BoostWirelessSignal.com provides free information, unbiased product reviews, advice, tips and tweaks regarding ways to improve your wireless connection.
Boost Wireless Signal is dedicated to helping you overcome the misery and frustration of having an unreliable wireless connection. This can include having a poor throughput, limited range, dropped connections or even no connections at all!
Wireless technology is commonly termed Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) refers to wireless equipment that is used to connect to various devices and the Internet. It is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance and describes a set of standards based on IEEE 802.11.
Although the maximum bandwidth and speed is determined by the package you subscribe to with your broadband provider, one should still aim to get the most out of what you are paying for. Unfortunately, a huge number of people put up grudgingly with an inferior connection and simply blame their provider for a poor service. Although this can be the case, more often than not, an unreliable wireless connection is the result of a poorly set up home network.
Therefore, the aim is to achieve an optimal wireless signal. What does this mean? Put simply:
- Boost Wireless Signal strength.
- Minimize noise by correcting weak, unreliable signals and interference.
“How do I get a stronger wireless signal?” and “How do I increase the wireless range?” are two of the most common networking questions. In order to answer then adequately, it is important to realize that a number of factors may contribute to Wi-Fi problems. The factors and tackling them in a sensible and logical way will greatly increase the chance of achieving a successful outcome. These issues and much more will be covered in various articles on BoostWirelessSignal.com
The initial approach for resolving possible Router related wireless signal problems is to make sure that you are not overlooking a simple fix. Surprisingly, many Router Wi-Fi issues related to the question, “How to Boost Wireless Signal?” can be solved with little or no expense.
Comparative Speed Tests
It is always wise to establish your actual connection speed by carrying out a speed test. There are many sites that allow you to run a test, such as:
You should test your system in the following two ways:
- Direct Connection
Connect you computer to the Router directly via a Ethernet cable. This represents the optimal data speed; the signal will be passing through wire compared to air and will be more reliable. This will help establish the actual internet speed you are receiving from your broadband service as compared to the package they are advertising. The figure will depend on various factors such as your distance from the provider, connections within your building and the hardware being used. However, if the figure seems unreasonable i.e. you are subscribing to a 10 Mb connection but only averaging 2 Mb, you should contact your provider.
- Wireless Connection
The result will typically be slower than when you connect to the Router directly. This occurs because the signal has to travel through the air and is subject to interference issue which increases communication overheads e.g. error corrections. Also, the result will be determined by the type of equipment you are using and what IEEE 802.11 standards they relate to e.g. 802.11n, 802.11g.
Results may vary so it is would be sensible to perform the tests a number of times and at different times of the day in order to get an average reading.
To boost your wireless signal for free consider the following factors:
Interference leads to an increase in background and signal noise, and can be due to various factors, including:
- Dense objects such as concrete structures, walls and even objects such as fishtanks!
- Metal objects including mirrors (metal layer reflects Wi-Fi signals).
- Electrical items including power cords and other wiring, microwaves and other electrical appliances. In addition, certain baby monitors, and in particular many cordless phones, can be a problem because they operate at a frequency similar to most wireless networks at around 2.4Ghz.
Possible solutions include:
Aim to place the Wi-Fi Router higher up and try to minimize the number of potential barriers (e.g. walls, hidden RSJ/steel girders) between it and the computer/laptop. Given that an open location is important consider the following:
- Place the Router at top of bookcase or near to the ceiling.
- Aim for a central location in the building so the signal strength radiates equally. If you have a separate Internet Modem and Router (as opposed to one which has the Modem and Router built into a single unit), remember that the Router does not have to be near the Modem. You can use an Ethernet Cat 5 cable to place the Wi-Fi Router centrally.
- Try placing the Router in the attic. Wireless signals typically radiate best laterally and downwards.
Chanel 1,6 and 11 are often used and in particular, many Routers in the US/Canada default to channel 6 (out of a possible 11 channels). Therefore, one can check the channel in use on your Router through accessing the Routers browser menu (refer to manufacturers manual). Simply change it to a less crowded one and the computer/laptop should auto-detect the new signal channel. You can also consider using:
- Hardware tool e.g. Wi-Spy USB Spectrum Analyzer with External Antenna for the ultimate in setting up and troubleshooting Wi-Fi networks.
