Poor Range on my Wireless Network?


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Wireless networks have become one of our most popular requests.  Families now have two or more computers ( I have 8, but I am crazy).  Anyway, I still recommend a wired network wherever possible.  But sometimes you just can’t run wires to other computers or in the case of a laptop, wireless is the only way to go.  One other drawback to wireless is that all computers are sharing the wireless bandwidth, so depending on the the way you use your computers, you could experience some slowdowns.  Many users complain about limited range with their wireless network and there is no single solution to this problem.  Wireless range is dependent on a number of factors, such as:

  1. The construction of your house or office can effect the range of wireless transmission.  Insulation, Wire Mesh, foil barriers, large appliances and number of walls and floors between the transmitter and the receiving computer will all effect the range.
  2. The location of the transmitter and receiving computer should have the clearest line of site possible.  Transmitting through walls, floors and even furniture can reduce the overall performance.  The best location for the transmitter (Wireless Router, Access Point)  is generally above the receiving computer.  In other words, placing the transmitter in the attic will usually give better results than placing it in the basement.  Try to place the transmitter as close to the center of the house as possible.   This will not only improve coverage throughout the house but also cut down stray signals leaving the house.
  3. Other wireless devices such as Cordless phones, microwave ovens, wireless speaker systems and wireless cameras in the house can all effect the range.  Devices using the same frequency can be a major problem.  If you are using a wireless B or G system and cordless phones that use the same 2.4 ghz band, this can destroy your range.  You should either purchase a Wireless network that uses the 5 ghz band(802.11A) or replace your phones with either 900 mhz or 5 ghz models.   Sometimes changing the channel on your wireless router or access point to channel 1 or 11 can help.  If none of these are options, then try to keep conflicting devices as far away from each other as possible.
  4. Slight changes in location can make a big difference.  Try moving the transmitter (Router, Access Point) to different locations.  I have seen situations where moving the transmitter 1 foot higher to a shelf made all the difference in the world.  I can’t stress enough the importance of trying different locations for the router or access point.
  5. Depending on the brand of wireless network you have, you may be able to purchase a high gain antenna, booster or repeater for it.  The standard wireless router or access point comes with a standard omni-directional antenna that is designed to transmit evenly in all directions.  There are many add-on antennas that can increase the range by focusing the transmission in a single direction.  For example: If your wireless transmitter is located on one side of the house,  it will send the signal in all directions including out of the house.  If you purchase a directional antenna, you can focus the signal toward the inside of the house and away from the the neighbors, thus increasing the coverage inside the house.
  6. Installing Multiple access points can greatly improve your wireless coverage.  Many users will install two access points on opposite ends of the attic, your wireless computers can then seek the best signal of the two.
  7. Another method of increasing the range of a wireless network is to install a repeater.  You place the repeater half way between the transmitter and the receiving computer and it picks up the signal and retransmits it on to the computer.  Several companies sell repeaters, but keep in mind that most of these products will only work with same brand devices.  For about $200 you can build a repeater using a wireless bridge connected to an access point, but this takes a little know-how.
  8. In some cases you just can’t get a good wireless signal to reach a desired location and running a wire is not practical.  In this case, you may want to use a power line bridge.  You can bridge your network from one location to another utilizing the power lines in your home or office.  There are also products out there that will send network signals through existing telephone lines.  So regardless of your scenario, you should be able to resolve just about any problem.
  9. I have found that the best solution to range problems is to replace your 802.11b or G router with one of the Wireless-N Routers.  I most cases you can expect 2 to 3 times the range even when used in conjunction with older wireless cards.

In general, depending on the installation, I have seen wireless ranges as poor as 20 feet to as good as 150 feet.  I usually tell customers to expect about 35-40 feet through one wall or one floor.


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