How Far can a WiFi Signal Travel?
You’ve most likely noticed that Wi-Fi signals do not travel an infinite distance. The farther a Wi-Fi signal goes, the weaker it gets. This is known as path loss. The same thing happens to your voice. When you speak or yell, your voice will be nice and loud nearby, but becomes weaker the farther it travels.
The exact distance that a Wi-Fi signal is able to travel depends on several factors:
- The type of wireless router used: Higher power wireless routers have more range. However, keep in mind that the wireless connection between the router and client device is also limited by the radio of the client. So, if your laptop or mobile device has a lower power radio, the link won’t be as strong.
- The type of 802.11 protocol used: There are two rules to remember. The higher the data rate, the shorter the
instance covered. And the wider the signal bandwidth (20/40/80/160), the shorter the distance covered. 802.11b (the first Wi-Fi standard) supports the
lowest data rate and narrowest bandwidth. This means it provides the lowest speeds and throughput, but offers the best range. By contrast, the latest 802.11ac standard provides the highest throughput, but it’s only achievable at relatively short distances (possibly the same room as the router).
- The physical environment: Keep in mind that the path loss varies significantly, because the Wi-Fi signal has to penetrate a variety of materials (like walls and floors) that weaken the signal.
What Kinds of Things Can Obstruct a Wireless Signal?
Solid items can greatly weaken communication signals. Let’s compare this to your voice again. If you’re speaking to someone in another room, they’ll be able to hear you more clearly if the door between the two rooms is open rather than closed. In the same way, obstructions like walls and doors can reduce the wireless signal, decreasing its range.
For example….If you were outside with your router, you might find that you get the best performance up to 100 feet. But when you move the router inside where there’s a concrete wall and solid wood door, the distance for the same performance might drop to 50 feet. If the door was removed and it was just a solid concrete wall, the path loss might be so high you can’t get a signal at all.
Fortunately, most homes are constructed internally with wood studs and drywall. The path loss for this type of construction is much less than with concrete. Think about the location of your router. If you could shoot an arrow between the router and the client device, how many walls, door and floors would it have to go through? Centrally located routers have a shorter distance to all points within the house.
What Else Can Impact a Wireless Signal?
In addition to physical obstructions like walls and floors, radio interference can also impact Wi-Fi signals. For example, various home appliances like microwave ovens, cordless phones, wireless baby monitors and wireless routers from your neighbors can interfere with your Wi-Fi network. In addition, other Wi-Fi networks using the same wireless channel;in the same area can also impact your performance.
Let’s return to the voice comparison. What happens when you’re trying to speak and someone else starts speaking, turns on the TV, or turns up the radio volume at the same time? It’s much harder for others to hear what you’re saying. It’s the same with Wi-Fi networks.
How Can WiFI Extenders Help?
If you have a big house, and you’d like to be able to communicate with someone upstairs or in a far room, you might install a home intercom
system. This is similar to a wired WiFi extender. If your router is at one end of the home and you have difficulty getting good WiFi performance at the other end, a WiFi extender can reduce the path loss between the original router and the far end.
Wired WiFi extenders use the home’s existing Ethernet wiring or cable TV coax (using a standard technology called MoCA) to extend the WiFi
network into a far corner of the home. In essence, they carry the network data through the home’s Ethernet or coaxial cable, so the WiFi signal
doesn’t have to travel the length of the whole home and go through walls, floors and other obstructions. As a result, you can get a nice strong WiFi
signal at the farthest corner from the wireless router.