These days, every member of the household is online for extended periods of time. Netflix streaming, endless Zoom conference calls, FaceTime and YouTube sessions are over- taxing the bandwidth on our home systems.
According to reports from NCTA, the Internet and Television Association, Wi-Fi data traffic and Wi-Fi calling are increasing compared to mobile usage, and networks are supporting more Wi-Fi-connected devices. In addition, upstream peak hours have shifted from late evening towards the afternoon.
The Courier spoke to home technology specialist Eric Thies of DSI Luxury Technology (www.dsilt.com) about the challenges of these unique times.
“Most of my clients reside in Beverly Hills or the Westside and they all have something in common, they do not spend a lot of time at home. Between travel and a demanding work schedule, they are typically on-the-go at all times,” said Thies.
As a result, Thies’ clients, like many others, were not prepared for the surge in usage.
“The first area of importance of the home technology system is the Wi-Fi and computer network,” said Thies. “I have been urging my clients for years to splurge in this category to make sure their systems are robust, reliable, and speedy. Almost everything you use in your home relies on internet connectivity.”
Anyone struggling through the pandemic with slow or non-existent Wi-Fi should keep a few things in mind. “People have been ordering Wi-Fi equipment, network hardware and routers from Amazon and it was fine for a while,” Thies told the Courier. “Now the systems are put to the test. All the kids are being homeschooled, parents are working at home – with staff in some cases – and the systems are being tested. “People are realizing this is not serving their home so well,” said Thies, “So we have to get them more professional-grade equipment.” This issue is not restricted to only larger homes, but also apartment dwellers in very dense areas.
Beverly Hills IT consultant Anthony Le sums it up to getting more broadband to help increase speeds. “My clients are having trouble connecting to their offices for work,” said Le. While most providers offer great downloading, not so with uploading. The solution? “Ask for asymmetrical broadband, which means the download and upload is matching,” he said.
Additional roadblocks that may prevent equipment from operating effectively include older construction with plaster walls, lots of glass or concrete. “It requires an upgrade and more access points – essentially your Wi-Fi antennas positioned around the house,” explained Thies.
You might need to rectify this situation with adding new signal boosters in the home. “Wi-Fi is the base, but it only goes so far,” explained Le. “The idea is to try to extend the signal out farther from the central location of the Wi-Fi.” Le cites Wi-Fi mesh as a more popular option. “This is like an extender, but they all talk to each other. So, if you’re walking around your home, it follows you seamlessly.”
Mesh brands to look into are Eero, Netgear, and Google also makes one. They typically cost a few hundred dollars.
Thies advises all his clients to subscribe to the maximum speed they can get from their internet provider. “If you’re starting with their best package, you’re at least guaranteed some level of service to keep you going,” he said. “We have a strained infrastructure in the hills above Sunset anyway, and there are plenty of areas that have not been upgraded but it’s very difficult and costly to change that. Three months ago, 75 to 80 percent of the population was not at their home but spread out over the city,” he adds.
Spectrum has been monitoring the situation and the network closely, “We are poised to adjust resources as needed to provide the reliable internet and essential services our customers depend on,” said Dennis Johnson, Senior Director, West Region Communications for Charter Communications (which owns Spectrum.) To keep up with increasing demand, Charter has invested $40 billion over the last five years in new technology and network upgrades.
For a larger home, you should consider enterprise-grade hardware which can also be used for a commercial building. “Treat yourself to the best unless you enjoy hearing your teenagers scream at you because their connection dropped out in the middle of their AP test,” said Thies. “Investing in great hardware results in better coverage, higher reliability, faster speed, less drop-outs, and the capacity for many users on the system at once.”
He added, “Although consumer products like Eero and Ecobee are nice for the average American home, which has about eight to 10 connected devices, our typical client has over 200 networked devices in the home. This is more than most small businesses.” Since all home systems from security to garage doors, lighting and even the pool are connected to the internet on some level, Thies advises purchasing pro equipment such as Ruckus, Access Networks, Cisco or Meraki which are more complex business line portholes. They can cost in the thousands of dollars, but offer better coverage and strong signals.