Wi-Fi is the standard for wirelessly connecting to the internet for a reason – it is fast, reliable and inexpensive. But the signal is also quite short range and can’t travel well through thick walls, so it is important to set it up correctly for best results.

 

Where do I put my Wi-Fi router?

Firstly, set up your router in a central location if possible, and away from furniture that may block the signal. For the very smallest care homes the Wi-Fi signal from the router itself may be enough – but in most cases additional units will be needed to ensure a good Wi-Fi signal coverage across your entire site.

 

Wi-Fi extenders – recommended for smaller care homes (1-9 beds)

For smaller buildings, one or more Wi-Fi ‘extenders’ may be enough to offer good Wi-Fi coverage across your care home. Devices will have to reconnect to the internet when moving out of range of the router and into the area covered by the extender. There are two main types:

 

  • Wi-Fi powerline extenders
    These plug into an electrical socket and use the building’s mains electricity circuit to send the signal from the router to another Wi-Fi unit plugged in somewhere else in the building. They are most useful if you have one other area on site where devices are used that would otherwise have poor coverage. They only work on the same mains circuit as the router – so may be less useful for locations that have more than one fuse box – and should not be used in shared locations where unauthorised users may be able to access the same power circuit.
  • Wi-Fi repeaters
    These connect to the existing Wi-Fi signal and amplify it to give it a better range. These are cheap and simple to set up – but need to be placed within range of an existing Wi-Fi signal, so are only suitable for use at smaller sites, and download speeds can be reduced.

 

Wi-Fi mesh devices – recommended for small or medium-sized care homes (10-30 beds)

These units work on a similar principle to Wi-Fi extenders, repeating and amplifying the signal across your building. They have the advantage that you will not need to disconnect from the internet if you move out of range of one Wi-Fi unit and into the range of another – they act as a single seamless network. They can also offer better range than Wi-Fi repeaters. Your existing router may have compatible mesh devices available for it, but you could need to upgrade to a new router. Speak to your internet provider to find out your options.

Commercial-grade solutions – recommended for larger care homes (30+ beds)

For larger buildings, commercial-grade systems may be the most effective option. These are more expensive to set up, but offer the reliability and bandwidth (the amount of data that can be uploaded or downloaded at the same time) needed to connect a number of users across many different rooms.

They tend to work on the same basic principles as Wi-Fi extenders and Wi-Fi mesh devices, using Wi-Fi ‘access points’ spaced throughout the building. These access points are wired up to the main broadband connection using physical cabling, which makes them powerful and reliable but this also means that they will need to be professionally installed by an IT supplier.

If you feel this is the most suitable option for your organisation, first contact your local commissioner to find out if they have a recommended list of suppliers, or search for local options online.

Things to consider when choosing a commercial-grade solution include:

  • Do you want multiple separate Wi-Fi networks for staff, residents and visitors?
  • If so, do you want each network to have its own separate broadband connection (so the staff broadband connection won’t be affected by heavy resident or visitor use, for example)?
  • Do you want an ongoing contract for maintenance and/or support?