Why is WiFi not working? That’s one of the most common questions our IT support team receives. The main reason is that people can’t see their WiFi. And, as with anything, if it’s ‘out of sight’ it’s usually out of mind too. That’s why most tech calls actually start with reports like my computer is slow, my internet is not working or I can’t access the company files. The real reason for most of these calls… the WiFi is not working very well!
It’s important to understand though that there are two main parts to make WiFi work. The transmitter(s) and the receiver. I like to think of the WiFi transmitter as a translator. In fact, I call mine Emilia! Emilia is constantly translating the internet ‘language’ into a WiFi language (and back again) as fast as she can.
So what factors can affect a phone or laptops ability to hear Emilia?
When I’m the only one in the building Emilia only has to send me the internet and no-one else. But when other people arrive they want her to translate for them too. That means I have to wait my turn. Emilia is smart though, she is able to translate a little for me and then a little for someone else and then come back to me.
But still, I have to wait my turn. Of course, the more people demanding the internet the longer I have to wait in between my turns. This can make my wireless appear to not be working or very slow.
Just like a real life translator, listening to Emilia translate on the ground floor while I’m on the top floor is going to be hard work. I might manage it if there’s very little outside noise but it’s going to be tough. You’ll find me shouting ‘pardon’… a lot!
WiFi is just the same. The further away you go from your transmitter the quieter the signal is. So our instinct is to think it’s not working when actually we’re just too far away.
One of the worst fears of staying in a hotel is thin walls. Why? Because thin walls means you can easily hear your neighbours. Not an experience many of us cherish.
But thin walls is what we need for good, working, wireless. Thin walls means it’s easy for your equipment to hear your transmitter. Thick walls (as often found in old buildings) makes it very difficult for your phone or laptop to hear the WiFi.
The explosion in WiFi popularity has created another problem. Too many transmitters nearby may be why your WiFi is not working.
Imagine you and Emilia are in a hall and she is translating perfectly well for you. You can hear her and she can hear you. Life is great.
Now along comes another translator and another person. Suddenly it’s a bit harder for you to hear Emilia with those other two chatting. But, your hearing is great and you cope. But then, along comes another translator and another… and another. Now there are 15 translators in the hall each talking to their own customers. With this much noise it’s now nearly impossible to hear your own translator.
When you join a WiFi network and see a big long list of Wireless names, that’s the same as a hall full of people all talking at once. This much noise makes it difficult for your phone or laptop to hear your transmitter.
Weather! Really? Oh yes. Static in the air, solar flares, and even atmospheric pressure all affect the range of the radio signal that your transmitter is sending out. So if yesterday it was lovely and sunny and your WiFi was working great. Take a look outside today and see why it might not be as reliable today.
As you can probably tell by now WiFi is not as reliable as you may have first thought. Understanding why is a great first step in finding a solution. If you’ve checked all this and are still wondering why your wifi is not working very well – give our experts a call on 03333 055 055.
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