Sper Gua to understand and improve the Wi-Fi of your home.

Let's admit it, unless you live in a big city or a fairly busy place, you most likely don't enjoy fiber optic in your home, and even if you enjoy it, what is even more likely is that the router assigned by the operator is not up to your network, much less of your Apple devices.

IOS and Mac devices have been improving their wireless connection chips generation after generation, so much so that since last generation they comply with the latest standards for wireless connection, specifically we talk about the Wi-Fi connection and the 5GHz band with the 802.11ac standard.

As we see in this description, starting with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the most modern standard began to be supported 802.11acHowever, this has a trick and it has not been until the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus (and iPads from Air 2) where you have introduced MIMO technology (Multiple Input Multiple Output) that substantially improves the speed at which data transfer can reach by having several antennas to send and receive packets simultaneously.

Generally, unless you live in an area like the ones I have described before, it is most likely that your router does not even broadcast in the 5GHz band, this also implies that it will not be compatible with the 802.11ac standard, and so so much you cannot enjoy the maximum possible wireless speed, so in this article we explain each technology point by point and what points you should take into account when buying a router.

What does that mean double band? 2’4Ghz or 5GHz

It is completely normal that with so many numbers and letters combined, both 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac, so much MIME and so many GHz let's just make a mess and those who understand less are frustrated, but all this is simpler than it seems, I will try to explain it in a simple way.

Before we start talking about the available bands and the characteristics of each one, we must know what the Wi-Fi bands are. The Wi-Fi bands are the frequencies at which the transmitter emits Wi-Fi waves to be received by the receiver, so that a connection in a band is made both transmitter and receiver must be compatible with the desired band.

It will have sounded like Chinese, right? Let's give an example; One could say that the data or data packets (the information that circulates through these frequencies, through our Wi-Fi) are comparable to airplanes, and that the different bands or frequencies are comparable to the flight height.

So let's say that the band of 2’4GHz is a flight height close to the ground and that of 5GHz is a higher one, what does this imply? Many old planes are not able to fly at a certain height (many relatively old devices are not compatible with the 5GHz band) so they must fly at a lower height if they want to move, this is mixed with that many flight companies have relatively old planes (Many houses and companies have routers that only work in the 2'4GHz band), this makes the lower flight space so saturated with airplanes that it is difficult to fly without accidents, however, more modern airplanes can reach a greater height (the most modern devices are compatible with the 5GHz band) and there are many fewer airplanes flying, this implies that there are many fewer accidents, it is an unsaturated airspace in which airplanes have their space and do not They annoy each other.

Perhaps you have been a little confused with the comparison to airplanes, to see if after that the real theory is easier for you to digest; Most of the routers are not modern enough to emit in the 5GHz band, this implies that in a block there can be quietly (without exaggeration) 30 routers emitting Wi-Fi waves at a frequency of 2.4 GHz and with lucky 3 of them will broadcast in the 5GHz band (unless you live in a large city where the arrival of the fiber has forced to establish more modern routers), what happens then? Since those 30 Wi-Fi transmitters will cause saturation in the band, this can be verified by scanning with our laptop or smartphone and seeing how we have an endless list of Wi-Fi networks within our reach, as there are so many of these networks interfering with each other causing interference and, in many cases, intermittent signal losses (instability in the network).

That is why the 5GHz band is so precious, it is a band that has few aggregates for now, but the routers are not the only ones that broadcast in the 2’4GHz band, mobile phones and even microwaves they emit signals on this frequency, this makes for example that if you activate the microwave, the devices that are close to it will have greater difficulty to achieve a stable connection with the router, and this despite the fact that the router can broadcast on 11 different channels of the band of 2'4GHz (it could be said that they are different heights within an airspace), despite this and that our router automatically changes the channel to avoid interference, this will not be the only router that does it, therefore we continue in them and we are surrounded by devices that emit in the band of 2.4 GHz.

For another pate, the band of 5GHz not only has greater stability by having less interference but admits higher speed data transfer, while the 2.4GHz band supports a maximum of 450Mbps in its most modern standard, the 5GHz band is able to achieve a transfer speed of 1,300Mbps, more than double, no doubt a notable improvement over the other band with the advantage of not having interference problems with the Microwave or other devices.

However, not everything is gold, the 5GHz band has a much smaller range and it has more difficulty to penetrate physical obstacles such as a wall, it could be said that under the same conditions, a wave emitted in the 5GHz band is 1/3 of the range of a emitted one in the 2'4GHz band, that is The most advisable thing today is to make use of devices compatible with the “Double Band”.

