Tips on 100% Best Wi-Fi Coverage and Speed

Tips on 100% Best Wi-Fi Coverage and Speed

Kudos to anyone recognizing the reference in the header.

Everyone wants the best Wi-Fi coverage with the least effort!

This post includes quick tips for those looking to buy new Wi-Fi hardware today and set it properly. It will explain things briefly and point you in the right direction, including links to in-depth guides, detailed posts, and best lists.

So, you might get overwhelmed by the number of related posts. Want to get a fast answer even faster? Use the Table of Contents below.

Dong’s note: I first published this piece on January 9, 2022, and updated it on May 11, 2023, with up-to-date information.

Building a Home Wi-Fi Network Correctly: Judging from the number of network cables, it looks like someone has a great home network wiht best Wi-Fi coverage.
Building a Home Wi-Fi Network Correctly: Judging by the number of network cables, someone has a great home network.

Building a Home Wi-Fi Network Correctly: Understanding the obvious

Since Wi-Fi is a complicated realm — there’s no one-size-fits-all — it’s a good idea to understand its nuance.

Let’s start with a few seemingly-obvious items we often overlook that might lead to unnecessary Wi-Fi issues.

1. Wi-Fi and the Internet are two different things

If you’ve read some user reviews somewhere about a venue and run into comments about its Wi-Fi, know that the reviewer means Internet access. Folks often use one to tell the other.

And most of the time, that’s OK. But when troubleshooting or setting up a new network, knowing that Wi-Fi and the Internet are two different things is imperative.

Specifically, getting a new Wi-Fi router does not necessarily improve your online experience — that’s on your Internet.

Internet vs Wi-Fi are two different things

2. Wi-Fi coverage is a sphere

Ideally, a standard Wi-Fi broadcaster (a Wi-Fi router or access point) broadcasts signals omnidirectionally — like a light bulb or the sun.

That means the coverage resembles a sphere with the emitter in the center. However, in reality, it’s more like an egg in most cases, or even less ideal than that — it’s impossible to have a perfect orb — but you get the idea.

That said, you generally can orient a broadcaster however you see fit. If you want to know more about Wi-Fi signals, check out the posts on dBi and dBm below.

Wi-Fi coverage: dBi vs dBm

Wi-Fi dBi and high-gain antenna explained: Antenna coverage and dBi (for illustration purposes only.)
Best Wi-Fi Coverage and Performance: All home Wi-Fi broadcasters (router or access point) use low dBi and broadcast signals as a sphere. And that’s a good thing.

3. Wi-Fi range: What you see is not what you get

The diameter of the coverage sphere, in any direction, is a Wi-Fi broadcaster’s range — how far its radio waves can travel outward. So the million-dollar question is, what’s the length of this diameter?

There’s no exact number. It varies depending on the environment, the hardware, and the Wi-Fi band. At any given time, there can be a lot of invisible stuff in the air hindering the radio waves.

Generally, the lower the GHz in frequencies, the longer the range but the slower the speed. In my experience, Wi-Fi 6’s 2.4GHz band has almost double the range of the 5GHz band but is just a fraction of the real-world rates.

The new 6GHz band continues that trend. It has about two third of the 5GHz range.

So here’s my general real-world estimate: out in the open, you can expect a home Wi-Fi 6 router’s effective range — that’s when you can still get a good connection using a typical receiver like your phone — to be around 75 feet (23m) to 150 feet (46 m), depending on the hardware. 

Inside, though, each wall or large object will decrease the range by 10% to 50%, in that direction, depending on the material and thickness. 

With that, here’s our jump-to-conclusions mat.

Tips on building a home Wi-Fi network correctly: Hardware purchase

Getting the right hardware is the most important thing to build a robust home Wi-Fi network. Below are three tips on getting the correct hardware parts for your network.

Cable Modem vs Fiber ONT
Best Wi-Fi Coverage and Performance: A Cable modem (top) and a Fiber ONT

1. Own, don’t rent, your broadband terminal device

In land-based broadband access, you generally have two options, Cable or Fiber-optic, of which the terminal device is a modem or an ONT.

