S2 Here's a wee tip for you Leaving the lid up could boost your wi- fi [Bristol Evening Post (England)]
(Bristol Evening Post (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) THERE could be a new factor in the long-running row between men and women over leaving the loo seat up... it could boost your wi-fi signal. Research into broadband hubs carried out at Bristol University found that, among other things, leaving the seat up has an impact on wi-fi signal because porcelain is a strong reflector of the waves.
Unfortunately it won't settle any rows, as Professor Andy Nix, above right, an expert in wireless communications systems, said while it clearly had an effect, whether it was a good or bad one was not a clear cut answer. It depends where you are standing, what direction your router is pointing and a myriad of other per meations.
To be fair, it's not the most pressing question for the professor and his world-leading team to answer.
The university has become one of the top three institutions in Europe in the area of research and testing of wireless networks. It has been asked by leading names such as Virgin and Sky to test their wi-fi hubs.
Bristol University has been leading the field in wireless since 1992, in what is becoming an increasing important part of our day- to-day lives. "Before long, it will be hard to find a washing machine that doesn't have a wi-fi chip in it," said Andy.
In future we are likely to see it in cars too, as the automotive industry is one of the growing areas of interest for the research team.
Back in the early 1990s wireless was another world for most of us and some of the team's earlier ideas were dismissed as too expensive by industry, only to be revisited a few years later as demand grew.
"We used to think, hey wouldn't it be great if you could use your computer at the airport," said Andy. "We've come a long way."
Much of the university's work centres around the placement of wi- fi antennas within the hub or mobile device such as your phone or lap-top.
It's surprising how much difference it makes. Turning your phone on its side can significantly hamper its connection speed simply because the antennas in your phone are not longer pointing the same way as those in your hub.
And size matters too.
Looking at the latest Virgin super-hub, which Andy says is streets ahead at 5Ghz, he says: "Virgin has deliberately gone for a product that's tall. The higher off the ground the antenna inside is, the more it is up above the clutter."
Companies ask the university, which has a team of 14 academics, 20 research staff, 50 postgraduate students working in this and related fields, to test their box.
The tests including rotating the hub (standing on a piece of wood to replicate your TV table) and a mobile device in an anechoic chamber which stops the waves bouncing back.
The devices are rotated to test performance at all angles. The team also created a virtual house, based on a real home in Woodlands Road, to find out how it will perform in every position in every room, and chart the results. They can do exactly the same tests on different product, so you can get a fair comparison.
So when, for example, Virgin double the antenna on its box or doubles the bandwidth - both reasons behind some recent big jumps in speed - the Bristol team can tell them exactly what difference it makes. Firms can then fine tune, with the Bristol team's help, their product to make them perform better.
It's good for the university to be able to show how its research is directly benefiting industry. And it's rewarding for Andy and the team too, even if they haven't managed to solve that age-old domestic dispute.
Andy said: "It's satisfying to think that probably one in two families in the UK is enjoying a product we have optimised."
HOW FAST CAN YOU GO? ? NEW systems being tested will see speeds go from the potential of around 450,000,000 bits per second beyond to 1,000,000,000 bits per second.
The Bristol team has tested up to 700,000,000 bits per second - that's like transferring a whole movie in a few seconds.
Andy said: "You don't know you need the speed, but you do. People haven't got the patience to sit and wait, we need to get the speeds up."
It will be more in demand as more and more devices work with wi- fi, requiring them to sync large amounts of stored data almost instantly.
WHAT'S CHANGED? ? ONE key change in the market has been the trend of internet service providers, such as Sky, BT and Virgin, to provide the wi-fi router themselves.
When people bought them from a shop, they rarely returned them. Andy said his team once bought one, took it apart, made some changes which doubled the speed and went back to the manufacturer. He said: "They didn't want to know because the antenna we used cost about 6p per box more than what they did use, and that wasn't worth it."
Now, however, if the speed is too slow, people phone the call centre and that costs the internet providers money, so it's more cost effective to provide a better product.
BROAD-BANDITS THERE are a number of household objects which can hamper your wi-fi internet speeds, dubbed broadbandits by the Virgin Media team.
. ? Crafty cordless phones - these common culprits bust up your wi-fi by sending out signals using radio waves on the 2.4GHz band, which can interfere with your wi-fi ? Broadband-blocking baby monitors - like cordless phones, baby monitors can interfere with wi- fi signal on the same crowded 2.4GHz spectrum ? Malicious microwaves - often work in cahoots with other electrical devices like baby monitors and cordless phones to interfere with your wi-fi signal ? Wiley wireless-absorbing fish tanks - the Virgin team says water in these bulky Broadbandits saps your signal
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