Thus, the advantages and disadvantages of each band remain this way:

Frequency of 2’4GHz

Advantage:

  • Good reach.
  • Compatible with the vast majority of both old and new devices.
  • Good penetration of obstacles.
  • Their antennas are usually cheap.

Disadvantages:

  • Many interferences, even with appliances.
  • Slow data transmission speed.
  • Poor stability

5GHz frequency

Advantage:

  • High transfer speed
  • Few interference, not affected by appliances.
  • Greater bandwidth
  • Newest Standard

Disadvantages:

  • Less penetration of physical obstacles.
  • Smaller range.
  • Their antennas are usually more expensive.
  • Compatibility with relatively new devices (for example, from iPhone 5 or higher).

Now it's up to the Wi-Fi standard 802.11 what?

Here we have several standards, each newer than the previous one, with its advantages and disadvantages, some newer ones are backward compatible with devices designed for older ones, some use the 2'4GHz band, others the 5GHz band and there are even those that use both (the latter are called Dual Band), there are a total of 6, we will review them all in chronological order, from the oldest to the most modern.

802.11

In 1997, at the Institute of Electricity and Electronics Engineering (IEEE in English) created the first standard of Wi-Fi technology, this was called 802.11 in reference to the group that oversaw the project, unfortunately, this standard so old it only got a data transfer rate of 2 Mbps, or more clearly and for all to understand, it is the equivalent of 0.25MB / s, since 1 Mbps is equivalent to 0.125MB / s, of all We will use this last way of measuring it to make it easier for you to get the idea.

802.11b

In 1999 the IEEE expanded the standard to a new one called 802.11b, this new standard made use of the unregulated band of 2.4 GHz, achieving a maximum speed of 1.375MB / s, something similar to most cable connections today in day.

This standard means lower costs when using the non-regulated band of 2.4GHz, however this causes interference with mobile phones, microwave devices or any other device that uses this frequency, these interference can be avoided by placing the emitting point of the Wi-Fi signal in a strategic and very high place.

Advantage:

  • Low cost.
  • Good reach.
  • Obstacles can be easily avoided by positioning the router well.

Disadvantages:

  • The lowest speed.
  • Household appliances can interfere with the signal by making use of the 2’4GHz band.

802.11a

This standard was created along with 802.11b, it was the first to make use of the 5GHz regulated band, however that meant a high cost and made it not as popular as 802.11b.

The 802.11a was relieved to business environments, its bandwidth is up to 6’75MB / s, a considerable speed, despite this it was 802.11b that ended up reigning our homes.

Advantage:

  • High speed data transmission (6’75MB / s or what is the same, 54 Mbps).
  • Since the 5GHz band is a regulated band, saturation of this band by other unauthorized devices is avoided.

Disadvantages:

  • Higher costs
  • Smaller range.
  • Greater difficulty penetrating obstacles.

802.11g

In 2002 and 2003 a new standard called 802.11g was released, it came to combine the best of 802.11b and 802.11a, 802.11g supports a bandwidth of up to 6.75MB / s and makes use of the frequency of 2 '4GHz to achieve greater reach and penetration of obstacles, this standard is also backward compatible with 802.11b, this implies that the devices designed for that older standard are compatible with the new one without changing anything.

Advantage:

  • Using the 2’4GHz band gives you greater reach and penetration.
  • High speed up to 6’75MB / s.
  • Backward compatibility with 802.11b.

Disadvantages:

  • Cost greater than 802.11b.
  • Interference due to saturation of the band.
  • Interference with appliances or other devices.

802.11n

The 802.11n standard is also known by the name of "Wireless N", this came to improve the speed or bandwidth of its predecessors incorporating MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output in English) technology, this technology makes use of more than one antenna to simultaneously send and receive data packets thus avoiding the loss of some and ultimately improving the intensity of the network.

In 2009 it was determined that this standard could reach a transmission speed of 37.5 MB / s. This standard is backward compatible with 802.11b and g and makes use of the unregulated 2'4GHz band.

Advantage:

  • Very high speed.
  • Good reach.
  • Good penetration of obstacles.
  • Higher intensity due to the use of multiple antennas.

Disadvantages:

  • The cost is higher than the previous standards.
  • Networks based on 802.11g and 802.11b may interfere with the signal from it.
  • Appliances or other devices that use the 2’4GHz band may cause interference.

802.11ac

This is the newest standard, makes use of the simultaneous Dual Band and MIMO technology, reaches a speed of 162'5MB / s in the 5GHz band and 56'25MB / s in the 2'4GHz band, it is backward compatible with 802.11b standards, g and n.

