Factors Affecting Wireless Transmission
By Clare Edwards
Wireless networks use radio waves to transmit data, eliminating the need for cables to connect the elements of a system together. Wireless networks take the clutter and restriction out of computing, creating more flexible networking possibilities and enabling you to pick up your laptop and work anywhere. Without good wireless transmission, however, it's hard to obtain a reliable signal. Knowing the factors that affect transmission can help in planning and designing networks.
Distance and Obstacles
Wireless networks have a limited range of operation. If you're too far away from the source of the signal, you won't be able to connect to the network or access the Internet. Radio waves can also be obstructed by physical objects: walls, structural elements, furniture -- very solid walls and metallic objects like filing cabinets are especially bad. Thick foliage, hedges and trees can also block your signal, as can atmospheric effects such as fog.
Nearby electronic equipment or more distant equipment sending strong electromagnetic signals can affect your wireless network. Common sources of interference include microwave ovens, nearby radio masts and cellphones. Power cables carrying large voltages can also create interference. After this is resolved -- perhaps by shielding equipment or moving source of interference out of range -- transmission should improve.
Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be transmitted through a system. If too much of a network's bandwidth is being used, the result will be that all parts of the network slow down. To address this, consider discouraging or prohibiting high-bandwidth activities, such as watching videos or downloading large files, or instituting a bandwidth quota for each element of your network.
According to PCWorld magazine, another source of interference is a different router using the same channel as your router and network. This can often occur if more than one router is in use in a particular building. This situation can sometimes be resolved by physically relocating one or both routers; alternatively, it's possible to change the channel that a router uses.
Wireless Network Strategies
You can boost the range of your Wi-Fi router by placing it higher up, thus placing it above many of the physical obstacles that any office or dwelling is likely to present. PCWorld suggests mounting it on the wall, for example. PCMag suggests that you improve the range of your router by adding a range extender. This is a device that boosts the signal from your router so that it is better able to pass through obstacles and is less likely to be swamped by interference.
Clare Edwards has been providing Internet content since 1998. She has written and translated for a variety of markets: everything from technical articles to short fiction and essays on alternative spirituality. She holds a certificate of higher education in electronics and audio arts from Middlesex University.