In supporting Wi-Fi networking adapters, I see it all the time - a user will say they can't connect to their access point, or they experience lots of disconnects. I get them to send me a diagnostic using our tool, which shows the wireless networks in range, and they are sharing a Wi-Fi channel with 5 other nearby radios, some of them showing up to 100% signal strength, according to Windows (which I know is all kinds of flawed, but still indicates a strong signal).

From my point of view, this is clearly the problem. Change your wireless channel.

From their point of view, this can't be the problem, as all of their other devices work just fine. It's just the one problematic device that has the issue connecting.

If I can get them to change their wireless channel to one that isn't used by other radios, then everything is usually fixed. Even then, though, the only explanation I can provide is that wireless interference affects different devices in different ways, which doesn't really cut it with some people.

I need a better explanation.

  • A good line: "Some devices are more tolerant of minor problems than others." Please update your question : What's the diagnostic tool? What's the venue (small office, tall building, stadium)? How many total APs are in range, and how many channels are in use - only channels 1, 6, and 11 don't overlap with each other. Are there other sources of interference present? Bluetooth devices, for instance, appear as all-channel noise to WiFi devices in the same spectrum. Some devices roam better than others, such that "Turn the Wifi off and turn it back on" is useful. – Christopher Hostage Jul 6 '18 at 19:42
  • And, if you see a channel number above 11, don't worry; 5GHz WiFi has non-interfering channels, 36 and up, as per en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_WLAN_channels - assuming you are still in one of the five states of Texas, of course. Use 'em if you got 'em. – K7AAY Jul 6 '18 at 22:24
  • Voting to close this since there are way too many factors that can affect performance. The basic level comes from channels and frequencies but you could also have some Wi-Fi adapters that are simply better than others as well as some Wi-Fi adapter drivers that are more resilient than others. Utterly no way that can be a simple answer. – Giacomo1968 Jul 7 '18 at 3:31

There are at least 3 factors (probably more) which contribute to this problem.

  1. Not all radios have equal sensitivity to noise and timing. I guess you could explain this by analogy of a drunk person slurring their words, or less accurately as people speaking with different accents - the volume and signal/noise ratio is the same, but not everyone's words are equally intelligible.

  2. Different radios will be in different positions and will be able to hear different things. For analogy imagine 3 people in a line separated by a few meters in a noisy room - The person in the middle might hear both people, but the person at each end might not be able to hear each other. There message might not always be to/from the person in the middle.

  3. Sending and receiving strengths can be different. The end device is indicating signal strength on what it receives, not what it sends - and if the devices sending strength is low it's not going to be able to communicate properly. (Think about a hall with speakers using a microphone - no problem hearing what the speakers said, but not easy to hear questions from the floor)

  • Did you just use the previously unknown plural of 'radio'? – JohnnyVegas Jul 6 '18 at 22:17
  • Typos happen - especially on mobile where the interface does not properly show the text. – davidgo Jul 6 '18 at 22:28
  • This answer is very true, based on decades of work with radio, both digital and analog. – K7AAY Jul 6 '18 at 23:53

The challenge is to help them understand that Radio Frequency (RF) communication is affected by many factors. Obstacles between their computer and the access point, people, cubicle walls, even other wireless devices in purses as well a variety of other factors influence wireless communications.

In some instances, devices are smart enough to switch channels on their own and sense the environment while others are less agile at adapting to noise and other devices in proximity. Sometimes it requires the user to intervene on the device's behalf to improve the situation.

That said, changing the channel on their device manually to another channel that is more lightly used can improve the performance of their system and hopefully network performance.

  • 1
    Yes, indeed. Try other channels. – K7AAY Jul 6 '18 at 23:52

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