Advantage:

  • Backward compatibility with old standards allow relatively old devices to make use (without enjoying all their advantages) of this standard.
  • The best bandwidth or data transmission speed in both bands.
  • The use of MIMO technology allows to obtain a greater network intensity.
  • It has a combination of speed, good range and different degrees of penetration of obstacles and interference according to the band to which we connect (they are 2 separate Wi-Fi, one in each band).

Disadvantages:

  • Dual Band MIMO implies a high cost.
  • The 2’4GHz band is still affected by its interference characteristics.
  • The 5GHz band still does not have a range comparable to that of 2’4GHz.

Beamforming, routers to combat

The beamforming It is a technology that, in essence, allows more efficient use of Wi-Fi antennas. Routers with beamforming will be able to know the location of the devices connected to their Wi-Fi network and focus the signal towards them instead of emitting an omnidirectional wave and waiting for it to reach the client.

To give you an idea, an antenna without beamforming would be comparable to a light bulb and one with beamforming to a laser, a light bulb when illuminated evenly illuminates everything around it emitting light in all directions, a laser however, concentrates its beam of light precisely to the point we are aiming at.

Beamforming is not for everyone

This technology was introduced with the 802.11n standard, however when the IEE did it, it did not specify how the use of this technology should be applied with this standard, as a consequence many devices (routers and receivers) appeared on the market with different methods to make use of beamforming, the drawback is that these methods did not work with each other, because of this you had to have a router and a device that implemented the same beamforming method so that it could be compatible, otherwise it would be like a network Conventional Wi-Fi

Luckily, the IEE did not make the same mistake again with the new 802.11ac standard, now there are guidelines set by manufacturers who want to implement this technology on their devices, in this way, all devices are compatible with each other by making use of the same beamforming method.

Benefits of beamforming

Thanks to the beamforming we get our signal to concentrate on the device or the devices that are making use of it, in this way the latency is reduced and the reach of a connection is increased.

Beamforming characteristics

We have seen the benefits that this technology has and in essence it is, but there are more secrets behind it, for example, not all devices that make use of the 802.11ac standard are compatible with beamforming, it is generally the high-performance routers that can Make use of this technology.

Nor can all recipients fully benefit from it, for this they must have a Wi-Fi chip that has MIMOFor example, the iPhone 6 can receive a signal from a router with beamforming through the 802.11ac standard (iPhone 6 or higher is compatible with that standard), however the iPhone 6 cannot point to the router, it must send packets omnidirectionally, this happens because the iPhone 6 is not capable of “beamforming”, however the iPhone 6s or higher are, these iPhone and iPad Air 2 have a Wi-Fi chip with MIMO technology that It allows you to take advantage of all the advantages of this technology.

NAS (Network Attached Storage)

Some routers include a USB port, others even carry a hard drive inside, these routers support or include NAS functionality, this implies that you can connect a storage device and make use of it remotely.

For example, some high-performance routers include a hard drive inside and allow you to do things that until now nobody would have thought of a router such as:

  • Time Machine: With a Mac you can configure a network hard drive to make it a Time Machine, making it possible for the Mac to make backup copies of itself on this hard drive automatically and without cables.
  • Remote storage: We can use this hard disk as remote storage, of course the speeds of lecruta / writer will be limited not only by those of the storage device but by the speed of the Wi-Fi or wired network, however we can transfer files such as photos or videos to this network hard drive and view them from any other device (such as our smartphone or television) without having to download them.
  • Torrents Manager: Some routers even allow you to have a torrent manager, this is the case of the Xiaomi Smart Router 2 that allows you to send torrents to the router and download them to your storage device without having any other equipment running.
  • FTP server: These storage devices can be configured to be accessible even when away from home, as long as our router has an internet connection, the storage device will also have it, so we can have a high-speed online storage service (determined by the quality of the contracted connection) for the price we want (determined by the storage space and the cost of the device) and the space we want.

Smart QoS, perhaps the most precious feature

QoS are the acronyms of Quality of Service (Quality of service in Spanish), this is a very important functionality in homes where there are different user profiles.

For example, if you have a family member in the house who plays online video games, another that usually sees a lot of streaming video services such as YouTube or Netflix and / or another that makes use of torrents programs you will be living in the situation of many homes in which The connection generates problems between users.

Many discussions can end with the inclusion of a device that includes Smart QoS, this functionality can take measures in this regard such as the prioritization of traffic and / or the guarantee of a minimum bandwidth, so that you understand better I will explain:

Traffic Prioritization:

Yes a user is playing an online game how can League of Legends be and another watching videos on YouTube or Netflix, these two users will be establishing traffic through the router, in case of not having QoS this router will send the necessary data to the internet as they arrive, without an order of priority. However these are two different activities, the online game requires low latencies, this means that it is necessary that the packages arrive quickly to the server and be returned with the same speed, a game in the game League Of Legends with a duration of 1 time can be an expense of only 70MB, however streaming videos from YouTube or Netflix do not require the same latency but bandwidth and download speed, these videos in HD quality can generate hundreds of MB or even 1 or 2 GB of consumption in one hour, are two uses of the network that require different needs.

