Setting up a Wi-Fi network at home or work

  • What you need to set up a home Wi-Fi network
  • Different types of broadband connections you can use
  • What equipment you will need to set up a Wi-Fi network

There are innumerable reasons to set-up a WiFi internet connection. If you have multiple computers that all need to be online simultaneously, a WiFi network allows everyone to connect to a fast and stable broadband connection together, without having cumbersome Ethernet cables strewn about all over the premises.

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When you want to connect via a laptop, notebook, tablet, or smartphone, WiFi allows users the freedom to walk around an approximate 30-metre radius, never having to disconnect from the web.

To create a good WiFi network you need to have a fast ADSL, ADSL2+, Naked DSL, or cable broadband connection. WiFi should not be confused with Mobile Wireless broadband, which works off of the mobile phone towers via a SIM card inside a small USB modem. WiFi is much faster, more stable, and you can transfer huge amounts of data, when compared with Mobile Wireless.

The first step on your WiFi journey will be to buy a WiFi enabled modem, or separate modem and WiFi router. It’s probably easier to get a combined device. If your internet service is ADSL2+ broadband, you need to make sure the modem is a WiFi enabled ADSL2+ modem/router. If it’s only ADSL1, you may only receive one third of your potential broadband speed, and if it’s a cable modem it won’t work at all.

An ADSL WiFi modem/router plugs into your home or office’s phone jack, via a central filter, which most modems come with in the box. You’ll be able to make phone calls when you are online, and you can have as many computers connected to the single connection as you like, although you’ll need to be aware each device’s internet speed will decrease when it’s sharing the one service.

Modems also come with Ethernet ports, so if your PC doesn’t have a wireless card you can still connect with an Ethernet cable. You’ll need to put the PC near the actual phone jack in order to not have a long cable running throughout the property. Wireless cards can be purchased through some broadband providers, or from an electronics shop. You could also buy a USB adaptor, which does the same thing. New laptops and other WiFi enabled devices already have built-in WiFi receivers.

Depending on the modem you have your wireless connection will usually cover most of an average size home, and front or backyards. This means you can sit on the veranda and watch internet TV on such a quick connection you won't have to wait for the program to load up or buffer. However, only Mobile Wireless broadband can be taken around town; so don’t try walking up the street, as the connection will be lost completely.

Broadband providers charge various prices for different types of modems, depending on their quality, the number of plug-in Ethernet ports it has, and whether or not it has VoIP (telephone calls over the internet) capabilities. A modem can have quite an impact on your internet connection’s quality, so do yourself a favour and buy a reputable model.

Some providers will offer a free modem with a longer contract period, but these are usually non-WiFi models. If you did decide to go down this path you could buy a separate WiFi router, which you then plug into one of the modem’s Ethernet ports. ADSL modems usually have 1, 2, or 4 Ethernet ports.

One advantage of buying your WiFi modem through your broadband provider is that the device often comes pre-programmed with your user name and password. The company will also be obliged to offer you technical support if you have any problems setting up the machine. Modems are fairly simple to configure, but if you were a technophobe or luddite, you probably wouldn’t want to buy one from a shop and then set it up on your own.

When using more than one WiFi enabled device on a broadband internet connection you need to have at least a 1500kbps speed. 8,000kbps is better, while ADSL2+ and fast cable speeds ensure a couple of computers can download data and watch streaming videos at the same time. If you are on an ADSL 256kbps or 512kbps connection you’ll find the broadband speed slows to a crawl when more than one computing device accesses the single connection.

WiFi is a signal that travels through the air, so you also need to consider that concrete and double-brick walls may impede a connection. In this instance you might need to use an Ethernet cable, or put the modem in the most troublesome area, as the signal is strongest where the machine sits. With this in mind, if you live in a 30-metre long property it is best to put the modem in the middle of the area in order to provide as strong a signal as possible in all internal locations.

After setting up the WiFi network you’ll need to make sure it’s secure. You don’t want other people in the neighbourhood slowing your connection down, not to mention stealing your data!