Frustration sets in

Wireless Network Troubleshooting 102: A Tale of Many Signals

Wireless network troubleshooting does not have to be as difficult and/or mystical as it might seem on the surface.  High Speed Experts is here to answer common questions and provide some wireless network troubleshooting advice in our series first ever wireless networking guide.  In the first installment of the official High Speed Expert wireless network troubleshooting guide the focus was going vanilla.  Going vanilla means to try and isolate the problem by reducing as many of the variables in play as possible, but knowing what to do when problems cannot be resolved is equally important.

More In, More Out = More Happy

If changing the active wireless network frequencies did not alleviate all of the problems, then there might be another option: setup a MIMO wireless network.  MIMO stands for multiple-in, multiple-out, but an easier way to understand this technology is visualize a single device with two, three, or more antennae all working together to send and receive data over greater distance and with greater fidelity.  These antennae send multiple data streams that are slightly different from one another with the intent of making sure that as much data as possible gets to a compatible MIMO receiver in any period of time.  The net result is a more robust connection that is more resilient to interference of virtually any kind.  Consider MIMO to be the wireless network troubleshooting equivalent of a 300 lb linebacker: it might just smash through any problems while losing a little steam in the process.

The downside to MIMO is that there are many different MIMO standards on the market, and few are truly compatible.  In fact, there have been more than a few tongue in cheek reviews of MIMO routers and network cards from the same vendor using incompatible technology, yet sold together as a kit.  That being said, those who are planning on using a MIMO technology may be out of luck if their STB (set top box), consoles, and other home media devices that cannot be upgraded do not use the same MIMO technology.  Neither AT&T’s U-verse nor Verizon’s FiOS STBs use any formal MIMO standard at this time, which may seem like a major roadblock.

There is a way to sidestep this common wireless network problem, however, but it can be somewhat expensive: buy multiple MIMO routers, but only look for MIMO routers from a single vendor, and ensure that the routers can be used as a ‘client’ or ‘terminal.’  Different wireless network component vendors use different terminology, but the idea is simple: one MIMO router will be placed near the broadband connection while the other will act as a ‘client’ and be placed near the home entertainment center or elsewhere where connectivity is important.  This remote MIMO station needs to be wired into the local devices, but running wires only a very short distance should not be as much of a problem as a signal that is constantly dropped.

Go Big For Extra Distance…Or Not?

There are times when a wireless antenna itself is the problem, and this can happen on the router, individual devices (PCs, consoles, streaming devices), or a combination of the two.  Getting larger antennae might be a possible solution to this problem, but it does not always work as planned.  The idea seems sound, however, but consider the logic a bit more thoroughly: the data transmission quality is poor because one or more of the antennae in the network is too small.  While a larger antenna will pick up signals better, it will also pick up static better as well.  Furthermore, sending the same electrical to a large and small antenna might not produce tangibly different results, and those results that are different may not inherently favor the larger antenna if it offers greater resistance.

Still, if nothing else seems to work, then there is not much to do but give a larger antenna a try.  There are many different types of connectors, so be certain to consult with any given product’s guide to know what type of antenna connector(s) are being used.  Once a connector is found, there are two types of range extending antennae to consider: omni-directional and directional.   Directional antennae simply point the single in a single direction, which can be great for those not looking to share their ultra-fast broadband connection with deadbeat, broadband-freeloading neighbors.  Omni-directional antennae are easier to position, but tend to lack the proverbial punch of their more direct counterparts, and of course, the neighbors and anyone else with a wireless sniffing device is likely to be very happy about a new high-gain omni-directional antenna in their neighborhood.  This is doubly true of broadband connections mated with higher gain antennae that are typically low-resistance, and thus capable of transmitting and receiving signals from a greater distance with less interference.

Electric Line Networking: For When Wireless Just Won’t Work

It might sound like cheating, but if the object of the exercise is to get a stable and quick network connection without running cat-5 or cat-6 wire all through the property, then consider electric line networking as a proverbial safety net.  Electric line networking and a few other alternative wireless network troubleshooting ideas will be covered in the next part of our wireless network troubleshooting guide.

Author: Chad Weirick

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Photo Credit: Evil Erin
chris pigg July 24, 2011 at 9:22 pm

i was using my wireless on my iphone at my house and in the middle of me using it, it asked for my password for my wireless account. i do not have it any more I threw the paper away that had that info on it. where can i get the password to get back to using wirless on my phone?

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