With the prioritization of traffic from a router with Smart QoS, the router knows what activity each one is and what they require, thus ensuring a minimum latency for the user who is playing (which will allow him to control his characters in real time without any type delay) and adequate bandwidth and download speed for the user who is watching streaming video (which will enjoy a video without interruptions and also will not bother the first user).

Minimum bandwidth guarantee:

These situations can occur with other types of users, such as a user who watches streaming videos and another who is downloading torrents, the first user (in case of not having a router with Smart QoS) will see how his videos do not load well and They suffer pauses because the second user is consuming all the bandwidth when downloading torrents, this is comparable to a road, the wider the road will be, the more cars can pass at the same time (bandwidth), however without Smart QoS No one says that car can pass where it would be like an unregulated road.

Thanks to the Smart QoS and its bandwidth guarantee, the router that has this function will allocate a minimum bandwidth to each user, this user will have secured a part of the road so that their cars (packages) pass through it without another user can invade their lanes, thus ensuring that everyone can pass and that no one invades another's lane.

Last conclusions

With this guide you will be ready to analyze the situation in your home or workplace, think about the connection you have contracted, check that your router is up to this and even your devices (even if you do not have a good fiber optic Router can improve your connection much better by carrying out tasks such as streaming AirPlay, managing downloads of Torrents, YouTube and online gaming sessions so that some do not interfere with the others or even improving the reach of your network to areas of the house in those that came vaguely before).

An important detail also in the selection of a router can be the processor and RAM installed, I know this may sound exaggerated but the better processor the router has, the better it will be able to make decisions about the traffic that passes through it, and the more RAM it has, the more packets it can store to be able to send one after another without users seeing its connection slowed down .

The issue can be complex, however it is not, the key is to find a quality router at a good price, you do not need to buy a supercomputer that manages the connection of your home, however a bad router can get much worse and your user experience.

On the internet you can find good routers that are compatible with the latest wireless connection standards, have NAS or are compatible with it and even have multiple antennas and Smart QoS function, the problem is that many routers of this style are usually complicated to configure, even some have false antennas that are not even half as large as what plastic makes them see (by opening them many antennas have actually proved to be less than 50% of what they occupy).

Some routers that I personally recommend are:

Xiaomi Mi Wifi 2 – € 30 – The cheapest NAS-compatible 802.11ac MIMO Wi-Fi router you can find, inspired by Apple's Magic Trackpad, will delight the connection of any home. All Xiaomi routers include application for iOS and Android and simple interface.

AirPort Express – € 109 – The cheapest router from Apple, despite having more outdated features than those of the Xiamo Mi Wifi 2, there are people who are not willing to buy brands like Xiaomi, this time we have a router compatible with the standard 802.11n, enough for many homes, without NAS support.

Xiaomi Smart Router 1 (1TB) – € 124 – The first generation of the advanced Xiaomi router, the first on the list that includes NAS by default, has a slot at the bottom to connect a hard disk (includes one of 1TB) and It is compatible with beamforming, the 802.11ac standard and SmartQoS.

Xiaomi Smart Router 2 (1TB) – € 150 – More advanced than the previous one (the best in my opinion) and with 1TB built-in NAS, this router is compatible with 802.11ac standard, beamforming technology, torrent manager, Smart QoS , automatic backups and a long etc …

AirPort Extreme – € 219 – Apple's most advanced NAS (not built-in) router, compatible with the 802.11ac standard, beamforming, has a total of 6 antennas in a 3X3 MIMO system (3 for 2'4GHz and 3 for 5GHz), USB 2.0 port and smartphone application.

AirPort Extreme Time Capsule (2TB) – € 329 – In essence it is an AirPort Extreme with a built-in 2TB hard drive that will allow you to make local Time Machine through your Wi-Fi network, so you can make automatic backups of your Mac in a way Simple and wireless.

Xiaomi Smart Router 2 (6TB) – € 539 – The same Xiaomi router in its 6TB version, for the most demanding and looking to host all their videos, movies, photos, backups and others on this router.

#Note: All Xiaomi routers have software based on OpenWRT, a version of Linux for routers. There is an app called My Wifi In the AppStore and Google Play that is used to configure them from our smartphone or tablet and is available in English (for Android there is in the MIUI forum a Spanish version translated by the community), the web interface of these routers is only available in Chinese However, if we access it from the Google Chrome browser, we can translate it into Spanish perfectly.

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