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Access Point Coverage

Like any other network medium, APs have a limited transmission distance. This limitation is an important consideration when you’re deciding where an AP should be placed on the network. When troubleshooting a wireless network, pay close attention to how far the client systems are from the AP.

When faced with a problem in which client systems cannot consistently access the AP, you could try moving the access point to better cover the area, but then you may disrupt access for users in other areas. So what can be done to troubleshoot AP coverage?

Depending on the network environment, the quick solution may be to throw money at the problem and purchase another access point, cabling, and other hardware to expand the transmission area. However, you can try a few things before installing another wireless access point. The following list starts with the least expensive solution and progresses to the most expensive:

  • Increase transmission power: Some access points have a setting to adjust the transmission power output. By default, most of these settings are set to the maximum output; however, this is worth verifying just in case. Also note that you can decrease the transmission power if you’re trying to reduce the dispersion of radio waves beyond the immediate network. Increasing the power gives clients stronger data signals and greater transmission distances.
  • Relocate the AP: When wireless client systems suffer from connectivity problems, the solution may be as simple as relocating the AP. You could relocate it across the room, a few feet away, or across the hall. Finding the right location will likely take a little trial and error.
  • Adjust or replace antennas: If the access point distance is insufficient for some network clients, it might be necessary to replace the default antenna used with both the AP and the client with higher-end antennas. Upgrading an antenna can make a big difference in terms of transmission range. Unfortunately, not all APs have replaceable antennas.
  • Signal amplification: RF amplifiers add significant distance to wireless signals. An RF amplifier increases the strength and readability of the data transmission. The amplifier improves both the received and transmitted signals, resulting in an increase in wireless network performance.
  • Use a repeater: Before installing a new AP, you might want to think about a wireless repeater. When set to the same channel as the AP, the repeater takes the transmission and repeats it. So, the AP transmission gets to the repeater, and then the repeater duplicates the signal and passes it on. This is an effective strategy to increase wireless transmission distances.
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