Why is my Wi-Fi so slow? (Android edition)
Updated: Mar 21, 2020
In the previous post, we showed you how to quickly measure your home Wi-Fi speed. If you ended up with a low speed result, such as 10mb or lower, the next step is to figure out WHY it is so slow. WARNING: This is going to get TECHNICAL, but I will try to keep it as simple as possible.
First, you will need a good Wi-Fi signal analyzer app. The bad news is, for iPhone users, there is no app available that will allow you to see which Wi-Fi channel your device is on. This is because Apple does not let developers have access to that data on your phone. Same goes for iPads.
Therefore, we are going to focus on how to use an Android phone to scan all local Wi-Fi networks for channel number and signal strength. Why do you need to do this? Because if there is another local Wi-Fi network, such as your neighbor's network, that is using the same broadcast channel as yours, then the signal interference may be enough to slow down the data speeds significantly. So for this, I like to use Wi-Fi Analyzer which can be found the Google Play store here. It is easy to use, and it gives you the info you need to figure out which Wi-Fi channel your router is using; whether there are other local networks using the same channel; and how strong the signal is. Note: you don't need the Pro version of Wi-Fi Analyzer. The free version will give you what you need.
Ok, so once you install the app, open it up and you should see the Channel Graph, like this example:
Wow, that's a lot of Wi-Fi networks! On this screen, we see every Wi-Fi network to that is in range, and which channel it is broadcasting on. This is the 2.4GHz screen. There is a 5GHz screen as well. More about the difference between those two later.
If you have a very busy, crowded screen such as this example, it may be difficult to find your own Wi-Fi network name. So, swipe left to the Time Graph, which is a little more orderly:
Ok, so now you should be able to see your own Wi-Fi network name. Now, go back to the first screen, and if you were having a hard time seeing it before, the color code from this screen should help you find it now.
Before we go any further: if your screen is empty, save for your own network, then you don't need to go any further. There is something other than competing Wi-Fi networks that is causing your network slowdown, and this app won't help with that. You can skip to the blog post, Changing My Wi-Fi Channel.
SO, back on the original screen ...
... we can see that there are two networks that are BOTH broadcasting on Channel 4 (the bottom of the screen shows you all the 2.4GHz channel numbers.) I can see network "WiFi Station" in red, and "shebo" in yellow, are broadcasting on Channel 4. And even though "WiFi Station" has a strong signal, if that is my own network, then the other network ("shebo") broadcasting on Channel 4 may be strong enough to interfere with my data speeds.
OK, so now what? Well, if you look all the way to the left, you can see that Channels 12, 13 an 14 are clear. In addition, Channels 8 and 9 are also not too bad. Therefore, we need to change the channel that our Wi-FI router is broadcasting on.
How do we do that? That will be in the NEXT post, Changing My Wi-Fi Channel.
What about 5GHz networks? (WARNING: TECH-SPEAK AHEAD)
Now, for 5GHz, the steps are exactly the same, but the channel numbers are different. There are over 160 5GHz channel numbers, and there is normally less chance of interference on a 5GHz network. The challenge here is that, most modern routers broadcast on BOTH 2.4GHz and 5GHz. You can see that in most cases where the name of your network ID ends with "5G." Example: You name your network "Home." The router will often show the 5GHz network name as "Home-5G." Your iPhone and other devices can switch between these two networks (sometimes), as you move around the house and the signal strength changes. The main difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks is that 5GHz is faster, but with a limited signal distance from the router, while 2.4GHz has a longer-distance signal range, but a slower data speed. (I warned you that this would get technical!)