If you're building a new home, or renovating your existing one, you have a great opportunity to update and future-proof your home's wiring -- not only for power (like adding USB sockets to your wall outlets) but also for networking. Putting a bit of thought into how you set your home up can save you from the woes of dodgy Wi-Fi connectivity, unwanted buffering and black spots throughout your living space.
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Buy A Wi-Fi Router And Modem That Are Future-Proof
Even if you don't have a modern Internet connection in your house -- if you're still stuck on ADSL, for example -- buying a good router can be the different between consistent internet speeds and a poor, flaky connection. Stick to a reputable, well-known brand with good technical support and warranty to make sure you can solve any issues that crop up throughout your ownership.
In 2016, you'd be silly not to buy a router that includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi speeds. 802.11ac is the current fastest standard for Wi-Fi connectivity, and any laptop or smartphone or digital device sold within the last 18 months should have 802.11ac -- you might also see it called 'AC Wi-Fi' -- built in. But at the same time, you also want a router that has strong coverage of the lower-speed, lower-power 802.11n band, because this is increasingly popular among smart home gadgets.
While any extra features like a built-in VPN or time-of-day Internet scheduling are up to you, buying a router with a good integrated modem -- ideally one that supports both ADSL and VDSL/NBN connections -- and a good Wi-Fi setup -- with at least one 802.11ac network and one 802.11n network -- is the big thing you can do for building a high quality, long range, trouble free network within your property boundaries. Don't be afraid to buy one and return it if it doesn't suit your needs, and try another until you find the best setup for your living situation.
Use A Range Extender For Upper Levels And Garages
Wi-Fi networks can only stretch so far from even the most powerful wireless router on the market -- and 802.11n on the 2.4GHz band does generally stretch a little further than 5GHz on 802.11ac, which is useful for long-range wireless smart home gadgets -- and it's generally a pain especially if you're living on a house with more than one level or with an especially long floorplan.
In these situations, rather than trying to place your Wi-Fi router in a position that poorly covers the edges of your house or apartment, you're better off purchasing one or more additional Wi-Fi range extenders. A range extender is a device that runs two Wi-Fi networks concurrently, and uses one to hook into your existing Wi-Fi from your modem-router while using the other to re-broadcast a strong Wi-Fi signal with your original network and Internet connectivity.
If you buy a range extender from the same brand as your router, you'll often find that the two can work together very well -- using various proprietary protocols to communicate -- and give you a more seamless Wi-Fi experience, especially if you're using a device while moving through your house or if you're installing gadgets in areas where both Wi-Fi signals pervade.
Wired Is Always Better, But Requires Some Extra Effort
Especially if you're building a new house, I genuinely encourage you to make the additional outlay to install at least one network hardpoint in each room of your living area. More than one is recommended in high-bandwidth spaces like your living room, media room or the location in which you situate your main Wi-Fi router. A wired network is incredibly resilient and trouble free compared to the ups and downs of Wi-Fi.
There are usually a few key devices in your home that you can offload onto the wired network to free up wireless bandwidth on your Wi-Fi. Try to install wired network cables for your smart TV (if you have one) as well as your Blu-ray player or games console, if you have one that connects to the 'net to access services like Netflix, Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. Getting good cables -- Category 6 and 6a are the current top-spec standards -- should prevent any connection woes.
Of course, you'll run into plenty of situations where the smart gadgets you want to install don't have a wired network port available in the first place. It's these instances that you want as reliable and powerful a Wi-Fi network as possible for. But if you have the option for a wired connection on a device that you won't need to move any time soon -- like a TV, Blu-ray player, desktop PC or network storage drive -- choose it to free up your Wi-Fi for the gadgets that really need it.