The monitoring from SamKnows shows that Rogers is doing an excellent job of delivering the promised speeds to our house. However, we were losing speed and range over WiFi. Here are the steps we took to fix the problem.
Step 0The wireless signal from the $8/month Rogers-supplied modem/router is lousy. More than one person on their tech support team has confessed they’ve turned off the wireless capabilities and only use the device as a modem only. Same here. We were transmitting the signal via our own dual band N router, a Linksys E3000 router we got at Costco in 2011.
Bad TapWe placed a service call to Rogers because we weren’t getting the promised download speed of 150 Mbps. A technician arrived the following week and determined that the signal strength from the street to our house was dropping 3x faster than expected. He cut the ends of the cable and replaced the connectors. That didn’t make a difference. Days later, Rogers replaced the tap on the street (which I'm guessing means a splitter that brings the signal to our house).
Our WiFi was no better. Talking to tech support again brought a revelation: WiFi signals have trouble going through walls. Our router is in a basement closet at one end of our rectangular bungalow and we have walls of plaster (not drywall). Why were we never told the location was poor, even when a technician visited us onsite?
New LocationWe moved the router to a better spot, which involved drilling a hole through a wall.
Guess what? The signal strength increased. Instead of 1-3 bars in my room at the other end of the house, I started getting 2-4. That's progress. The Internet was faster --- about typically 20-30 Mbps. That wasn’t good enough.
Boosting The SignalI read about range extenders. You place them between your router and where you want the signal to reach. This seemed too good to be true. I read reviews where people got signals where they previously had none. Worth exploring. There is a drawback. The repeater both sends and receives. That means you don't get full speed. Results are better with a dual band repeater. I got one at Best Buy.
Now I got five solid bars in my room. That's impressive but the Internet speed wasn't. I got about 30 Mbps. Return.
What Settings?How do you know if your router is setup in an optimal way? A free app called inSSIDer shows how strong a WiFi signal you're receiving. The smartphone version is ideal because you can walk around where you want the signal and inSSIDer monitors.
You'll likely find interference from your neighbors. The three best channels for WiFi are 1, 6 and 11. For us, 11 is best because no one nearby is using it. However, our router selected the channel automatically and picked six, which was congested. Following instructions I found with a Google search, I manually changed the channel. This made a difference and cost nothing
Router UpgradeWe have a well-rated dual band N router (Cisco E3000, see review). Maybe it's time to upgrade? There are now "ac" routers, the step above N. We don't have any equipment that uses that "ac" but planning for the future is part of my life. These modems seem to work very well with N too and typically cost $100 to $200.
Linksys EA6400While exploring, I saw the Cisco/Linksys EA6400 "ac" wireless router for $150 at Costco. The price includes a USB "ac" receiver you can plug into a computer. I bought. Recommendation: don't.
This router feels cheap (our older E3000 doesn't). Also, this router only has two antennas. The E3000 has three. The setup was easy. Unfortunately, the signal did not carry far and wasn't stable. That's unacceptable. The USB receiver was lousy at receiving a signal. The router comes with a CD but to install the receiver, you need to download drivers first. That's not consumer-friendly.
Maybe we got a dud. There are more expensive routers in the Linksys lineup but I didn't feel like trying them since there is already an excellent option.
Asus RT-66ACThis wireless router (website) routinely tops the ratings. It's pricey too. For some reason, Best Buy / Future Shop doesn't carry it. If you want one, you need to go online or to a specialty computer store. That means you could face problems with returns.
Earlier this month, Staples started selling this Asus model and put it on sale for $190 (regular $210). I bought the last one on the shelves. This router oozes quality. It feels solid and well made. There are three external antennas. Apparently the router will focus signals to where your devices are. It automatically selected channel 11, which inSSIDer still recommended.
Installation is easy (especially if you own a teenager) and you get many options. For instance, you can boost the transmission power from the default of 80 mW to 200 mW. You may not need or want to do this. The signal is much stronger than the other routers we've tried. I routinely get 5 bars in my office, which is at the other end of the house on the ground floor.
My typical Internet speeds in my room using my main computer are 30-40 Mbps, and as high as 55 Mbps. The improvements are noticeable. My backup computer ranges between 40-70 Mbps. Maybe it has better antennas.
There is one disappointment: the "ac" signal at 5 GHz is weak. The higher frequency reduces the range. This isn't a real problem because we don't have any compatible devices yet.
Another SolutionThe only other possible step I see is getting the modem/router relocated. Rogers charges $50 but may waive the charge if they've been unable to improve your service in other ways.
I avoided this step because I didn't like the previous wiring they did. That was in the 1990s and standards may have improved. At one point, we had three trucks and six workers onsite replacing the wiring all the way to the street. However, they ran the wiring on the outside of our house between rooms. I'm told that wiring is now run inside and hidden. I hope that's the case. Please share your experiences.
LessonsIf you are not getting the promised Internet service, these steps may help you. Start by calling your provider. This is where dealing directly with a major company like Rogers or Bell helps over using a reseller. Now our Internet service is now quick and reliable over WiFi throughout our house.
- A review of Rogers Ultimate Unlimited
- Ultimate unlimited Internet? How Rogers fooled us three times
- Faster: how to deal with the rat race
- The power of redundancy
- A teen predicts the future in 1978
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PS When buying equipment, pick a retailer with fair return policies and no restocking fees.