Unless your internet router is quite old, there’s a good chance it will support Wi-Fi on 2.4GHz and 5GHz. This is what’s known as dual-band, and it has been around for a few years now. The 802.11n standard supports it (but not all 802.11n routers are dual-band) and all 802.11ac routers use both bands.
You might well be able to take advantage of this if you’re working from home. You can keep that fast 5GHz network reserved for all the important devices that need a fast, reliable internet connection for things like Zoom video calls.
We say might because it will depend upon whether your phone and laptops also support 5GHz Wi-Fi. Again, if they’re quite new they should do, but older devices might be stuck with only 2.4GHz.
It will also depend upon your router, as some merge 2.4GHz and 5GHz into one Wi-Fi network and you can’t separate them and give them different names and passwords.
On the BT Smart Hub in the UK, you can separate them as shown below:
But if you can do this, then you can set all your kids tablets, phones and all your smart home kit – lights, security cameras, robot vacuum cleaners – to use the 2.4GHz network and connect the devices you use for work to the 5GHz network.
You may have spotted a potential problem with this. Technically they might be two different Wi-Fi networks, but although this simple change might bring a few improvements, both of them are still sharing the same broadband internet connection and fighting for the bandwidth.
This is why you need to look for a setting in your router which prioritises traffic on the 5GHz network, or allows you to pause the 2.4GHz network while you make video calls.
So, setting this up will require a modicum of technical ability. But there are other ways you can achieve two Wi-Fi networks. And that’s good news if your router doesn’t even have 5GHz.
Get a second home network using Ethernet cables
This is a solution for laptops, PCs and other device which have an Ethernet port.
They can bypass Wi-Fi altogether and be connected to your router using a cable. Wires are always a better option than wireless, with no chance of dropouts or weak signal.
Plus, you can turn off your router’s Wi-Fi when you need the full speed of your internet connection for those Zoom calls and prevent your kids and other devices from hogging any bandwidth.
Enable the guest network
Ethernet cables are no use if you want to use a phone or tablet on a second network. But some routers – even if they are older models – offer a guest network which provides internet access for guests but no way to poke around on your home network and access any of the devices connected to it.
You will need to log onto your router’s web interface (in a web browser) to find out if it has a guest network option. Usually that’s disabled by default.
But where guest networks are supported, they usually also have a setting where you can restrict how much bandwidth guests can use. For example, if you have a 20Mbps broadband connection, setting the guest network to have 10% of the available bandwidth gives all guest users 2Mbps to share.
You will be able to set a network name a separate password for this network and it’s then simply a case of connecting all your kids devices (and other smart home kit) to the new network and ‘forgetting’ the old network so they can’t reconnect to it.
An easier option is simply to change the password of the old network.
Use powerline adapter with Wi-Fi
If none of the methods above apply to you, then your final option is to buy more hardware. You could buy a
new router which offers a guest network, or even a
mesh Wi-Fi system. Mesh kits vastly improve Wi-Fi coverage and speed in most homes and a lot come with the ability to pause Wi-Fi for specific devices.
Another option is to
buy a powerline kit with Wi-Fi, such as the Tenda PH5 shown below. Plug the non-Wi-Fi adapter into a power socket near your router and connect the two with an Ethernet cable.
Plug the other adapter (after pairing, if necessary) into any other power socket in your home and it will create a new Wi-Fi network to which you can connect your important devices.
As with the Ethernet option above, if you want to stop people hogging your internet by streaming Netflix and YouTube just disable Wi-Fi on your router – your new wireless network will continue to work.
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