Having trouble getting a strong WiFi signal in your office? Contemplating upgrading your wireless to reach further? How far can you reasonably expect WiFi to reach? What are your options for low signal areas? If you’re having problems with your small business network, New Jersey Computer Help are on the case.
We can help design and build your network for you or help you via this article on small business WiFi.
WiFi is an important business tool that allows freedom of movement within a defined area. It makes meetings easier, hotdesking more comfortable, allows you to add guest networks for visitors and can share your internet with other colleagues without the need for cables.
It isn’t without its issues though and a poor signal is one of them. Wireless uses radio which can be affected by thick walls and floors, metal appliances or objects, electronic interference, radio interference and all manner of things. You need to design and build your WiFi network carefully to get the most out of it.
Wireless range depends on your wireless router, the wireless standard you’re using and the building you’re in. Let’s take a look at each.
Your router will obviously have a significant influence over the signal strength of your wireless network. That strength will depend on the power of the radio transmitter, the strength of the antenna and how you arrange them. The wireless standard can also influence WiFi range but to a lesser degree.
Different router manufacturers will use different radios and antenna types so it is impossible to list all of the ranges here. Some routers will have configurable radio strength while others will not. Some will have multiple antenna with variable directions while others will have a pair with limited movement.
A typical small business wireless router will have an average range of around 115ft using 802.11a. This increases to 230ft when using 802.11n. This does not take into account thick walls, machinery or radio interference. It should be feasible for you to be able to connect and maintain a strong enough signal just inside that range.
Wireless standards are global and are expressed as 802.11xxx. Designed back in 1997, this protocol is used for most wireless networks. It includes collision avoidance and a listening mechanism that makes it ideal for networks. The standard has been steadily updated since 1997 with several versions from 802.11a to 802.11ay which is still in development.
The most popular around right now is 802.11n and 802.11ac. Most small business routers will support most newer standards for maximum throughput and reliability. Range is an added bonus with these.
Typically you can expect:
- 11a has an 115ft range indoors and 390ft outdoors.
- 11b has an 115ft range indoors and 460ft outdoors.
- 11g has an 125ft range indoors and 460ft outdoors.
- 11n has an 230ft range indoors and 820ft outdoors.
- 11ac has an 115ft range indoors.
As mentioned, this is ideal range and doesn’t take those environmental challenges into account.
What’s the difference between 802.11n and 802.11ac?
As newer routers are compatible with both of these standards, which should you choose and why? What’s the difference between the two? This infographic is pretty good at explaining the differences.
- 11ac is rated at 1.3Gbps speed and supports up to 8 antenna.
- 11n is rated at 450Mbps speed and supports up to 4 antenna.
802.11ac works at the 5GHz range which isn’t as busy as the 2.4GHz range yet. This allows it to work faster but with more opportunities to be interrupted.
The two frequencies work slightly differently. The 2.4GHz is used by most wireless networks as it is stronger and uses three channels that don’t overlap. 5GHz if faster but weaker and while it can offer better speed, it is more susceptible to interference from other channels, thick walls or appliances.
Frequencies of all kinds are subject to attenuation. This means the signal can become weakened or interrupted. The lower the frequency, the slower the wave and the lower the attenuation. The higher the frequency, the faster the wave and the more subject to attenuation it becomes. The 2.4GHz has lower attenuation so is therefore ‘stronger’ than 5GHz which has higher attenuation.
Frequencies are also susceptible to interference. There are more devices using the 2.4GHz frequency than the higher 5GHz so interference also has a bearing on your wireless range.
The building you’re in has an influence over the range of your small business WiFi network too. Radio waves can be slowed down or stopped completely by thick walls, machinery, appliances, other radios, other wireless networks and even some types of wall or floor insulation.
It is rare that you would get the full 230ft range of 802.11n indoors as most buildings will have a combination of many of these factors. There are things you can do about it which we will get to in a minute.
How to increase wireless range
You have a couple of options if you’re looking to extend the range of your wireless network. You can move the router to a more central position away from machinery or appliances. You can use a wireless scanning app to identify quiet channels and switch to those or you can use a wireless extender.
Move your router
Depending on how your router is cabled, moving it more to the center of your building can help increase effective range. Moving it away from machinery or other electrical appliances can also help. Moving the antenna can also have a small influence over range but to a much lesser degree.
Scan your channels
There are a bunch of wireless scanning apps available for Android and iPhone. These allow you to scan the airwaves in your building to see which channels are busiest. Then you can find a quiet channel and move to that which will reduce interference and hopefully improve the range and speed of your WiFi.
Use the scanner app, find a channel with a gap around it and switch your router to use that channel for WiFi instead. You should see an instant improvement.
Wireless extenders are small devices you buy that boost your wireless network signal. They are ideal for poor signal areas and can boost your existing network without costing a fortune. From around $20, you can extend your wireless network further or make the signal stronger within your current network.
If you need help with business WiFi or are struggling with poor signal or low wireless range, contact New Jersey Computer Help today!