Often if you are experiencing performance issues, RISE Support will ask you to shift your device to a cabled connection for further testing. This is because wireless performance can be unpredictable, and can greatly impact the performance of your internet connection as a whole. This page will explain some of the issues that can be present and what you do to improve them, however a direct cable connection will always provide the most reliable performance in terms of speed, latency and packet loss.
A wireless connection is established between your device (this could be a phone, tablet, computer or many other things) and an Access Point (or AP.) You may have heard the Access Point referred to as a "wireless router" before, or even as "the modem" (this term is not quite accurate, but frequently used). It would often be around the size of a large paperback book, and may have external antennas. On this page we will use the term "Access Point" to describe this device.
Distance and Signal Attenuation
One thing that will impact the performance of your wireless device is the distance it is from the Access Point and any objects that are in the way (like walls.) The worst culprits for this are concrete walls and metal doors, but even thin walls can cause a reduction in signal, and thus performance. A simple plasterboard wall can reduce signal by 50%, while a concrete wall can drop signal by 95% (leaving only 5% of the power), causing a severe reduction in performance.
What is not immediately obvious is that even one device which is distant from the Access Point or communicating through walls can impact the performance of everyone connected to the Access Point. In this scenario, the Access Point will spend a large portion of it's resources trying to communicate with the device with poor signal, leaving less resources to send data to those clients with good signal quality.
For best performance you should make sure there is a clear path between all of your devices and the Access Point - in technical terms this is called "LoS" or Line of Sight. In cases where this isn't possible you may need to add a second Access Point which is connected via cable to the first.
Low Spec Wireless Clients
Your Access Point may support the latest and greatest in high speed wireless standards, but if your device (computer/cellphone etc.) does not support these standards then it won't get the benefit from this. If you have older devices that only support standards like 802.11a/802.11b/802.11g (you may need to check the specifications of your devices online to see what they support) then these devices act a bit like devices that are through a concrete wall (mentioned in the "Distance and Signal Attenuation" section.) The Access Point spends a large amount of its resources ensuring these devices get sufficient bandwidth, leaving less time for handling your newer devices. Even operating at full speed and close to the Access Point, a device operating on one of these older standards will not be able to keep up with the performance of your RISE connection.
For best performance you should ensure all devices have modern wi-fi cards. If you have a few older devices that can't be upgraded, sometimes it is best to set up a separate Access Point just for these devices, freeing up performance on your main Access Point for the devices which need it.
Wireless networks can be heavily impacted by the other wireless networks around them, and even sometimes by devices like cordless phones and microwaves. It's like being at a busy market - there can be so much noise around that it's hard to hear the people you want to talk to.
There are two main frequency bands used by typical wi-fi networks - 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Typically the 2.4GHz range has longer range and is more common, which means that networks from other offices can interfere more with your signal - it is "noisier" and thus performance is lower. If your wireless equipment supports 5GHz, this is normally "quieter" and can provide better performance.
For best performance make sure your wireless gear supports the 5GHz band. If you have had very good performance in the past, but it has decreased recently, it can be because a new wireless network has appeared near you and is "talking over" your wireless network. Sometimes restarting your router can cause it to select a new channel and improve this performance. In some particularly "noisy" environments, performance will unfortunately never be great.
Wireless networks are a shared resource. This means there is one pool of bandwidth which is shared between all of the devices on your network. If you have several devices (or even one) that are transferring a lot of data, this can impact the speed and latency of all the other devices connected to that Access Point. Particularly bad culprits for this are file sharing applications like BitTorrent which are designed specifically to use as much bandwidth as possible. A single device which is using BitTorrent can impact the performance of everyone on the Access Point, especially if it is combined with some of the other factors mentioned above. If you have local resources like file servers connected via wireless, this can also have a big impact on performance.
For best performance, move large bandwidth users or critical devices onto cabled connections. This will free up wireless resources for the other devices.