Wireless internet has become the standard for internet connectivity in today's age, both in homes and in businesses. It's become vital in business settings due to the vast array of devices that require an internet connection, from laptops and smartphones to printers and scanners.
Without wireless internet, it would be difficult for businesses to function because of the limitations it would place on how people could connect to the internet and use various devices.
However, one of the key factors determining the quality of your wireless internet connection is the quality of your WiFi signal. A poor-quality signal can result in a slow connection, dropped connections, and other problems. While many factors contribute to the quality of your WiFi signal, two of the most important are distance and strength of your WiFi signal.
Therefore, understanding how distance affects your WiFi signal can help optimize your wireless connection. As such, the following is a guide on the importance of WiFi range.
What Is WiFi Range?
The distance of your WiFi signal is critical because it can affect the quality of your connection. The further away a wireless device is from the access point, the weaker the signal will be. As a result, it's important to understand the concept of WiFi range and how it can affect your connection.
WiFi range is the maximum distance that your WiFi signal can travel reliably. It's important to note that this is not the same as your internet connection speed, which is the rate at which data travels between your device and the internet. Instead, WiFi range is a measure of how far your signal can reach each endpoint device such as a laptop
The WiFi range can differ depending on the wireless access point you're using. For example, a home AP typically has a shorter range than a business enterprise AP. As a result, enterprise access points can cover larger areas in office buildings or campuses. It is very normal to have multiple wireless access points within an office floor or building at each business.
Wireless Network Standards And Their Signal Strengths
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a professional organization that sets standards for many industries, including the computer industry. One of the standards they've set is 802.11, the standard for wireless networking. The 802.11 standard specifies the physical layer and media access control for wireless LANs.
Remember that although different standards have different ranges, a longer range doesn’t necessarily mean the signal will be faster. Keeping that in mind, there are several types of 802.11 standards, including the following:
- 802.11a has a 115-ft range indoors and 390-ft range outdoors
- 802.11b has a 115-ft range indoors and 460-ft range outdoors
- 802.11g has a 125-ft range indoors and 460-ft range outdoors
- 802.11n has a 230-ft range indoors and 820-ft range outdoors
- 802.11ac has a 115-ft range indoors
- 802.11ax is the latest IEEE standard and has a 230-ft range indoors and 820-ft range outdoors.
The Three Main WiFi Frequencies And Their Channels
A WiFi frequency refers to the range of radio frequencies that a WiFi network can use to transmit data. There are three main WiFi frequencies: 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz.
- 2.4GHz: The 2.4GHz frequency is the most common WiFi frequency. It's used by most home and office routers because it has a longer range than 5GHz. However, it's also more crowded because it's the same frequency used by other devices, such as Bluetooth devices and microwaves. As such, it can be more susceptible to interference.
- 5GHz: The 5GHz frequency is less common than 2.4GHz but has a shorter range. However, it can offer a higher speed and it's less crowded. Only newer devices can connect to 5GHz networks.
- 6GHz: The 6GHz frequency was only recently introduced with the new WiFi 6E standard.
Although it provides the least amount of coverage of the three frequencies, it transmits data at the fastest speed. This is because the other bands operate with 400MHz of spectrum (the radio frequency WiFi signals travel over), whereas the 6GHz band operates with 1,200MHz of spectrum.
As a result, even though the theoretical top speed of 6GHz is the same as 5GHz, the 5GHz will rarely achieve its highest possible speed due to its limited spectrum.
The Access Point As A Major Influence Over WiFi Coverage
The access point is the main component of a WiFi network. It's responsible for generating the WiFi signal and broadcasting it to endpoint devices. As such, the access point and its antennas have the most significant influence over WiFi coverage.
Suppose you have a weak or intermittent WiFi signal. In that case, there's a chance that your access point or the antennas aren’t powerful enough (or aren’t the correct antenna type) to cover the area you're trying to use it in.
Therefore, to ensure that you have good WiFi coverage, you need a network architecture that is powerful enough to cover the area you're using, such as an enterprise-grade access point.
