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AirPort Tuning

by Rob Friesel

Issue: Poor wireless performance in areas of the house.

Complicating Factors: Accounting for the “expected” signal decay (i.e., through several walls), there are 4+ WiFi networks detectable from our house. While not positive, it is relatively safe to assume that one of them is causing interference on our channel.

Solution: Change channels.

Methodology: U.S. standards allow for up to 11 channels in the frequency range covered by 802.11; this method takes 7 samples of signal strength over 60 seconds (starting with 0 and ending with 60, taking a signal strength sample every ten seconds) and compares the average signal strength for all 11 available channels. As we are using exclusively Apple hardware and software, the signal strengths were on a 0-15 scale, as defined in Apple’s “Internet Connect” application. That signal scale is circled in the figure below:


Signal strength samples were taken at a location where users commonly access the wireless network and also commonly report poor signal strength or else dropped connections. The network was configured to use channel 10 prior to this tuning experiment and so channel 10 was used for the baseline readings.
Results: Individual channel performances are illustrated on the figure below:


The seven signal strength scores were then averaged using an arithmetic mean and compared. See the figure below for these means:


Conclusion: Channel 8 ranked nearly 10% higher than all other channels in the 802.11 spectrum. The network was subsequently reconfigured to use this channel.

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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