How Home WiFi is Keeping Up With Increased Demand for Stay at Home Orders
You’re likely stuck at home right now, and what’s your first choice for entertainment? The internet. Most of our lives have transformed from coffee dates, workdays, and gym sessions, to surfing the net, attending Zoom parties, and streaming the entire Netflix catalog. It’s great to be still connected, but can the internet handle it?
Home WiFi networks have come a long way since their conception, but they’re still far from ubiquitous. How much traffic can they actually handle? And just what happens when the global usage exceeds their capacity level.
We’ve asked the experts, checked the data, and made some critical predictions about how our ISPs will handle the looming internet crisis.
The Explosion in Usage
All across the world, the statistics are telling the same story. WiFi usage has exploded, and almost every country is seeing a rise in traffic. Some areas have seen a considerable spike. The Philippines is currently home to the most significant increase, seeing 63.3% mobile usage compared to 52.3% at the start of the year.
The narrative is largely the same across the west. In Seattle, internet traffic has jumped a staggering 30% more than a typical week in January usually sees. Europe has similar trajectories, but it varies more between regions. According to an Openreach study, Spain saw a jump from 61.9% to 73%. Whereas Italy’s increase was more modest, shifting from 51.2% to 59.2%.
There’s also been a move towards more data-heavy tasks. Before, the majority of daytime traffic came from office workers browsing the net for research. Now, we’re looking at streaming, video games, VoIP calls, and more throughout the day.
Understandably, many are worried about what repercussions may follow.
A Quick Glance at Global Infrastructure
Currently, the global average internet speed is 7.2MBps, which doesn’t sound very promising. However, the scale varies dramatically depending on where you are. California, for example, has an impressive first-world infrastructure, with an average of 32MBps. However, even the home of silicon valley has its dark spots, with rural areas such as Almanor and Bella Vista averaging at less than 20MBps.
Unfortunately, a vast amount of countries fall below the global mean. Argentina, China, Bangladesh, and Mongolia are just a few of the many examples that fall in the 2-3MBps range – and even these aren’t the worst off. Yemen currently has the slowest internet, at just 0.38, and twelve other countries don’t even reach the 1MBps mark.
With such an undulating global situation, predicting the repercussions of quarantine for home WiFi networks is difficult.
The Response from Experts
Tom Wheeler, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, gave a very candid response about WiFi infrastructure.
“We just don’t know,” he admitted in a NY Times interview, adding “what is sufficient bandwidth for a couple of home computers for a husband and wife may not be sufficient when you add students who are going to class all day long operating from home.”
Despite the uncertainty, many communications companies are preparing for the worst. Cox, Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Charter have all made statements about expanding capacity. Some companies have already taken this step, while others have suggested they’re exploring the possibility, should a problem arise.
Get the Most from Your Home WiFi
As individuals, is there anything we can do to improve the situation? In the short term, the answer is yes. A few tactics exist to boost your home WiFi and get the most from the existing capacity.
- Cut Off Unauthorized Use
If your WiFi doesn’t have a password or uses a simple code like 12345, then you may have leeches. These are other users outside your house that connect to your network. Using a strong password removes this problem.
- Use a Lower-Populated WiFi Channel
Most WiFi routers automatically use channels 1 and 6, which results in high traffic levels. Most countries have six available channels, so simply switching to another one could improve speeds considerably.
- Prioritize with Quality of Service (QOS) settings
Modern routers include QOS settings so you can determine what apps get priority. For families stuck at home, this means you can ensure your work meetings get priority bandwidth over the kids playing video games.
Stay Up-To-Date for Any New Developments
As the global situation develops, so will the pressure on our WiFi infrastructure. To get the latest news, keep your eye on posts from tech and internet bloggers. In these unknown times, knowledge is power, and web experts are best equipped to predict upcoming changes. Understanding the continual developments is your best option to stay ahead of the game and keep your WiFi running at top speeds.