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J Longo for Fatherly

New Home, New Connections

You have new home, so it's time to get your Internet right, once and for all. Here's your game plan.

This story was produced in partnership with Xfinity xFi, the speed, coverage, and control you need for the ultimate in-home WiFi experience.

Let’s face it: you never quite nailed your family’s Internet. There are hundreds of reasons why your home has long had less-than-stellar online performance and been the cause of headaches: you picked the wrong provider and the wrong plan, you stuck the router in a problematic part of the house — the list goes on.

There’s no better time to get it right than when you move your family into a new home. After all, this is when you swap the furniture, optimize the flow, and set up that fully functional kitchen you’ve always wanted. Why wouldn’t you do the same for the digital aspects of your home life? 

Every home is built differently, but there are steps you can take to customize your Internet to fit your family’s needs. Start with the right service provider — like Xfinity xFi, which makes Gig-speed Internet possible with their xFi Advanced Gateway, a modem and router in one, with app-based controls, and the ability to use xFi Pods to extend your WiFi to hard-to-reach places. Armed with some clever tips and a better understanding of the numbers, you can find exactly the WiFi setup you need to meet your family’s needs. Think of this as a cheat sheet — everything you need to know to make your new home hum. 

The Right Speeds for Your Needs

Every family needs some sort of Internet connection these days — you simply cannot exist in 2019 without one. But the connected family comes in many different forms. Some like to stay more connected than others. Some are more patient in dealing with slower speeds than others (although these days, that’s a rare breed).

Choosing a package really comes down to how many people in your family will be using the Internet at any given moment (see “Crunching the Numbers” below). A lot of families, especially if the children are young, will only have one or a few people online at a time. For these families, a lower-tier package that provides download speeds under 300 Mbps will probably work well enough.  

But for other families, especially ones with teenagers, higher speeds are crucial to keeping the peace. It’s likely you’ll have multiple people in the home through the day who are trying to play online games, stream shows, download new music, and have video calls with others. A faster package that delivers speeds well beyond 300 Mbps and utilizes the xFi Advanced Gateway would probably prove more useful. Ultimately, if you feel like you’re going to have more than a just a few devices connecting to your WiFi network regularly and users will be active throughout the day (and night), you’ll want to consider choosing xFi Advanced Gateway and give yourself the option of tapping into Gig-speeds.

Crunching the Numbers: Gamers
Online gaming is one of the most Internet-heavy activities. A fast, reliable connection is essential, or else it feels like you may as well not even bother. There’s a minimum 3 to 6 Mbps Internet speeds required for gaming, but most experts agree 15 to 20 Mbps is optimal. 

The Right Router

So, you’ve chosen an Internet package — congratulations! Ready to pick a router? Look for a device that bundles the modem with the router, can handle top speeds, includes 24/7 customer support, and comes as a rental with proactive upgrades. The device looks something like the xFi Advanced Gateway, a device that looks the part of one advanced Internet setup, thanks to its sleek design.

If you elect to go with your own router for your Internet, you’ll need to account for a few things. Make sure you have a router that can handle your Internet’s top speed, and can support the list of devices you want to connect (phones, computers, gaming consoles, etc.) Also, make sure your router covers WPA2 encryption to keep your Internet secure. And lastly — and this can’t be stressed enough — make sure the router has enough range to cover your home. Routers get better over time, so if your current one is more than a few years old, you should pony up for a new one.

Crunching the Numbers: TV and Movie Streaming
Streaming depends on exactly what kind of quality video you need. For most streaming shows you can usually get by with about 3 Mbps for SD video, but HD needs closer to 5 Mbps, and for Ultra HD or 4K, you’ll want at least 25 Mbps (and these are just minimums; you’ll likely need more speed). 

Setting WiFi Up in Your Home

One of the biggest hassles in setting up home Internet is making sure your router will provide an Internet connection to all rooms in the house. This is much easier said than done. If you have the flexibility to choose an optimal router location, pick a location close to the center of the home. Wireless coverage is sent out in signals going in all directions, so the more central the device, the farther it reaches. Routers often fan the signal downwards, so try mounting it on a bookshelf or high on a wall somewhere. Avoid putting it somewhere where there are other metallic objects or electronics that could interfere with the signal (especially microwaves, which often operate on the same wireless band as the router itself). 

Crunching the Numbers: Live Streaming
If you or a loved one is trying to become the next big streaming sensation, you’ll need to make sure your Internet setup is in tip-top shape. Your downloading minimums should be around 4 Mbps, but when it comes to casting your own streams on the Internet, you need to make sure your upload speeds are up to snuff as well. The higher quality video you’re looking to stream, the more your upload speeds should handle. For example, if you’re trying to stream a video that has a resolution of 720p and is running at 30 fps, you should have upload speeds of about 2.5 to 4 Mbps. Trying to do the same thing at 60 fps will require minimums of between 3.5 to 5 Mbps. A 1080p video running at 60 fps should be running on a connection with upload speeds of 4.5 to 6 Mbps.

Dealing with Dead Spots and Internet Security

Sometimes, no matter how perfectly you place your router, you end up with wireless dead spots. Consider setting up a mesh WiFi network. This means having the main router connected to the modem, and setting up satellite WiFi nodes that can help spread your WiFi coverage throughout the home. Xfinity makes this possible with their xFi Pods, which can be placed in an electrical outlet and are extremely easy to install through the xFi app. A set of three xFi Pods should help in multiple-story homes with three to four bedrooms, and two sets — six xFi Pods — ought to keep homes with five or more bedrooms covered.

Once you have your home network installed, you need to make sure it’s secure. Meaning, you should know who is online, when they’re online, and have total control of your home network. You can set up your xFi app to alert your phone when new people join your home WiFi network, to toggle and set content controls for children, and pause WiFi network access for dinner time. You can also create other time restrictions and rules so your children aren’t staying up surfing the web when they should be in bed. It’s an essential part of your home Internet setup that should not be overlooked. 

Crunching the Numbers: A Tale of Two Families

It’s time to put it all together and add up your Internet needs. Let’s take the example of the Part-Time Streamers, a family of five who checks their email, browses websites for news and social media, and maybe gathers around for streaming show a few times a week. Let’s say there are two devices in the house that are used for streaming at any given moment — the family TV, streaming at 4K, and another person’s tablet streaming in HD. Altogether, because you’ll need somewhere between 75 and 100 Mbps,  it would probably be useful to buy an xFi package that delivers at least 150 Mbps, and potentially even one that delivers 250 Mbps so you have some built-in flexibility for growing interests.

Now, let’s turn to the Fastest Family on the Block, two parents and three kids who are always on. Two members of the family are avid gamers, so they’ll want speeds of 20 Mbps to play. Everyone in the family loves to stream high-quality TV shows, and there are two devices capable of doing so in 4K at preferential speeds of 40 Mbps each, with the rest doing so in HD at 10 Mbps each. Each member of the family is connecting at least two other devices to the WiFi at the same time, and one parent in the family works from home, torching up the bandwidth with file transfers requiring up to 100 Mbps. All told, the family needs about 375 Mbps. Their best bet is to buy a package that delivers a minimum of 400 Mbps, and should strongly consider purchasing a 1 Gig plan in order to account for increased internet burdens that grow as the family’s needs get bigger.