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How to Extend Your Wi-Fi So You Can Have Your Happy Hour Zoom Calls Outdoors

It’s pretty simple — unless your home is made of concrete

What’s the point of having an outdoor space if you can’t use it to flex on everyone in your Zoom meetings? 

The thing is, if your Wi-Fi doesn’t reach it, the space basically doesn’t exist. 

Luckily, this is a problem that you, a technologically inept person, are capable of solving. 

Your Wi-Fi probably doesn’t extend outdoors for one of two reasons. The first and more common reason is that your router simply doesn’t have the range. She’s a one-trick pony, dispersing her signal over a limited and fixed amount of square footage. This can be the result of a variety of things, from the software of the router, your internet plan or the hardware of the router itself. All of these problems can typically be fixed with a simple swap. 

The second reason could be the material of your home — Wi-Fi often won’t adequately penetrate concrete or other types of thick walls like brick. Concrete is increasingly being used to create “industrial” style homes, even within the interior, and many larger apartment complexes have concrete outer structures. Obviously, you probably don’t have much control in changing that. Nevertheless, there are options (albeit, somewhat expensive ones) to solve this problem, too. 

I’m assuming you have some idea of what the exterior of your home is made of, at very least, so hopefully you have some idea which direction you need to head now. If you think it’s the former problem, the first step is to make sure your router is located appropriately in the home, ideally somewhere central and open. If you’re hiding your router behind furniture or in the back corner of the house, this might be the problem. 

The second step is to make sure your software is up to date — according to PC Mag, most modern routers have a button right on them labeled “firmware update.” Otherwise, you may need to look for the router’s model information and do some research. PC Mag also recommends checking the frequency of your Wi-Fi, changing the channel your wifi is on and messing around with the Quality of Service tools your router might have. This way, you can maximize your Wi-Fi usage, see if it’s running poorly or designate your Wi-Fi to prioritize things like video calls instead of downloads. Depending on your internet provider, you might be able to manage these on their website (AT&T, for example, offers some of these options on their web portal). 

Quite honestly, I don’t know how to do any of those things myself, nevermind explain them to you, but at least now you know what to Google, and really, that’s the hardest part, right? 

They’re all basically methods to attempt before you have to spend any more money and buy a new or additional router. If your router is old or doesn’t seem to function well, it might just be time for an upgrade. However, if your router is working just fine but doesn’t adequately reach your outdoor space, maybe you need a second one. This is often something you can do yourself, but check with your internet provider, first. Depending on where you place it, you can drastically extend the square footage your Wi-Fi covers by adding a second home network. Hopefully, you can coordinate this to include your Wi-Fi space. Alternatively, you can buy a wifi extender.

But if you have the concrete problem, or just want the most premium Wi-Fi option, you’ll have to go mesh. Mesh Wi-Fi systems require multiple router “points” placed throughout the house, but offer a more streamlined system. While simply adding a second router to your home or purchasing a Wi-Fi extender will require you to set up another network, mesh routers are all synced under one network. This simplicity will cost you more, though: Google Nest costs $269 for one router and one “point,” which will cover 2,200 square feet of space. The more points you add, the more space it’ll cover. A single point goes for $149. 

Mesh Wi-Fi systems are usually better at penetrating thick walls by nature of their technology, but it’s the multi-point setup itself that makes it better for having Wi-Fi outdoors. If you place a point by a window, the wifi should extend through the glass. The ports need to be plugged into an outlet, but if you have one outdoors, you could hypothetically just plug it in outside while you’re there and bring it in when you’re done. 

Whatever fix you choose is gonna depend on your circumstances, and some are easier and more affordable than others. Having Wi-Fi outdoors might come with a cost, but honestly, being able to show off your outdoor space to us losers without any is kind of priceless.