Travelling Light

How To Get Decent WiFi Speeds In Places With Poor WiFi Connections

WiFi hotspotEvery digital nomad needs WiFi. Even a casual tourist needs WiFi. How else can you stay in touch with people, upload your pictures to Facebook and Instagram, make the bookings for your next destination, or any of the other vital functions that the internet now provides for us?

Sometimes, you can get internet access by buying a local SIM card. In some countries, however, it is prohibitively difficult to get a local SIM card (in India, for example, you need a government-issued C Form filled in by your landlord, confirming that you are a bonafide resident at your address, plus photocopies of your passport and visa, in order to get a pre-paid SIM card). Once you get a local SIM card, you may find that mobile broadband is quite expensive, and for any seriously bandwidth-intensive activity you will still want to seek out a free WiFi connection.

In other countries, such as Thailand, SIM cards are readily available, but the telecommunications providers have weak, patchy coverage, or the networks are so overloaded that mobile broadband speeds can be very low.

Boost your WiFi signal

Sometimes, you can see a WiFi connection, but the signal is so weak that you can’t effectively use it.

Wifi tower

Boost your signal with a long range USB WiFi adapter, which has a strong transmitter and better antenna. This will receive a weak signal more strongly than the antenna built in to your laptop, enabling you to connect to WiFi hotpots that are too far away for your laptop to connect with its internal WiFi.

This can work really well in places that have WiFi in the lobby, lounge area or restaurant, but not in the rooms or bungalows. We even picked up WiFi from a resort all the way across the bay once!

After a lot of research, we recommend one particular adapter only: the Alfa AWUS036NEH. This is because:

  • It’s got a strong transmitter. Generally, the problem isn’t “hearing” the high-power hotspot, it’s the hotspot “hearing” your low power device.
  • It actually produces 1W or 1000mW of output power. Many others make false claims where the output power in dBm doesn’t match what it should be in milliwatts.
  • It’s the smallest device to produce 1W output power
  • It comes with a high gain (5dBi) removable antenna

Note carefully the model number as there are similar ones where only the last 3 letters change.

Increase speed and reliability – combine two or more WiFi connections

If you can “see” two or more WiFi hotspots, you can increase your connection speed and reliability by connecting to more than one network.

Even if you can only “see” or connect to a single hotspot, you often get a speed boost by making two connections to it, as you will be “taking a larger slice of the pie” of that hotspot, This is especially true where the hotspot speed limits connections – you can effectively double your total speed by connecting two times.

To make two (or more!) connections, you’ll need another WiFi adapter. It’s a good idea to carry a miniscule nano USB WiFi adapter, which you can plug into a USB port on your laptop (and possibly leave it there).

This adapter will let you make an additional WiFi connection, giving you much greater reliability, because the likelihood of both connections failing at the same time is much lower than the chance of a single connection failing.

If you have two or more WiFi connections at once, Windows will only use one at a time, so to get the benefits of increased speed and fewer drop-outs you need to combine or aggregate two (or more) WiFi connections using a nifty piece of software called Connectify PRO.

Combine two hotspots for greater speed with Connectify Dispatch

Combine two hotspots for greater speed with Connectify PRO

Connectify PRO includes a great program called Connectify Dispatch which combines your connections, and by default more of your internet data over whichever connection is fastest.

You heard it here first:

The Connectify company keeps very quiet about about Connectify Dispatch, instead wanting you to buy their subsidiary company’s Speedify service at about $89 per year. (While Speedify has a free trial and offers true channel bonding for the geeks, we’ve found that Connectify PRO’s Dispatch feature works just fine for our needs.)

We don’t pay the extra for Connectify MAX, because we don’t use it’s extra features.

Share a WiFi connection with all your devices

Share a WiFi connection with your other devices

Now you have your laptop humming along on reliable, high speed WiFi, what about your tablet, phone, Kindle, and other devices?

Using Connectify PRO, you can create your own virtual WiFi hotspot from your laptop, which shares your aggregated WiFi signal from multiple sources as if it were a single WiFi hotspot.

You phone, kindle, tablet etc all connect to your laptop, which means you don’t need to enter a new password on every one of your devices each time you connect to a new WiFi hotspot.

The benefits of this arrangement are many:

1. Save money on paid WiFi connections

If you are in an environment where the WiFi provider is charging per device, you need only pay for your laptop, and all your other devices can connect for free.

2. Connect an unlimited number of devices

Often, a WiFi access code will work for only one or two devices. This limitation is designed to reduce the data you will use, and is particularly common in free WiFi situations.

Simply connect your laptop, and all the other devices can connect without needing their own access codes.

3. Save time and hassle

Enter one WiFi access code, one time, and all your other devices can connect automatically.


WiFI logo