Manufactures update a Routers firmware especially during the first 1-2 years from its launch. Simply go to the manufacturers website to obtain the latest free firmware. Upgrading often results in better signal strength and performance, whilst in addition, new features and settings may have been included.
Aternatively, using an open source Router firmware can increase its capabilities significantly. For example:
- DD-WRT Firmware can boost transmission strength from 20mw to 250+mw. Remember though that more power may mean more noise. DD-WRT is a 3rd party Router firmware usually for Broadcom based Routers.
- Tomato Firmware is a lite version, easy to use and suitable for the majority of users. Tomata USB is a modification of the famous Tomato firmware, with additional built-in support for USB port, wireless-N mode support, support for several newer router models, and various enhancements.
However, even though the above open source options are used by thousands of people, the usual disclaimer warning applies: Firstly, you may void your warranty if you replace the manufacturers Routers firmware or make modifications, and secondly, you may damage the modified Router if you raise the power too high.
Adjust Signal Strength
Certain Wi-Fi Routers have a signal strength setting that can be adjusted from 75-125%.
Changing the auto-detect mode to G mode on 802.11 b/g Routers can give a signal boost.
Part 2 in the series “How to Boost Wireless Signal” will look at Other Router Solutions.
The following chart lists the IEEE 802.11 wireless standards and some of their key features.
|Max. Data Rate2
802.11n can utilize up to 4 MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) streams.
Therefore Max. Data Rate:
At 20 MHz: : 72.2 x 4 streams = 288.8 Mbit/sec
At 40 MHz : 150 x 4 streams= 600 Mbit/sec
Net Throughput = Speed after deducting communication overheads i.e. ‘real world’ speed.
Max. Data Rate = Theoretical maximum speed under perfect conditions.
Advantages of Wireless-N Technology
- Significantly faster.
- Better range.
- More reliable.
- Less interference issues. Can operate at both 2.4 Ghz and the less frequently used 5 Ghz range.
- When buying 802.11n equipment you are ‘future proofing’ you purchase.
- It is backward compatible with the other standards.
- The stronger coverage (link range) and performance (data throughput) compared with the previous standards comes without requiring additional transmit power.
- A significantly improved bandwidth is achieved through the use of MIMO technology (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) that allows multiple antennas and signals (up to 4 streams) to be employed. There is a linear relationship with each antenna at each end and throughput, such that:
- 2 antennas/2 streams doubles throughput .
- 3 antennas/ 3 streams triples throughput.
- 4 antennas/4 streams quadruples throughput.
- Channel Bonding, which allows 2 distinct non-overlapping channels to simultaneously transmit data, produces a significant increase in possible data transmission.
The following lists some examples of quality Wireless-N (802.11n) Routers which are cheapest online through Amazon with the links below:
|SMC SMCWGBR14-N Barricade N ProMax Draft 11nWireless
Gigabit Broadband Router
|Cisco-Linksys E4200 Maximum Performance Simultaneous
Dual-Band Wireless-N Router
|Belkin N600 Wireless Dual-Band N+ Router (Latest Generation)
It should be remembered that in order to get the full benefits of Wireless-N technology, the units within the wireless network need to support the 802.11n standard.
- Omni Directional
These emit a constant field horizontally but have a vertical directional pattern. Therefore, they work well if situated in the middle of a room but are wasteful when placed in the corner or against a wall. Not only are they needlessly transmitting against/into the wall but possible security issues arise, given that a high percentage of the signal will be transmitted outside of the building.
- Isoptropic Antenna
These produce a constant field in both the horizontal and vertical plane.
- Direction or High Gain
These focus in one direction, meaning that the signal will be ‘tighter’ and located mostly within the building. This results in a better reception but also reduces security issues associated with a strong signal being broadcast outside of the building. To achieve more gain, a larger/longer antenna and electrical capture area (Aperture) is required. This produces a narrower and more focused beamwidth; such as employed with a Horn Antenna.
- Multiple Antenna Model (MIMO Technology)
Wireless-N technology can have up to 4 antennas for superior performance.
Examples of boost wireless signal replacement antennas available through Amazon are shown below:
Part 3 in the series “How to Boost Wireless Signal” will address Non-Router Network Components.