Other Factors Affecting The Range Of A Wireless Access Point
Although the type of access point you have significantly impacts your WiFi range, a few other factors can also affect it. For example, the number of devices connected to your network can impact your WiFi range.
The more devices that are connected, the slower your signal will be because that same signal has to authenticate and serve many endpoint devices. A few additional factors can affect your WiFi range:
Physical obstructions, such as walls and doors, can block or weaken your WiFi signal. The more obstacles between your AP and the device you're trying to connect to, the weaker your signal will be.
Number Of Antennas
How many antennas your access point has can also impact your WiFi range. This is because more antennas mean more directional WiFi signals, which can reach further. Most home access points have two antennas, while enterprise-grade access points typically have four or more antennas.
So the more antennas your router has, the better its WiFi range will be, typically. There are many different types of antennas for different applications. Indoor, outdoor, patch, directional, etc. Speak to a professional to help you pick out the right solution. The right antenna is extremely important.
The Wireless Standard And Its Frequency
The wireless standard and frequency your access point uses can also affect your WiFi range. For example, 802.11ax is the newest standard and operates on the 6GHz frequency.
As such, it has a shorter range than 802.11n, which operates on the 2.4GHz frequency. However, 802.11ax is faster than 802.11n for a lot of different reasons that we will have in another article.
The WiFi channel your AP is using can also affect your WiFi range. Channels refer to the frequencies that WiFi uses to communicate with devices. Changing channels can help to improve your WiFi range, especially if you switch to a less crowded channel.
Tips To Improve Your WiFi Signal And Strength
If your WiFi signal is weak, there are a few things you can do to try and improve it. You'll want to check the following before you resort to buying new wireless access points:
Review Your Access Point Location
One of the easiest fixes to improve your WiFi signal is moving its location. This means placing it in the middle of your home or office, rather than in a corner.
However, in certain cases, the corner is the correct spot, depending on a number of factors. By testing and moving your access point’s location, you'll ensure it has the best possible chance of broadcasting a strong signal to all devices in your home or office.
Check Equipment That May Cause Interference
Be sure to check for any equipment that may be causing interference. If you're using the 2.4GHz frequency, common sources of interference include the following:
Medical equipment, such as X-Ray, CT, CAT, and more
Electrical power sources, such as power lines
Water sources, pipes
Wireless audio equipment
Radio frequency (RF) video transmitters
Satellite TV receivers
Change Your Wireless APChannel
Changing the channel can improve your WiFi signal because it can reduce interference. If you're using a 2.4GHz band, you should use channels 1, 6, or 11 because they are the only non-overlapping channels.
This means that they'll have the least interference. If you're using a 5GHz band, you can use any channel. However, channels 36, 40, 44, and 48 are the best for most situations.
If your access points have the option of using a 6GHz band, that is the best at the moment.
Regularly Reboot Your Access Points
One way to prevent a weak signal is by resetting your access points regularly or at least after firmware upgrades. By resetting your devices, you'll clear any interference-causing problems by kicking unwanted devices off your network and eliminating any outdated configurations.
You should reboot your business wireless network once a quarter to keep it running optimally.
Can WiFi Planning Mitigate Poor Network Strength?
When designing or planning a network, it is crucial to consider the materials that will make up the structure of the building and any physical obstructions that might be present.
For instance, you should note whether there are any metal objects or thick walls that could potentially obstruct the path of radio waves. You can minimize the impact of physical obstructions through a wireless site survey and network assessment.
A professional wireless site survey will take into account any materials or physical obstructions that might be present that can interfere with your signal. By considering these factors, you can create a more efficient network that will have a stronger signal and suffer less from interference.
Strong Wireless Network Strength And Coverage Is Crucial
Ensuring your business has a strong and broad wireless network coverage is essential to maintaining a productive work environment.
Here at Hummingbird Networks, we can perform a comprehensive site survey to help identify any weaknesses in your current wireless network. We also offer a variety of commercial-grade WiFi solutions that can help you extend your network's reach and boost its performance.
Want to maximize your business’ WiFi connectivity? Learn about how we can help on our Wireless Site Survey and WiFi Assessment page.