How fiber internet can help your WiFi signal
Thinking of switching to fiber-optic internet, and wondering how it will affect the performance of your home or office WiFi connection? Are you wondering how these technologies interact—or even unsure how they are different? Not to worry. We’re going to explain how fiber internet works, how WiFi works, and how together they can improve your internet connection.
First, let’s start with some basics. What is fiber internet, and how does it work?
How fiber internet works
Fiber internet utilizes thin strands of glass to transmit data as pulses of light. This technology allows for super-fast internet speeds and significantly lower latency compared to traditional cable or DSL connections, which travel over copper wires. Fiber-optic cables can carry vast amounts of data over long distances without degradation, making it a superior option for transmitting data at the speed of light.
By comparison, with traditional cable internet, speeds tend to be slower due to network congestion, and download and upload speeds—the speed at which your data comes and goes—won’t be equal on cable, which leads to lag on your end. With fiber internet, you’re able to get much higher speeds (up to 10 Gigs with Ziply Fiber, the Northwest’s fastest home internet provider), and those speeds will be the same both ways, so you won’t experience slowdowns or annoying things like buffering wheels.
To learn more about how fiber internet works, see our post: What is fiber internet, and do I need it?
How WiFi works
Far from the internet cafes days, when you had to stake out a desktop computer station to check your email, WiFi is practically everywhere you go now, and it enables you to connect to the internet from any given coffee shop, restaurant, bar, lobby or laundromat. It’s revolutionized work, entertainment and communication.
WiFi is a radio frequency technology
WiFi, short for wireless fidelity, uses radio waves to wirelessly connect devices to a local network, typically facilitated by a router. The foundation for WiFi technology lies in the discovery of radio waves in the late 19th century. (Fun fact: we measure radio frequencies in Hertz (Hz) or Gigahertz (GHz) thanks to Heinrich Hertz, the German physicist who made inroads studying electromagnetic fields and radio waves.) WiFi allows devices to communicate with each other and access the internet without the need for physical cables. It’s kind of amazing to think that this ubiquitous technology originated over 100 years ago.
How WiFi interacts with your internet connection
Unless you’re connecting to a cellular hotspot (which may eat up your phone’s data plan), WiFi requires a wired connection, which is why you need a reliable internet connection to have reliable WiFi in your home or office. Your WiFi router picks up your wired internet connection and links it to devices around your house—like your laptop, your smart TV or home assistant, and your phone if you choose to connect via WiFi rather than cellular. In this way, you can think of your internet connection like a physical wire to a network and your WiFi signal as a frequency that taps into the network remotely.
How fiber internet improves WiFi signals
Fiber internet’s higher speeds and stability can lead to better WiFi range and coverage. WiFi routers can more efficiently distribute data to connected devices, reaching farther into your home or office. This is especially helpful in larger spaces or buildings with multiple floors, where you need your WiFi connection to cross more distance to connect your devices.
When you have such fast internet (remember, fiber can handle speeds of gig-speed and beyond with equally fast uploads and downloads) coming into your home or office, your WiFi network can also operate at higher speeds. Faster WiFi speeds translate to quicker downloads, smoother streaming, and reduced buffering times, allowing you to enjoy uninterrupted online activities.
Fiber internet is faster internet
Another great thing about fiber is that internet service providers can offer much higher bandwidth capacity. This means that multiple devices connected to the same WiFi network can enjoy faster speeds without slowing each other down. Households or offices with numerous connected devices will notice a significant improvement in overall network performance and responsiveness.
Fiber internet is more reliable internet
Traditional cable internet connections can suffer from interference, especially during peak hours when many users are online simultaneously. Fiber internet, on the other hand, is not susceptible to electromagnetic interference and offers a more stable and reliable connection. This stability extends to your WiFi network, reducing sudden drops or slowdowns in connection that can be frustrating during critical tasks—or frustrating when the movie you’re streaming starts buffering at a critical plot point.
How to boost your WiFi signal in your home
Fiber internet will give you a leg up because of its faster speeds, low latency and lag, and the lack of network congestion that would slow you down on a copper network. Still, even a multi-gig fiber network is going to slow down a bit when it enters the building and routes to WiFi.
See our post: Gig-speed fiber-optic internet, explained
How fast should my WiFi speed be?
WiFi speeds depend on various factors, including the type of router, the number of connected devices, the distance from the router, and potential sources of interference. While modern WiFi standards (such as WiFi 6) can achieve impressive speeds, they generally cannot match the sheer speed of fiber internet.
To experience the true speed of fiber internet, you need to connect your computer to the network physically with an Ethernet cable. As soon as your internet connects to WiFi, it will begin to lose speed, and it will continue to lose speed the father it has to travel and depending on how many walls (and floors and ceilings) are in the way.
WiFi extenders can increase internet speed and coverage
This is where WiFi extenders come in handy. Extenders can simply be plugged into an outlet between the router and the area of your home you want to reach. Extenders are getting more sophisticated, and some internet companies offer WiFi extenders as part of a home internet plan. Ziply Fiber, for instance, has a Whole Home WiFi product that hooks up your entire house for a low monthly cost. Given the cost of some extenders, purchasing a whole home WiFi plan could save money, not to mention frustration.
Fiber and WiFi are better together
Fiber internet and WiFi are complementary technologies that serve different purposes in providing internet connectivity. Fiber internet offers incredibly fast and reliable wired internet connections with higher speeds and greater bandwidth, while WiFi provides the convenience of wireless connectivity within a limited range. Together, these technologies work hand in hand to deliver seamless and efficient internet access to users, catering to their specific needs and preferences.
The faster your internet speed, the better your WiFi connection will be. A high-speed fiber internet plan will boost your speeds, reduce lag and provide more reliable connectivity, which will extend to your WiFi service. However, your WiFi connection will always be slower than the wired connection, and the farther it travels the weaker it gets. To avoid the slowdown, you’ll want to hook up easy-to-install WiFi extenders or see if your internet service provider can set up a whole home WiFi service.
As fiber internet infrastructure continues to expand, more users will be able to harness the power of this technology, unlocking the full potential of their WiFi networks. If you haven’t already experienced the benefits of fiber internet, it might be time to consider upgrading and embracing the future of high-speed, reliable internet connectivity.