It is incredibly frustrating but really common when encountering wireless connection problems in home, office or factory, such as experiencing poor Wi-Fi during VoIP video conferences. There are many reasons why you get a poor wireless connection. Check out this article and see the factors resulting in poor wireless network connections and the solutions to extend your wireless network signal and range for a better experience.
No matter for home or for office users, a weak wireless signal is always annoying. Before we jump to the methods about extending the wireless network, see the reasons why wireless signals become weaker so you can act appropriately to the situation.
Distance and the internal walls are the key factors that may lead to sluggish wireless signals. As a rule of thumb, for a traditional home-use wireless router working at 2.4GHz, the signal has the maximum range of 150 feet (46meters) indoors when there are no interferences. Every time when a signal meets obstructions or passes the internal walls or metal frames, it becomes weaker, especially when the signal passes through the thicker walls, the signal can be more degraded than the other end devices located an equal distance away from the router.
Router venders or access point vendors always mark out the maximum capacity of devices they can connect at once. However, during practical use, the capacity will be limited by practical factors and can not reach the maximum capacity as it’s advertised. When end devices or users access a single wireless router or access points in a given geographic area, they will share the same wireless network and the same internet connection, which is one of the main factors to slow the wireless network speed greatly.
As more and more devices connect to the wireless network, it will possibly decrease the available bandwidth of the other devices. Especially in enterprise campus networks where there are numbers of different end devices supporting diverse uses, access points supporting a larger number of devices are necessary.
Device interference lowers your signal to noise ratio, and in turn, lowers data rates. The devices resulting in RF interference can be wireless devices, cordless phones, microwaves and others. 2.4GHz is the legacy band where the most wireless router and access points run. In the legacy 2.4GHz band, there are only three channels that are non-overlapping. And most common cordless phones and microwave ovens use 2.4GHz, which can impact the 2.4GHz band used by Wi-Fi, effectively slow down the link, and lead to reduced signal strength.
No matter for home or office use, the fundamental thing is to keep the range that routers or APs can handle as large as possible. Make sure you have placed the routers or APs in the middle of the devices and there are few walls or other obstructions as possible.
If you have placed the wireless router or AP at the centralized location but there are still corners out of range, Wi-Fi extender or repeater is an easy and cheap way to extend the wireless network range by adding additional hardware without having to run cables. Although they are named differently, the function of them is almost the same—to take in an existing wireless signal, repeat it, and forward it to the dead zones of the location.
The advantages of these devices are that they are inexpensive and accessible as common things you can find in retail stores. Just place them at the edge of the coverage area then they can receive the signal from AP and repeat them to the outside devices. However, it should be noted that these Wi-Fi extenders actually only extend wireless network range, instead of your WiFi signals. Thus, there is no such thing as business-grade extenders because they only support a limited number of devices at a time and the Wi-Fi signal can get weaker when devices are connected simultaneously. Besides, old routers also can be configured into an extender if the router can use open-source firmware.
Everybody might have asked themselves the question of whether I should change my old router or add a new access point at some point. From year to year, there are tons of new access points or routers with new wireless technology.
Now it comes to Wi-Fi 6 technology which offers a 30% faster speed than Wi-Fi 5. In the meantime, dual-band technology gradually becomes common for routers or APs because it can broadcast 2.4GHz and 5GHz signals together, supporting a greater range of devices and higher signal by separating network traffic between devices with different bandwidth. When network congestion appears on 2.4GHz, dual-band Wi-Fi APs make it possible to seamlessly switch the 2.4GHz end-users to 5GHz, which reduces the network traffic load and extends wireless network signals. If you have held the old wireless devices for nearly four or five years and you are urgent to upgrade the network, then these Wi-Fi 6 devices will fit for you. Remember to take the capacity into consideration and deploy an accurate amount of APs because overload within the capacity is often the case in a high-density enterprise campus network.
Wireless distribution system (WDS) is a system that can expand wireless networks using wireless APs without cables. You are able to bridge two access points to make up the area where the wireless signals can not cover at your home or office. In a WDS, one access point can act as a wireless base station that connects to the Internet and connects to clients wirelessly or with wire cables. Another access point receives the wireless signal from the wireless base station and sends signals to the other clients, where the first access point is not accessible because of low range.
A wireless mesh network is often seen as the upgrade version of WDS while there are still many differences between them. In a mesh network system, there are dozens or hundreds of routers or APs spread out and act as individual nodes. The main advantages of wireless mesh networks are flexible coverage and self-healing features. When one point gets down, it will enable communications routed through another point. All the nodes communicate with each other to extend the wireless signals and extend Wi-Fi coverage.
Mesh networks are more dynamic than WDS networks. Different from a WDS system where an AP is only connected to another AP wirelessly, mesh nodes support multiple wireless hops before connecting to a node that is wired into the network. But note that when one mesh node reaches another one, the throughput can be cut in half. To avoid such cases, it is feasible to add more nodes to the network backbone and also place the node APs in optimum spots.