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How Bad Weather Can Affect Your Wi-Fi Speeds

Wi-Fi is everywhere.  Pretty much every home and business and restaurant uses it. Whether you are using Wi-Fi for personal use or for your business, you may have noticed moments of spotty service or slow speeds during times of inclement weather.  Is this coincidence, or does bad weather really affect your Wi-Fi performance?

Bad weather can affect Wi-Fi physically blocking wireless signals path to your device. Moreover, stormy weather can also increase Wi-Fi demand because more people stay inside, which can slow down wired connections too. However, there are ways of getting around this.

While the weather can certainly have an effect on your internet connection, there are ways of protecting yourself against the elements. For instance, if your internet has been set up using a DSL or through fiber-optic service, this means the signal will be affected far less compared to internet getting to you via a satellite dish. Let’s unpack how the weather can affect your connection.

How Weather Effects Internet Speeds

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Your internet is not slowed from inside of your house when the weather is bad out. Your internet may be delayed when it storms outside because the signals actually getting to your house may be slowed down.  Bad weather can have an effect on infrastructures, and that, in turn, can slow down your internet speed.

For example, a large storm with high winds has the potential to knock down or damage power lines.  Without power, your internet will not work. Another way that weather can affect internet speeds is by “clogging” the system. When the weather is bad, outdoor activities are limited or completely cancelled.  This pushes much, if not all, of the population inside.

When people are stuck inside during a storm or inclement weather, they are much more likely to be using their internet connection. People who are stuck inside tend to stream movies or surf the internet and this makes the traffic on the wireless networks extremely crowded, causing the speed of your internet to slow down or your service to be a little spotty.

Bad Weather – DSL vs. Fiber-Optic vs. Satellite

If your wireless internet is not coming from DSL or fiber-optic service, the answer to this question may be a little different.  If you get your internet from a dish, for example, then your service will almost definitely be affected by a storm or high winds. Dish Network requires an external satellite dish to be placed somewhere on the roof of your house. 

Since this piece of equipment is installed outside of your home, your service will be affected by strong wind or rain. Another way your internet service could be affected by the weather is if you are using a hot spot.  A hot spot is a physical location where someone can go to access wireless internet that broadcasts a wireless signal that can be effected by weather. 

For example, if you are out at a coffee shop and wish to use the internet, they most likely have wireless internet that is offered for use free of charge. Using the internet in this instance would mean that you are using a wireless hot spot.

If your device is connected to a hot spot during a time of inclement weather, your service is more likely to be slow because the storm can disrupt the wireless signal. This effect is usually small because the Wi-Fi is generated and used indoors, but if it’s a large Wi-Fi network with some outdoor transmission, it’s more likely to be effected.

Something else that may be a culprit for slow internet speeds in extremely cold weather.  While there may not be a storm outside or piercing winds, the extreme cold can have an effect on how electronics work, or it can damage infrastructure directly like in the case of ice downing power lines or causing a car to crash into an AT&T box with the DSL hookups in it (for instance). 

How the Cold Affects Your Internet Connection

The cold may cause problems for electromechanical components of a wireless connection, such as breakers or switches. Any connection wires that are made of copper should be sufficient to conduct service during times of extreme cold.  However, other parts made of metals that are less conducive to the cold may cause intermittent service or even lost connections.

Additionally, the cold can have an effect on the wires installed around the exterior of your home.  Frayed or severed wires due to extremely cold conditions will cause a disruption in your service. Regardless, it’s important to know how wi-fi actually works because then you can not only make an informed decision on what type of service you should get, but you can also figure ways to shield your connection from the elements.

What is Wi-Fi and How Does it Work?

While Wi-Fi is everywhere, you may have never stopped to think about how your wireless internet actually works.  What is Wi-Fi actually, and how does it allow our devices to communicate wirelessly? Understanding these concept will help you understand how weather may effect your internet, and how to troubleshoot internet problems in general (weather related or not).

To start, let’s talk about what Wi-Fi actually means. Wi-Fi stands for “Wireless Fidelity.” You may have also heard the term WLAN used.  This is basically the same thing as Wi-Fi and stands for “Wireless Local Area Network.”  Wireless internet works similarly to how other wireless devices operate by utilizing radio frequencies. These frequencies send signals between the necessary devices that are trying to communicate. 

What’s the Difference Between Wi-Fi and Radio Signals?

You may find yourself thinking that this sounds a lot like a walkie talkie or car radio, and in truth, it is. The difference is that these devices transmit using different radio frequencies.  For a car radio, for example, frequencies are received in Kilohertz and Megahertz ranges. This is where you get AM and FM radio stations from. Wi-Fi, on the other hand, sends and receives data in the Gigahertz range as we’ve discussed in other articles .

How Wi-Fi Is Installed in Your Home

When Wi-Fi is installed in your home, the technician places a wireless router, such as the TP-Link (from Amazon), in your house.  The router is a small box that your internet company uses to connect your home to its internet network, along with a modem. Most of the time the modem and router are combined in the same device.

The Wi-Fi is generated by this router and gives the area access to wireless internet. The wireless company may suggest that your router be placed in somewhat of a central location in your household.

When placed near the center of your house, your wireless service is typically big enough to surround your house, giving you access from anywhere inside your home. Since your wireless router (on Amazon) is inside your house, your internet connection is protected from inclement weather the same way that your house protects you during a storm.

Once you understand this, it’s clear that bad weather may effect your internet indirectly–by clogging the network or damaging infrastructure–but it’s not really going to have an effect on the system directly. Rain outside does not effect the Wi-Fi signal inside.