When you're on a wireless network and things are slow or even not working at all, you might hear that you're out of Wi-Fi range or that the signal strength is poor. So what is the range of a typical Wi-Fi network, and do you need to be close to a router or wireless access point for a good, sustained connection?
A wireless network uses radio waves, just like TVs and cell phones. A radio wave degrades the further from its source the signal travels.
A wireless network's range can vary wildly depending on the type of network. A standard home network using one wireless router can serve a single-family dwelling, but often not much more.Jo Zhou / Ach5
Business networks with grids of access points can serve large office buildings, and wireless hotspots spanning several square miles have been built in some cities. The cost to build and maintain these networks increases significantly as the range increases, of course.
A general rule of thumb in home networking says that Wi-Fi routers operating on the 2.4 GHz band can reach up to 150 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoors. Older 802.11a routers that ran on 5 GHz bands reached approximately one-third of these distances. Newer 802.11n and 802.11ac routers that operate on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands reach greater distances.
Because it uses narrower wavelengths, a 5 GHz Wi-Fi connection is more susceptible to obstructions than 2.4 GHz connections, and so will usually have a slightly shorter effective range, typically, 10 to 15 feet shorter.
Factors Influencing Range
There are three main factors that influence your Wi-Fi range: the access point or router itself, the structure you're in, and the wireless standard you're using.
Access Point or Router
The Wi-Fi signal range of any given access point varies significantly from device to device. Factors that determine the range of an access point include the specific 802.11 protocol it runs, the strength of its device transmitter, and the nature of physical obstructions and radio interference in the surrounding area.
The distance at which someone can connect to an access point varies depending on antenna orientation. Smartphone users, in particular, may see their connection strength increase or decrease simply by turning the device at different angles. Furthermore, some access points use directional antennas that enable longer reach in areas the antenna is pointing but shorter reach in other areas.
Change the antenna that came with your router if you're not getting the signal strength you need.
Type of Structure or Building
Physical obstructions in homes, such as brick walls and metal frames or siding, can reduce the range of a Wi-Fi network by 25 percent or more.
A Wi-Fi signal weakens every time it encounters an obstruction, which happens a lot indoors, thanks to walls, floors, and even the electronic interference caused by appliances.
The wireless standard you're using has a direct effect on your wireless signal range and strength. The 802.11g protocol has an indoor range of 125 feet, while 802.11n has a range of 235 feet.