Listen to professional advice before you think about setting up your own home network
Setting up a home network – how difficult can it be? Most devices are plug and play these days, so it’s not such a challenge to get everything up and running.
But soon enough, the honeymoon with your own DIY Wi-fi set-up might be over, and the disagreements start. Connection could become unreliable, even though everything shows it’s working. Streaming may be slow, or limited to one device at a time.
This is Hong Kong – a city with one of the most advanced telecommunications networks in the world, and the fastest average broadband internet speed. What’s going on?
According to Allen Wong, head of product and business development, consumer group, HKT, the bulk of calls for technical help come from customers experiencing problems with their self-installed home network. There are certain technological issues particular to Hong Kong, which a professional is best qualified to address.
In densely populated urban areas, he says, “Wi-fi pollution”, the term coined for an excessive number of access points in the area, can be a nightmare.
“Despite continuous improvement, the network still gets so crowded in certain areas that congestion and interference are common,” Wong says. A technical expert can avoid this by scanning the area for Wi-fi transmitters, and selecting the one which can give the householder optimal performance.
The obvious place to locate a router may not be the best one, Wong says. If your neighbour in the adjoining apartment also locates their router on that wall, it’s doubling the load on the line. Hence, slower speeds for both parties. A professional has equipment to test for this, and advise on the most efficient router placement.
Similarly, not all routers are created equal. With 83 per cent of Hong Kong population already using one or more connected devices (TNS Infratest, Q1 2015), and that number set to grow as smart-home technology becomes more widely adopted, it’s important to choose a Wi-fi router capable of running all devices, and not be guided only by price.
Then there’s getting your head around the whole Wi-fi language. 80211ac, 802.11ad, MU-MIMO, Wi-fi Calling and beyond – how do you know your system will cope in the ever-evolving digital space?
Wong says the best way to equip your home for optimal broadband performance is to go for a wired system, which is more reliable than wireless, although this requires physical cabling which can be messy to install. “If a householder is remodelling,” he says, “we encourage them to have ducts fitted inside walls while the renovation works are taking place. This will allow for better flexibility of Wi-fi in the future.”
If this is not possible, an expert can still advise on a system with the best interface for your neighbourhood network. He or she can also do an audit of your household’s digital devices, and determine whether you need more than one router, or a router and a repeater, to get a signal to every room in the house. “We aim for 95 per cent coverage,” Wong says.
At HKT, such expert advice and professional installation is part of the service provided.
But even with the best set-up, the digital landscape is changing. HKT has devised a subscription service to “future-proof” your hardware by providing the most suitable router, and replacing it with a newer model once it becomes obsolete.
“Because you never ‘own’ the router, you’re not out of pocket each time you need a new one,” Wong says.
Subscriptions start at around HK$68 per month and include free technical support, including in-home service calls, to remedy any problems. There’s even a try before you buy option. Test the system in your home for a month, and if you’re not satisfied, you don’t commit.
Regardless of whether you do it yourself or engage a professional to set up a home network, Wong urges everyone to at least talk to the professionals, “and listen to what they say”. This can avoid much frustration in the long run.