In this blog post we’re going to look in depth at a typical WiFi problem and the solution for this particular case.
The problem: A shotgun style condo has an internet source direct from an ISP, in this case it is Brighthouse on the gulf coast of Florida. Internet is coming into the condo via coaxial cable and feeding a modem at speeds of 17 mbps DOWN and 5 mbps UP. These speeds are sufficient for 2-4 users surfing the web and streaming movies.
The space is a 1,300 sq ft, 3 bedroom 2 bathroom condo which is not a very large space for a typical router to cover. However, the owners are unable to get any usable signal in the master bedroom on any of their WiFi enabled devices. I went in and measured the signal strength in the master bedroom using the android phone app, WiFi analyzer, got the following readings:
Signal Strength: -90db
Download Speed: 3 mbps
Upload Speed: 0.5 mbps
How could such a small space have such poor WiFi?
First, let’s look at the router - a Linksys (by Cisco) WRT160N 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz 4-port wireless router. Sounds fast right? I mean it’s a Linksys, it has Cisco in the name - it’s got the two biggest names in wireless on the box. Actually it is…
The router is great if you’re in range, however with no external antenna you rely on the built in ones inside the router. Usually a small little patch omni-directional antenna. This router’s biggest disadvantage is it’s range capabilities.
Next we have to look at the environmental factors at play, WiFi is dependent heavily on line of sight between the transmitter (the router in this case) and the receiver (any WiFi device).
Let’s take a look at the apartment:
As you can see the router is down by the TV/Wood furniture and the master bedroom is on the other side.
NOTE: The X marks where I took the readings.
As you can see between the router and the back corner of the condo, there’s a kitchen with the air handler, fridge, microwave and stove, concrete walls, a bedroom, bathrooms and other house related items. All these factors including the items in the kitchen cause a large amount of interference and “noise” that affects the 2.4GHz signal while the appliances are running. The router was also sitting behind the TV inside a wood stand further blocking signal from going out.
Here are some pictures for reference:
NOTE: The red X marks point where signal are degraded.
The easiest way to fix this problem is to simply move the router to a more central location within the condo. Since the antenna inside the router is an Omni-directional, transmitting from the middle should provide better WiFi to all corners of the space.
Since the signal is coming over coax, I moved the modem to coaxial port that luckily was already available. Just moving the modem and router to the new coax port should have worked fine. However, I decided to take things up a bit by using our favorite router, the Netis 2411D with a removable antenna and an upgrade 9 dBi omni-directional antenna for even more range and signal strength.
Here’s a pic for reference (I hadn’t cleaned up the cables when I took the picture):
NOTE: The antenna is mounted upside down and that’s fine. It’s still “vertically polarized”.
After moving the modem and hooking up the new router, I got way faster/stronger readings in the master bedroom and still maintained high speeds in the living room.
Signal Strength: -30db
Download Speed: 16 mbps
Upload Speed: 4 mbps
Signal Strength: -50db
Download Speed: 12 mbps
Upload Speed: 3 mbps
As you can see, getting better signal and speeds at home with your existing router is easy and can be done for free or relatively cheap. Total project time was 20 minutes mostly because I was moving furniture and installing the hardware.
Let me know if you have any similar stories and how you resolved it.