For years, the Wi-Fi at my house has been just OK. In the midst of some other renovations, I upgraded my Wi-Fi last month, and the results have been fantastic. I'm writing this post in case it helps someone else who is looking to improve the Wi-Fi at their home used by their iPhone, iPad, etc.
The Internet at my house is pretty fast. Cox is the cable internet provider in New Orleans, and the Cox Internet Ultimate package provides up to 150 Mbps download speeds. My cable modem is in my study, which is at the front of the second floor of my house, and because the cable modem is right next to my computer (an iMac), my computer uses Ethernet cords (not Wi-Fi) to get Internet access. Using the Ookla Speedtest website, I've never seen 150 Mbps download speed on the iMac, but I usually get in the 100 Mbps to 125 Mbps range, which is plenty fast.
I've long used Apple's Wi-Fi products, all of which have AirPort in the name, and for the last few years, the farther away that I got from the study in that upstairs front room of my house, the slower the Wi-Fi would get. In my downstairs family room I would sometimes get 5 Mbps but often much less, and in the room where my TV is located — at the back of the downstairs of my house, as far as you could possibly get from my study — the Wi-Fi speeds were slow enough that watching any sort of streaming video was hit and miss, and mirroring my iPhone or iPad screen to my Apple TV was often frustrating. I did use two older models of the AirPort Express to try to boost the Wi-Fi signal throughout my house, and after some trial and error I found strategic locations to place them that did help, but it wasn't really enough. Using my Apple TV, I'd have to wait a long time for videos to buffer, and they would often pause in the middle of watching a video to buffer again. This would upset me and my kids when we were trying to stream a movie from the free Amazon Prime video service. And streaming a home movie from my iMac to the Apple TV connected to my TV was rarely worth it. Also, I would often have trouble watching a movie on YouTube on my iPhone; it would often start out fine, but then would stutter and stop. It got to the point where I would frequently have to disable Wi-Fi on my iPhone when I wanted to use YouTube on my iPhone so that I could instead stream it using my AT&T connection, which was much faster.
So in the process of doing some other renovations to the downstairs of my house, I decided to do something to address the slow Wi-Fi. First, I bought a "new" AirPort Extreme for my study. Although this was a big upgrade from the older model I had been using, I put "new" in quotes because the current model of the AirPort Extreme, the 6th generation, actually debuted in in June of 2013; it is new to me, but about a year and a half old. Nevertheless, it uses 802.11ac, which Apple says is up to "triple the previous 802.11n standard" with "up to three times faster Wi-Fi" and also includes "double the channel bandwidth." You have to use a device that supports 802.11ac to take full advantage of the increased speed, but both the iPhone 6 and the iPad Air 2 do. The AirPort Extreme retails for $199, but I bought it on Amazon for a little less than that at $184.99.
And I actually bought two of them. The key part of my upgrade is that I also hired someone to run a Cat 6 cable from my study to the room where my TV is located. This cost me a total of $250. I probably could have paid less if I had shopped around, but I decided to go with a professional recommended by someone who I trusted. Perhaps some iPhone J.D. readers know how to run cables like this though your walls, but that's way beyond my expertise, and one of my wife's few (and reasonable) requests was that it be done professionally by someone who can make it look nice. I placed the second AirPort Extreme near my TV, connected it to the other end of the Cat 6 cable that originated in my study, and configured it using the AirPort Utility software on my iMac to act as a bridge.
The end result is that the AirPort Extreme in my study creates a Wi-Fi network, and the second AirPort Extreme at the other end of my house also creates that same Wi-Fi network. In my study or in my TV room, the Wi-Fi on my iPhone and iPad is now incredibly fast, typically 100 Mbps. And even in traditionally difficult parts of my house, the Wi-Fi speeds are now at least 15-20 Mbps. YouTube videos on my iPhone load instantly with no stutter.
Better yet, with the AirPort Extreme in my TV room, I can use its three Ethernet ports to provide a wired Internet connection to my Apple TV, my DVR and my Blu-Ray DVD player — all of which offer streaming services. This has given my Apple TV a new life. I can instantly watch on-demand shows on HBO and other channels on the Apple TV, and even those home movies which used to take so long to stream now load up instantly.
As a side note, many years ago I took just about all of my old home videos that were shot in the 1990s and even the 1980s using VHS-C and digitized them on my computer. It's a good thing that I did so because those VHS-C tapes were all but falling apart and were not going to last much longer. The quality of those videos are pretty low by today's standards, but it is fun to be able to press a few buttons on my Apple TV and instantly see those old movies, some of which feature beloved family members who passed away long ago. I wonder if my kids will one day look back at the home movies I am taking now and lament that they are "only" in HD 1080p format and don't feature 3D holograms or whatever it is that will be all the rage in the future.
As another aside, I opted to get an Apple AirPort Extreme instead of a third party router because I always find networking in general to be very tricky but I have always found the Apple products to be easiest to use, plus they work well with other Apple products. Having said that, if you want to consider non-Apple products, just a few days ago, Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal reviewed the newest wireless routers (and produced a funny video on the subject).
With the two AirPort Extreme base stations and the Cat 6 installation, it cost me a total of $620 to replace and improve my home network. It was definitely worth it. It has given new life not only to my Apple TV and other devices connected to my TV, but it has also vastly improved the Wi-Fi throughout my house — especially for the new iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2, but also for older iPhone and iPad models as well as my wife's MacBook Air laptop. And I presume that this new setup will work well for many years to come. If your own home network is in need of some oomph, hopefully you can take some of the same steps that I did to upgrade.