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Troubleshooting decreased performance of a wireless router

Nutter's Help Desk By Ron Nutter, Network World
October 08, 2007 12:04 AM ET

Network World - I have used a Linksys wireless G 2.4 GHz 54 Mbps router in my home for several years. Within the past month or so the range has decreased by 60 to 7 0%. The only change has been AT&T takeover of BellSouth. Does this equipment wear out, or could it have something to do with AT&T?
-- wckehoejr

Wireless equipment can become less effective over time. Or it could be something related to the takeover. However, there are several other possibilities as well. First, rule out any new interference from within your house. Look for anything wireless that uses the 2.4-Ghz range. This is probably the number one thing that I find that causes an otherwise unexplainable drop in wireless coverage. Since the FCC set the 2.4 Ghz range up as an "unlicensed" spectrum, that means that no one has to coordinate their usage with anyone else. I have run into more than one situation where a device in the same frequency range has caused a problem.

There is one tool that I can suggest you consider purchasing or see if a friend has one that you can borrow - WiSpy from the folks at Either one of the modules will work, the v2.4 model will help you get a more directional approach to the problem since you can use an external antenna to focus or narrow the direction you are looking at for the competing signal. Metageek gives you a plethora of pre-recorded examples so you can quickly identify the type of interference (i.e. cordless phone, microwave, etc) and locate it.

Another option is that some of your neighbors may have started running access points that are on the same or nearby channel to the channel that your access point is on. There is usually a site survey function that comes in the software that comes with most wireless cards. If your client software doesn't have this option, you can download Netstumber. This will show you what access points are close to yours or possibly stronger than yours in terms of signal strength. If you are getting overpowered by a nearby access point, this could also explain the loss in coverage area.

It wouldn't hurt to check the Linksys Web site to see if there is a newer version of firmware that can be installed. This might help as well. If you are in the mood for a little bit of experimenting, you can find several different 3rd party firmware packages that you can consider installing on your access point which might have the option of increasing the strength of the transmitter in the access point. Be careful with this option as you will be running the unit outside of its design specifications which could lead to premature failure of the unit and possible some signal distortion.

Read more about small business networking in Network World's Small Business Networking section.

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