How important is signal strength ?

  swayzak 12:24 29 Apr 2007


I am experiencing a drop in signal strength after upgrading my old Linksys BEFW11S4 router / wmp11 pci card 801.11b network to WRT54GS v6 router / WMP54GS 801.11g.

It used to run at good - excellent consistently.

Now it's good at best (usually low).

As far as I can tell, the actual connection capacity seems to be OK - XP SP2 downloads at around 440kbs.

The connection speed (as seen when hovering over the windows network icon in system tray) is usually 54 Mbps, but signal strength is "low".

Firstly, what is the relationship between the signal strength & the actual realworld performance of the wireless internet connection ?

Secondly, would high gain antennae make much difference here (the router is actually in a separate building (outside garage) from the main PC) ?

Secondly, why would an "upgrade" cause such a big drop in signal strength ? It was just a straight swap of hardware, no change in physical location.



  setecio 16:23 29 Apr 2007

Possible fixes:
1)Upgrade the firmware and drivers for the new products
2)Have either devices moved slightly - anything in the line can affect the signal - if you can get a line of site through windows that is perfect, otherwise as few & thin walls as possible, no metal objects etc ect.
Much better to gain a line of site rather than a high gain antennae, although it would help too.
3) Try changing the channel used by the router - 1,6,11 are the 3 to try first, although it is probably on 11 as default.
4)Various other gear can affect the signal, microwaves, dect phones ...

  Ashrich 23:30 30 Apr 2007

See if you can upgrade the antenna with one that has a base unit and connecting cable , that will allow better placement , wireless PCI cards are notorious for bad connections , being hidden behind a mainly metal computer .

  swayzak 23:51 30 Apr 2007

thanks people

All firmware & drivers are latest (although I gather there are 3rd party firmwares that allow you to increase the power of routers)

Have experimented a little with placement - didn't seem to help much. Maybe needs exploring further...

Unfortunately I can't really align the router & client any better than they are. It's a diagonal line from the router (garage outside) via garage wall/window, approx 30ft of air, wall of 1st floor bedroom then round the back of pc to pci card antenna.

I have bought a 7dBi Hawkins omni-directional antenna with base unit & attached angle-adjustable aerial.

It doesn't appear to boost the signal back up to my old "b" range of around 80%, possibly gives a few % (the current % runs at 50-60).

Strangely, the only (?)perceivable benefit appears if the antenna is used at the client, not the router.

I would add that, although the signal strength appears to have reduced with this "upgrade", the actual internet connection seems fine ! The speed ranges from 34 - 48 Mbps (using Windows XP SP2 network connection sys tray icon). Maybe I'm looking too hard at the numbers and ignoring the actual performance...

Still, just puzzled that a simple change of hardware would cause such a drop in signal strength.

  setecio 08:15 01 May 2007

Those numbers are unreliable. Yes, what is important is the actual internet speed ... check it here :

click here

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