There’s simply no need to suffer poor connectivity at home, and as we continue working remotely, we need to ensure we can communicate properly…

We’ve all been there. You’re online – Zoom, Skype, Teams – and are about to make a major presentation, or you’re listening in on a vital company update from the board – and your signal drops. The call is dead, and so is that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

If you’ve ever wondered why your Zoom meetings are such poor quality, you might not know that the biggest roadblock when working from home is simply this: it’s a difficult environment to deliver Wi-Fi.

It’s annoying, it’s frustrating and it can be embarrassing. But it needn’t be like this. Craig Hall and the Guerilla ICT team feel your pain. We might all have to communicate from home, we might all be working remotely, but Guerilla ICT can, at least, help ensure smooth comms.

And smooth comms are vital for business survival right now. We can’t live in a world where important client meetings drop, where we are all moaning about poor Wifi – when it’s not even the fault of the Wifi, but more often than not, it’s a simple case of a few tweaks, a different piece of kit and the enterprise savvy of Craig and his team.

Internet to the device

Says the veteran comms expert: “We have heard so many people complaining about bad Wifi. But more often than not, it is not the WiFi signal – it’s how the signal is affected in the home, or the home office, or office.

“There are myriad reasons why broadband is affected in personal properties. But now, more than ever, it needs to be a business-grade product. Our commitment is not just internet by any means. It is Internet to the device by any means. It matters not if your perimeter wall has high speed fibre broadband If your inner walls have affected radio transmission.”

There’s a myriad of solutions, of course. Craig’s argument is that while we are moving towards the second year of working remotely and working from home, it’s time business leaders helped ensure their remote workers enjoy enterprise level connectivity.

And how to achieve that? Firstly, it’s worth getting a bit of context.

Craig explains how Wifi signals operate in a tiny bandwidth. (And remember, bandwidth is the volume of information that can be sent over a connection in a measured amount of time). As we are all using more web connected devices, for more data intensive applications than ever before at home, it’s important to make sure bandwidth increases as well.

If you’re at home, your Zoom call is competing with your Sky Q, Netflix, the microwave, your phone(s), your tablets, your gaming console, etc etc- not to mention all your neighbours’ devices. And all these devices are trying to get in on a signal in a tiny range.

Listening out for chatter

“Imagine being in a crowded pub on a Friday night with a mate – you can only hear each other if you start raising your voice. Or imagine a swimming pool on a busy day, you can fit 250 people in the pool, but no-one will be able to swim – this is what we’re up against in terms of your broadband content. And it’s what we call chatter. Our job is often to find the best way to literally cut through the chatter,” he explains.

A strong signal could be directed into your house, but it can be shattered like a crystal glass once over the threshold, given the number of devices fighting for it.

And then there’s the physical environment. Craig says we can think of Wifi like radio waves. Walls, doors and natural landscapes can all weaken the signal strength. And it’s on the same spectrum as light. “If you can’t shine a torch through it, the signal won’t go through,” says Craig.

And modern houses made with aluminium-backed plasterboard, for example, act like signal-blocking Faraday cages – in other words, your entire home could be acting like a shield, stopping Wifi signal in its tracks. Certainly, many of us experience different signal strengths from room to room – and this can be explained simply by understanding how the walls are made.

Craig’s career has seen him deliver powerful broadband connectivity to hundreds of businesses and communities, and he readily admits he ‘headed back to school’ to discover how best to deliver broadband to devices within properties. Home networks are predominantly wireless, whereas businesses are predominantly wired. So, that’s a major difference between home working and working within office premises.

Swimming lanes

Craig picks up on the problem again: “The biggest thing is that you’re working on a very crowded broadband spectrum. There are devices within premises that are eating away at the capacity of the wireless, (known as co-channel interference) and homes are often on estates where your home and others are very close – and are broadcasting within the same bands.”

There are several tips and tricks that can be used to help ensure the signal gets better, such as separating out devices that are vying for space. Going back to the busy swimming pool analogy, Craig says Guerilla ICT’s offer is the equivalent of putting swimming lanes in for each device.

“We can also use the Earth of an electrical circuit to create a data network to get past the walls, but it’s done in such a way as to compliment the router not to battle the router, which out of box products don’t do,” he adds.

In his experience, larger more broadband-hungry devices should be hard wired into the network. So TVs and gaming consoles should enjoy a wired connection. Smaller, less used and less broadband hungry devices like phones can be used wirelessly.

The problem with extenders

“We break things down. We also defend the home against other signals from other properties by moving the bands and making sure they’re in quiet space. We do this using Wi-Fi survey tools, which measure the signal and the signal to noise of everything in the environment. So, as we walk around a property, we can locate ‘black spots’ and can put in solutions to solve those black spots. It’s done through facts, not supposition.

Another part of Craig’s frustration is that he feels It is not fair for a customer without experience of engineering connectivity solutions to go and take a product off the shelf and expect to maximize the use of it themselves.

Surely WiFi extenders go some way to solving the problems?

Craig says no: “So one of the biggest problems is people who buy Wi-Fi extenders. So they take the Wi-Fi signal in the location and then power it up and redistribute it out from their own device. It’s a plug-in device. The problem is it is taking bandwidth from the router. It is not using the wire of the Earth to get to it, and therefore is crowding out the actual router itself.

There is another issue. There are two different internal Wi-Fi frequency bands available – 2.4 gigahertz and 5 gigahertz. Within each band there are different channels – Essentially, WiFi channels are smaller bands within the 2.54 or 5GHz WiFi frequency bands, used by your wireless network to send and receive data.

Bands on the run

Current 2.4 Ghz bands offer only 100 megahertz bandwidth, and just 14 channels available in that narrow bandwidth. Routers and other devices are pre-set to mostly connect via the three biggest channels – 1, 6 or 11. So you can see the problem – there is very limited space for devices to compete for bandwidth. Where 5Ghz connections are available there is a larger range, so less crowded channels, and more bandwidth.

Craig explains: “Immediately when you plug anything in, it’s automatically trying to go for those three bands, so is your neighbour’s router, so are all the other devices.”

Off the shelf products all have pretty much the same defaults (utilising those three crowded channels) and because nobody is treating this with the detail it deserves, everyone is just plugging in a bunch of default settings, adding to the problem, often without even realising.

Craig can visit a property and explore connectivity with a signal strength meter, and advise on where and how to position routers, and earth mains connected signal extenders.

He then creates a ‘perimeter of power’, ensuring strong connectivity as required throughout the property, cutting down on interference and chatter.

“Poor connectivity is always either due to a poor signal between your device and your router, or an interfered signal through the air. Our job is to see this and to counter it. Our job is to use our expertise and our knowledge of the reasons why these issues arise, to create an on-net environment within a property.

“It’s by understanding the weaknesses that we can use them. We use our knowledge and experience of getting fast broadband to people’s devices in business and consumer properties and crucially we create affordable solutions,” concludes the expert.

Time to call the experts

Don’t live with poor quality video calls and meetings. You simply don’t need to. What you need to do is call the experts – like Guerilla ICT – to analyse your property, your signal strength and identify the issue, and create a smooth, less stressful work environment for all.

Says Craig: “My message is simply this: – company owners need to invest a little effort, time and capital in ensuring all their staff enjoy the same levels of good connectivity they have come to expect in their work environment, regardless of where they are. Communications continuity is going to help people survive the storms that are coming. Why suffer business losses and poor communications for the sake of a brief meeting with me, and often, a same-day solution?”

As the much-used phrase goes, this is the new normal, and if we need to carry on working remotely and conducting business online, isn’t it time your company enjoyed enterprise level connectivity at home?