ax. In an effort to simplify matters, the current specification is now known as “Wi-Fi 6” and the previous generation, 802 11.ac, is known now as “Wi-Fi 5”.
The majority of Apple’s current product lineup are all based on Wi-Fi 5 technology while the newest M1 processor-based products offer Wi-Fi 6.
Current routers have much stronger signal strength and range than previous models. The newest lineup of routers have introduced a technology called ‘mesh’. Basically, this allows multiple routers in one home to all be connected as a single network. As you move through your home, your devices seamlessly connects to the strongest signal possible. It allows for more efficient sharing of available bandwidth and practically eliminates buffering and dropouts.
The purchase of a new router is relatively simple. Determine whether you need Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 and purchase a mesh system compatible with you internet connection speed. Most mesh systems are sold with one, two or three access points. If needed, you can add more units and they seamlessly expand your new mesh system. Two or three units will give adequate coverage for a three bedroom home and will give support for around one hundred connected devices.
Now that I have done my research, I just need to wait for shovels in the ground to get our network upgraded and then I will be off to purchase my new mesh router system. I will report back with my findings!