Enhancing Your WiFi-Powered Zoom Meeting
To the average person, WiFi is just a “connect it and forget it” situation. Problems with wireless connections are rare and usually easy to fix. However, when meeting through video, WiFi can falter.
A wireless connection makes use of radio waves broadcasted from devices at particular frequencies. Video communications over wireless can experience difficulties because each device broadcasts its signal rather than transmitting it directly (as in the case of wired connections). While most meetings through Zoom may go through without a hitch, WiFi causes inconsistencies when used in less-than-ideal conditions. Let’s have a look at some of the things you should do to optimize your video meeting experience while riding the wireless waves.
Reboot The Router
If you’ve experienced connectivity issues, you may want to reboot your router before your next video meeting, which flushes its stale connections. Admittedly, rebooting may not be the resolution, but it’s still a good way to prevent problems (especially if the router’s been on 24/7 for months or years).
Adjust Your Position
To maximize signal quality, you must do one of two things: move the router or move yourself. The closer you are to your router, the better your signal quality. Just like any other radio device, WiFi routers have a particular range. As you move further from it, you’ll get choppy packet delivery (your video and audio could freeze).
An aspect of WiFi connections that even the most well-versed people miss is obstruction. Since your packets basically float in mid-air to the router, avoid putting concrete structures, fingers, and other solid objects between your wireless antenna and the router. If you’re communicating from a mobile device, hold it near the bottom, as most mobile wireless antennas are situated near the top of the device. If your phone’s camera is off to a side, chances are that the antenna is on the opposite side. Keep this in mind when holding your phone in a landscape (horizontal) position.
Also, washing machines, microwaves, furnaces, and other electric appliances can interfere with your WiFi transmissions. Everything that uses electricity (even a light bulb) emits small amounts of radiation that could interfere with radio-based communication. We’re not telling you to stay in the dark and light some candles, but at least keep high-energy appliances from sitting between you and the router.
Don’t Crowd The Router
Think of your router as a railroad depot. Every connected device is a train that came to park there. Once all the shunts are occupied, the depot shines a red light signaling other trains that it’s full. Your router doesn’t have a red light, but it still gets overwhelmed.
If you connect more devices to it, you put pressure on its hardware and it eventually uses a “first-come, first-serve” packet management model to compensate. This is disastrous for people trying to converse through video. Typical home routers are meant to handle at most 9 or 10 connected wireless devices. They can theoretically handle up to 255, but we must stress the word “theoretically.” For the optimal video experience, a router needs minimal load in terms of both bandwidth and simultaneous connections.
By the way, running a service that hosts connections to multiple people also counts towards overwhelming the router. Anything you do on wired Ethernet will also have an impact on WiFi.
Update Your Router
Routers don’t just magically come with perfect firmware straight out of the assembly line. Chances are your manufacturer is going to notice some bugs that impede your ability to communicate effectively. WiFi suffers the most from this because its standards are always being revised and a vast amount of features exist that are not present in Ethernet. Look through your device manufacturer’s website and ensure that you have the latest firmware for your router.
If you bought a router that advertises itself as being optimized for video and VoIP, you’ll likely find an option somewhere within its configuration interface that allows you to enable Wireless Multimedia Extensions (WME) or WiFi Multimedia (WMM). These are two terms used to describe an interoperability feature within some routers that put a higher priority on media transmissions than on other data. It means that your router will put aside transmission of other packet data in favor of your video and audio transmissions. For more information, refer to your router’s manual.
Configure Zoom as a Priority Application
Oftentimes, while you’re configuring WME/WMM on your router, you’ll be able to define which applications have the highest priority. Add Zoom as one. For the port range, tell your router to start at 8801 and end at 8810 (the range your Zoom client application uses).
Use a Less-Crowded Channel
Wi-Fi networks are like big house parties. When the scene is getting too crowded, it’s time to take a breather on the balcony. In a large network with multiple WiFi access points, your packets might be neglected when sent on a radio channel that’s too occupied. To mitigate this, configure the router to use another channel on the network.
Don’t know if your channel’s busy or not? Unsure of what channel you should use? Wireless network diagnostic tools like MetaGeek’s inSSIDer can help you find this information.
Dual-band routers operate at two different frequencies: the 2.4 GHz band (the more common of the two, which is prone to interference from other devices) and the 5 GHz band. The higher frequency really doesn’t offer many advantages, but it does decrease the likelihood that you’ll experience nasty interference and offers a dedicated SSID (wireless connection) that you can use strictly for VoIP and Zoom meetings. Buying a dual-band router gives you this kind of flexibility. Call the 2.4 GHz network “Web” and the other one “Multimedia.” When joining or hosting a conference, connect to the “Multimedia” band and you’re set!
Nothing gives a better impression to those you communicate with than being heard clearly and understood perfectly. If you don’t want any embarrassing technical difficulties during a meeting, ensure that your wireless networks are healthy and performing at full capacity. An open road is always easier to navigate!
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