Poor Wireless Signals? How to Improve the Home Wireless Network

Dead spots or dead zones…most houses have them. These are places in the home where the wireless network can be slower, less reliable, or non-existent altogether. If you’ve ever had trouble streaming a video in the living room, or can’t connect to the wireless network while in the basement, that’s a dead spot.

At a basic level, a dead spot occurs whenever the wireless signal transmitted by the wireless router is too weak to support a solid connection. A router’s wireless signal travels a finite distance (defined by the wireless standard). For example, wireless devices farther away from the router will manage to get only 10-50 percent of the bandwidth compared with clients closer to the router. In addition, common architectural features of the home, like walls and floors, can impact the wireless signal and make it more difficult to reach certain areas of the home.

The Importance of Wireless Router Placement

The position of the wireless router can have a significant impact on wireless signal strength and range. When homeowners don’t carefully plan where to place the router, they can experience slow speeds, dead spots, and unreliable service. Here are some tips for getting the best possible coverage from a single wireless router:

  • Don’t place a wireless router by an outside wall of the home. This placement wastes a lot of the router’s capacity, as signals are radiated right into a concrete outer wall with no place to go.
  • Place the router in a central location: The more centrally positioned your router is, the more likely the signal will be able to reach all corners of the home. For example, you probably don’t want to place the router in the basement or at the far end of the 2nd floor.
  • Don’t place the router close to the top floor ceiling: If you are placing the router on a top floor of the home, try not to position it close to the ceiling (for example, don’t position it high up on a shelf).  

What to Look for in a Wireless Router

It’s also important to realize that not all wireless routers are created equal. More powerful routers are capable of transmitted a stronger wireless signal farther distances. If you’re still using an 802.11b or 802.11g router, it might be time to upgrade your equipment to 802.11n technology that supports faster wireless speeds and distances. In addition, look for routers that specify MIMO antennas, as MIMO smart antenna technology improves wireless performance for better coverage.

Use a Wired/Wireless Extender

Even the most powerful wireless router and optimal router placement can’t deliver whole home wireless coverage in some homes that are either too large or have certain architectural features. In these cases, you can purchase a network adapter or extender to bring the wireless network to those places where it’s typically weak or non-existent.

A combo wired/wireless extender is often the preferred solution, as it leverages the speed and reliability of a wired connection to reach a far corner of the home. These devices use the home’s existing wiring (coax for MoCA-based solutions and electrical wiring for Powerline-based solutions) to extend the home network.

Here’s how it works:

  • An adapter is plugged into an electrical/cable outlet and connected to the router, bridging the home network to the electrical/cable lines.
  • Then an adapter with built-in wireless is connected to another outlet in the home to extend the wireless network to that new area.