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Enable this one router feature for improved efficiency and range

Enable this one router feature for improved efficiency and range
© Youssouf Cader | Dreamstime.com

An exciting scene is about to happen, you can feel it. The protagonist is about to take a huge stride forward, mustering enough courage to say the words he has never uttered before. Then… buffering…

How many times has this happened to you? Probably one too many. No one likes the dreaded loading wheel, or interruptions while binge-watching Netflix or YouTube videos.

Before you curse your internet service provider, you should know that the problem could be your router. Especially if you're still using an older model. A lot has changed in the last few years, and if you're not using an updated piece of equipment, the speed of your internet could suffer. Here's one thing you need to make sure your router is capable of.

Multiband capabilities

Wi-Fi routers and signals are not created equal. If you have a new router, check to see if it at least supports 801.11n. These are commonly known simply as N routers. An even newer protocol called 80.11ac is available and is now the standard for the more expensive routers.

The AC specification is a step up from the N specification, which is in turn, is a step up from the older and slower B and G protocols. 801.11n could achieve theoretical wireless speeds of up to 600 Mbps while 801.11ac can reach 4.5 Gbps. Also, unlike B/G routers that only transmit on the crowded 2.4GHz spectrum, N/AC routers could transmit on 5GHz as well.

N and AC routers usually have a multiband capability. By enabling dual or triple bands, you can keep older devices that only support the slower G specification on the 2.4GHz band and newer N and AC gadgets on the beefier and speedier 5GHz band. This is essentially like having multiple routers in one.

Why separate G, N and AC devices, you may ask? Because mixed-mode G+N routers usually are slower and there is evidence that an N router operating solely on 2.4Ghz will slow down to G/B speeds when a G/B only device connects to it.

Right now, if your device supports 801.11n or 80.11ac, you will get substantial speed improvements if you connect them to dedicated N or AC 5GHz router bands, leaving all your older 801.11g gadgets on the 2.4GHz band.

Does your router have multiband capabilities?

To check if your router has all the available bands enabled, you can get into your router’s “administration console” and check.

Here’s how to get into the administrator console: Make sure your device is connected to your router, either wired or wirelessly. Open a web browser and type in the router’s IP address. This is a number that the manufacturer gives to every router. Common ones look like 192.168.1.1, 192.168.0.1, or 192.168.2.1. 

Click here for a site that conveniently lists IP addresses for almost all router makes and models.

When you type the router’s IP address into the browser, it will prompt you for a username and password. If you have not changed the default credentials, I suggest you do that now. If someone nearby is using your router without your permission, this might explain why your connection has been slow.

This administrator console will typically have different sections for each available band's management. With this, you can turn on and off different bands, assign maximum speeds, allow mixed modes and assign each band's network name and password.

Remember, it's better to have your older G gadgets remain solely on the 2.4 GHz network and keep your newer gadgets on the 5GHz bands.

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