Wireless AP Coverage

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

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

Depending on the network environment, the quick solution might be to throw money at the solution and purchase another access point, cabling, and other hardware, and expand the transmission area through increased hardware. However, there are a few things to try before installing another wireless access point. The following list starts with the least expensive solution 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 will be set to the maximum output; however, it is worth verifying just in case. As a side note, the transmission power can be decreased if trying to reduce the dispersion of radio waves beyond the immediate network. Increasing the power would provide clients stronger data signals and greater transmission distances.

  • Relocate the AP When wireless client systems suffer from connectivity problems, the solution might be as simple as relocating the WAP to another location. It might be that it is relocated across the room, a few feet, 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 not sufficient 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 WAPs 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 provides improvement of 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 first think about a wireless repeater. When set to the same channel as the AP, the repeater will take the transmission and repeat it. So, the WAP transmission gets to the repeater, and then the repeater duplicates the signal and passes it forward. It is an effective strategy to increase wireless transmission distances.

Troubleshooting Steps and Procedures

Regardless of the problem, effective network troubleshooting follows some specific troubleshooting steps. These steps provide a framework in which to perform the troubleshooting process and, when followed, can reduce the time it takes to isolate and fix a problem. The following sections discuss the common troubleshooting steps and procedures.

Identify the symptoms and potential causes.

Identify the affected area.

Establish what has changed.

Select the most probable cause.

Implement an action plan and solution including potential effects.

Test the result.

Identify the results and effects of the solution.

Document the solution and process.