But no matter what you get, here are a few suggestions:

  • Get a standalone terminal device (modem or ONT)
  • Avoid combo gateway, a Wi-Fi router with a built-in terminal device.
  • When possible, use your own equipment instead of renting one from the provider.
  • For Fiber, have the ONT installed at a good place in your house — more in the placement section below.
  • For Cable Internet:
    • Pick the right modem for your speed grade, but it’s always safe to get a DOCSIS 3.1 modem with a Multi-Gig port.
    • Use just the Internet, and remove all TV or phone options. After that, use streaming, such as YouTube TV, and a separate VoIP phone service.

Maintaining your broadband: Tips on picking a terminal device | Cable modem activation |How to troubleshoot and repair your Internet connection

2. Getting the right hardware: Single router vs mesh system

A mesh system (which consists of multiple broadcasters) is not an upgrade to a standalone router but a necessary alternative. It’s best to have just one broadcaster within a home to avoid interference.

That said, one router is enough if you live in a medium or small home. As for which one to get, that depends on this post on routers will explain more. But it’s safe to get one on the best lists below.

Router best lists: Wi-Fi 6 | Wi-Fi 6E

On the other hand, getting a mesh can be very complicated. As I explained in this post on Wi-Fi systems, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • If you’re using an ISP-provided gateway:
    • Consider replacing it with a terminal device — Fiber-optic ONT or Cable modem — or turning it into one via the bridge mode. Or
    • Extend its coverage via an access point or an extender.
    • Consider a double NAT setup.
  • If your home is wired with network cable: Consider Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 or Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E hardware. (Wired backhauling is the only way to get the best-performing network — more below.)
  • If you need a fully wireless system:

Below are the links to the current best mesh systems.

Wi-Fi mesh system best lists: Wi-Fi 6 | Wi-Fi 6E

3. The three don’ts in getting Wi-Fi equipment

When getting new Wi-Fi hardware, keep these three don’ts in mind:

  1. Don’t be “cheap” or go for “future-proofing”.
    • The Wi-Fi router is the most important gadget in your home — it’s like running water. Spend money where it matters, and don’t use cost as the main factor in picking hardware. 
    • Contrary, you shouldn’t waste your money on “future-proofing.” There’s no such thing. Get the equipment that works for you today.
  2. Don’t fall for “cute”: While the look can play a role — I’ve gotten quite a few comments from men complaining about the “wife acceptance” issue with particular routers — it’s important to note that size does matter in Wi-Fi. While you might not need a humongous router, tiny, cute compact devices will never give you good performance and range. It’s just physics. A fast, powerful router needs to be of a certain physical size. Though not always, they tend to be bulky, ugly, or even slightly noisy, or all of that. Pick a combo you can tolerate.
  3. Generally, don’t get vendor-dependent devices: Specifically, I’d stay away from hyped-up, and highly sponsored/affiliated Google Wifi/Nest, eero, and alike. Their requirements (login account, live connection with the vendor at all times, etc.) can translate into privacy risks. But most importantly, they are just too small to deliver fast performance. In fact, none of their current variants can reliably deliver faster than 300Mbps of sustained Wi-Fi rates at a distance.

Notes Wi-Fi equipment: When to replace yours | Your privacy matters

Tips on setting hardware for the best Wi-Fi coverage and performance

These are general tips. Some apply to all situations; others are only to specific homes.

1. Run network cables

It might sound counterintuitive, but getting your home wired is the best way to get the optimal Wi-Fi coverage. That’s especially true if you’re thinking of going Multi-Gig and getting 2.5Gbps, 5Gbps, or even 10Gbps connections.

Sometimes you need to run only one cable. For others, you might want to wire the entire home. In any case, network cables will give you the most options for the best Wi-Fi coverage and performance.

For a home already wired to a cable TV network, you can use MoCA adapters to turn the coax wires into a network cable.

Home wiring: MoCA vs running cables

Network Cable Wiring
Running network cables is the only way to have the best Wi-Fi coverage and performance in a large home.

2. Proper placement

After wiring, placement is the second most important in Wi-Fi setup. That said, it’s the most important for those who can’t run wires.

