Improving Wireless Signal Reach

The channel over which you broadcast your wireless signal matters.

I have been attempting to improve the wireless reception for my basement workstation which sits approximately 25 meters (hypothetical line of sight) from the wireless base station.  I’m using a WRT400N and it has served me very well.  However, the signal must pass through a significant amount of wall and floor to reach me, and as a result, the 5.0 GHz signal is basically unusable.  The 2.4 GHz signal, on the other hand (dual-band router ftw), reaches with a signal strength of about 9% (ranging from 4% to 16%) as estimated by my dd-wrt firmware.

I modified the channel over which my router broadcasts the 2.4 GHz signal when I came upon this note from Buffalo tech support in a newegg product review:

To ensure you have optimal range, please adjust the following settings by logging into the router’s UI and adjusting the Wireless LAN settings as follows:

– 5 GHz Settings: Disable Auto Channel Selection, and use a channel between 149 and 161. The lower channels (36 – 48) are limited by US law to 50mW. The higher channels are limited to 1000mW. This setting alone can have significant impact to your wireless range and performance in 5 GHz.

– 2.4 GHz Settings: Disable Auto Channel Selection, and use a more central channel such as Channels 3-9 (assuming there is not significant interference on the channel from other networks). The lower and higher channels, most notably channels 1 and 11 often require power settings to be lowered intentionally to reduce out-of-band interference as required by US law. Also, changing the Bandwidth setting from 40 Mhz wide to 20 MHz wide can improve total emitted power by up to 3 dbm which may further increase range.

And that, right there, is a goldmine, as it turns out.  I (probably like you) have read countless posts from Internet fellows who have or have not figured something out, with lots of technical write-ups performed by people of extremely variable competence, and nothing has helped as much as this one post.

The channel matters.  I modified my router to broadcast on channel 6 and my signal strength in my basement workstation immediately jumped to 14% to 22% with an average of 18%.  Remarkable improvement.  I then changed to channel 7 and now my signal strength is an unbelievable 37%.  On channel 5, I’m currently hovering at 50%.

All from simply modifying the channel over which my router broadcasts.  It doesn’t get cheaper than that in Mechanicsville.

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