Increasing the range of a wireless device can seem like a mix of engineering and black magic. But there are five variables that can be optimized to increase the range of a wireless signal: antenna location, antenna gain, output power, repeaters, and interference mitigation. With each of these variables , whenever something changes, the dynamics of the wireless link can be affected in an unanticipated way.
Increasing the Range of a Wireless Connection
- The location of transceivers (or wireless connections) is critical. For example, in almost all wireless consumer devices, the signal will not pass through solid metal nor the signal path even through the ground. The elevation is also a factor. The reason cell phone and radio/TV transmission towers are located at higher altitudes is that they will travel farther than they would if they were to be located at the bottom of a valley with mountains surrounding it.
- The first variable to try is the location of the wireless device. This is something that is instinctive, as people who use cell phones will almost automatically go over their location, to see if the signal improves. If you are going to change the location of a wireless device (or the antenna mounted on a wireless device), you may have to purchase a special cable that is made for this purpose.
- The next variable to experiment with is the antenna gain. For many consumer devices, higher-gain antennas are available. Cell phone antennas (sometimes referred to as “boosters”) are available from a number of vendors. Antennas to extend Wi-Fi range are also made by various manufacturers.
- Amplifiers are available for many consumer devices and can be useful in many cases. CB radios and Wi-Fi devices have higher power versions of the equipment that can be purchased, as well as add-on amplifiers available.
Repeaters are made for Wi-Fi devices, and a newer device for cell phones (femtocell) is available for people to buy to improve their reception in places where the signal is not adequate, such as inside a metal office building.
- Interference is an issue, especially for Wi-Fi devices, as well as any other wireless device that does not use a (protected) licensed spectrum band. Unfortunately, without some very expensive tools (like a spectrum analyzer) and the knowledge to use one, tracking interference might be impossible.