Common Wi-Fi placement rules

Considering the sphere notion above, it’s best to put your Wi-Fi broadcaster (router, access point) close to the center of the area you want to blanket.

If you need to use multiple broadcasters — like a router and a few access points or mesh satellites — arrange them so that their combined spheres cover the entire house.

No matter where you can place your broadcaster, make sure:

  • Keep it out in the open
  • Don’t cover it with anything. (The aluminum foil idea you might have heard of is nonsensical!)
  • Keep its antennas, if any, in the vertical position, then leave them alone.

Wi-Fi placement rules: Wired vs wireless

Sometimes, running a single network cable helps a lot. For example, you can use the cable to connect your modem or Fiber ONT, which tends to be at a corner of the house, to the best place you want the router to be.

Or, if you use a mesh system, run a cable to link the router at one corner of the house and the satellite at another to form a reliable and strong backhaul connection between the two.

If you use a mesh system in a fully wireless setup (no network cable involved), the hardware placement can be tricky. But generally:

3. Other tips for the best Wi-Fi coverage and performance

Below are additional general tips you can do to keep your home Wi-Fi network at its best.

Cut down the number of legacy and “smart” Wi-Fi devices

Wi-Fi Internet of Things (IoTs) devices often use dated Wi-Fi standards and can bog down a modern Wi-Fi 6 (or later) router. That said, consider the following:

  • Avoid using no-name Wi-Fi smart devices
  • Use Smart Home devices with a separate hub as the only device that connects directly to your network (via Wi-Fi or a wired connection.)
  • Use a separate Wi-Fi network (access point or band) for these devices.

If you want to know why using dated Wi-Fi clients is no good, I detailed that in this post on Airtime Fairness.

Airtime Fairness: It’s not really fair

Separate the bands

When possible, separating the Wi-Fi bands instead of using “Smart Connect” gives you more control of the network. You can segment the network accordingly. Such as:

  • Delegate the 2.4GHz band to slow devices.
  • Put fast devices on the (first) 5GHz band.
  • Connect mixed 5GHz devices to the second 5GHz band (if available).
  • Use the 6GHz band (if available) exclusively for fast clients.

On top of that, many routers also enable you to create virtual networks out of a single band, such as a Guest network. You can use them for this purpose.

Using all of the bands as a single network allows you not to have to reconnect when you move far from the router. The 2.4GHz band has the best range, but it tends to cause more bandwidth and performance issues, in my experience.

At the very least, all bands must work in compatibility mode, which is never good.

Guest Wi-Fi: It’s all about isolation

Turn off VPN when not needed

If you work from home and need to connect to your office, then VPN is helpful. Sometimes, it’s a requirement. A VPN allows your device to be part of a remote network securely. For the same reason, VPN is also useful when you travel.

However, when you don’t need to be part of a remote network, using a VPN will only worsen the connection’s speed, not to mention the privacy risks – your device’s online activities go through the VPN server.

That said, when you’re at home and use a third-party VPN for “better security,” you should consider turning it off or removing it. You’re probably fooling yourself at the expense of your connection speed and privacy, not to mention the monthly cost.

Virtual private network: How to use VPNs properly

Prioritizing your bandwidth

Generally, a single device can hog all of a sub-Gigabit broadband bandwidth.

For example, when you download a large file, all available Internet bandwidth will be used until the task is complete. During this time, other devices might have problems staying connected. That’s especially problematic when you’re on a video call.

That’s where a feature called QoS, or Quality of Service, comes into play. QoS helps prioritize the Internet bandwidth at a device or application level. A good router always has this feature built-in.

Quality of Service: How to use QoS to better online experience

Asus GS AX3000 VPN
Best Wi-Fi Coverage and Performance: The VPN section within the web user interface of an Asus router.

The takeaway

Networking is always complicated. Hopefully, you have figured out where to jump by now.

Simply put, you must understand your home’s layout, what you need, and how Wi-Fi works to get a solution that gives you the best coverage and performance. Come to think about it, getting a Wi-Fi solution can be as complicated as looking for a partner — both are networking — albeit with much lower financial and emotional risks. 

In any case, remember: you never get everything. I speak from experience.