It’s not your broadband that is at fault...
Have you considered how the materials that pin your building together might be affecting the quality of your Wi-Fi setup? I’m guessing probably not. Generally speaking; in our homes and at work we don’t seem to have much knowledge about Wireless and Radio Frequency (RF) theory. Why would you? After all, there’s physics involved that you probably don’t need to know. Unless you're an IT professional or you’re keen to delve deeper into something that you use every day of course.
Do you think it would be useful to know how RF propagates? The characteristics and how the Radio Frequencies can behave in certain conditions?
Knowing this can improve your knowledge for the future and the performance of your Wireless environment now.
The intention of this blog is an introduction into a few of the Radio Frequency behaviours and why they are worth considering in your Small Office Home Office (SOHO) environment. Various behaviours occur due to obstacles and changes to the environment that you are in, especially with outdoor setups that are out in the elements.
This is where a signal does not bounce or reflect off of an object, its strength is reduced by absorption into thick materials such as concrete and brick. Although most materials will absorb some amount of an RF signal. For example Coleman D (2015)- CWNA, states: "a 2.4 GHz signal will be 1/16 the original power after propagating through a brick wall. That same signal will only lose ½ the original power after passing through drywall material." Due to the water content in the human body, us humans are considered a form of absorption too - so high density areas are at risk.
Real life meaning: Have you wondered why downstairs at home your signal is great and upstairs you have 1 bar and you're barely getting connected, if at all? Absorption will be up there with one of the reasons why. It’s not your broadband at fault as most presume! Below is a visual of how the signal reduces.
This is where a wave hits a smooth object (that is larger than itself) and bounces in a different direction. This can create more than one instance of your propagated signal (Multipath). This was once a detrimental issue with the 802.11a/b/g standards until the introduction of MIMO (Multi-Input Multi-Output). 802.11n and 802.11ac utilise these once frowned upon behaviours with MIMO technology.
Real life meaning: If you work in an office space with lots of glass windows and doors etc then you will either be seeing the pros or the cons of Reflection, depending on your setup and the technology used. Make sure your technology is up to date!
Loss or Free Space Path Loss (FSPL) as it’s more technically known, is the most natural form of attenuation. This is simply the decrease of amplitude/signal strength through free space (the air). It's the widening of the waves as it gets further away from the antenna.
Real life meaning: Do you wonder why you can’t get a good enough signal in your garden at home and your Wi-Fi doesn’t work there? Well it’s simply because you are too far away from your Wi-Fi Router (FSPL in effect). This isn’t the only reason but it’s the most common reason in the majority of cases.
There are quite a few Radio Frequency behaviours that I haven’t discussed but I have highlighted the most common. If you have more interest in this area then study RF theory or embark on the CWNA journey: https://www.cwnp.com/certifications/cwna
The below extract Table1 is from the CWNA study book highlighting the attenuation of 2.4 Ghz signals through various materials. I hope you found this blog useful.