Better Wi-Fi: Check your environment

We’d all love fast and seamless wireless that never has problems. Most of us would also like a winning lottery ticket, a pony and a trip to Hawaii if wishes are being granted.

But better Wi-Fi is not so impossible when keeping in mind how the technology works. Receiving wireless Internet depends heavily on a strong radio signal between your device and the access point. Your surrounding environment is the biggest single influence on the quality of your wireless radio signal.

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

What objects are between me and the access point?

Radio frequencies are affected by some objects and can reflect off of them or scatter. Dense objects can block the signal. So can metal that forms any type of grid or lattice, creating a Faraday cage effect. This means wireless signals are vulnerable to blockage by metal-framed walls or rebar within concrete. Radio frequencies are also affected by electrical and magnetic fields, or other strong radio transmitters.

In the case of outdoor wireless networks at marinas, navigation equipment on vessels can interfere with wireless radio signals.

Do I have a clean line of sight to the access point?

This builds on the previous solution. Move or position your equipment to reduce the amount and density of interfering objects between your device and the access point.

How far am I from the access point?

Currently, wireless Internet operates on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrum. The official range of older 2.4GHz transmitters is 100 metres, but actual performance is heavily affected by your environment. Newer transmitters using the 802.11n protocol officially reach up to 400 metres at either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz, but again this is affected by what is around you. Ensure you are within the broadcast range of the access point.

Checking your surroundings is only the first step in wireless troubleshooting, but awareness of your environment alone can greatly reduce the severity of connection issues.