Are you currently looking for a new router? Is it important that you have Wi-Fi everywhere in your house? If you’re wondering how your router will work to provide wireless connectivity, it will be helpful for you to learn how to calculate a router’s Wi-Fi range.
To calculate the Wi-Fi range of any wireless access point, you need to understand the factors affecting your device’s performance when broadcasting Wi-Fi signals. These factors typically include environment, frequency broadcast and the capacity of the device.
So, before we start estimating your router’s Wi-Fi range, let’s talk about how Wi-Fi transmits signals and what factors affect your router’s wireless broadcasts.
How Wi-Fi Transmits Signals to Wi-Fi Enabled Devices
Wi-Fi or Wireless Fidelity broadcasts signals in the radio frequency spectrum, usually on the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz frequency. These signals are electromagnetic waves that radiate throughout the environment. Your Wi-Fi compatible device then detects the waves. Then, using a network card installed in your device, decodes these signals into usable data.
How Environment Affects Your Router’s Wi-Fi Range
The environment is one of the main factors affecting the effective range of a device’s Wi-Fi range. Wi-Fi is very much like a radio. Like a radio, if an object is between the transmitter (router) and the receiver (phone, tablet, IoT device, etc.), the signal is weakened, reducing the range of Wi-Fi coverage.
Environmental obstacles include walls, glass, furniture, appliances, floors, doors, carpets, and anything that blocks your line of sight to the router. The materials used for these barriers also strongly affect the extent to which these barriers attenuate the signal.
This chart should help you gauge how the most common building materials for walls and floors attenuate your Wi-Fi signal:
|6″ concrete wall||19.41dB|
|1/2″ solid pine||5.05dB|
|1/2″ solid oak||6.11dB|
Another environmental factor is simply open airspace. As your router broadcasts signals from its antenna(s), the strength of those signals will continue to decrease the further you go. This decrease in the signal in the open air can be calculated with inverse square law formulas.
How Your Router Affects Wi-Fi Range
Not all routers are made equal. With all of the router configurations available, some routers will provide better wireless access points than others. There are generally three factors that make routers a better wireless access point. These would be the transmit power, antenna gain, and operating frequency.
Transmit power is simply the energy your router consumes to broadcast data. This power consumption directly correlates to stronger signal output, which results in longer Wi-Fi coverage.
Antenna gain is the additional signal strength that an antenna provides to a transmitting device such as a router. You may also see different antenna configurations installed on the routers. The most common are 2×2, 4×4 and 6×6 MIMO antennas (multiple inputs and multiple outputs). While multiple MIMO antennas don’t necessarily mean longer Wi-Fi range, it does mean faster, more reliable Wi-Fi.
Operational frequency is the final factor in determining whether a network router is a good wireless hotspot. 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz are the two frequencies that wireless access points use to operate.
Most routers today have dual-band wireless access points, which means they have options for 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz frequencies. Using the wrong frequency can dramatically reduce your Wi-Fi range and overall performance.
In general, a lower frequency means longer range but slower data bandwidth. In contrast, a higher frequency would have a shorter coverage range but higher data bandwidth. This means that a 2.4 GHz operating frequency would provide your router with longer Wi-Fi coverage, and a 5 GHz operating frequency would provide less range but have higher data transfer speeds.
However, there are exceptions when configuring your router to operate at 2.4 GHz. In some situations, you may notice shorter Wi-Fi coverage when running at 2.4 GHz compared to using 5 GHz. Such a short Wi-Fi range would usually be because the environment is cluttered with the same 2.4 GHz frequency as other devices. These same frequencies can come from microwaves, IoT devices, and radios, as many of these also operate at a 2.4 GHz frequency.
The final factor that affects Wi-Fi range would be based on your router’s wireless standard. Routers running on 802.11n and 802.11ac wireless standards are said to offer much longer Wi-Fi coverage ranges and faster data transfer.
How to Calculate Your Router’s Wi-Fi Range
Now that you understand the factors affecting Wi-Fi coverage range, you should be able to take those factors and use them as variables when calculating Wi-Fi range.
Let’s first calculate the wireless range your router can provide.
Check your router’s specifications. You will need to check the wireless standards used by your router. Also check your router settings to see if it works at 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz frequencies. If you haven’t changed your router settings, 2.4 GHz is usually the default operating frequency.
If the router uses the 802.11n or 802.1ac wireless standards, you can expect a wireless range of 150 feet when operating at 2.4 GHz and 135 feet when operating at 2.4 GHz frequencies. 5GHz. Routers using older wireless standards can expect around 50 feet on 2.4 GHz frequencies and 40 feet on 5 GHz frequencies.
In cases where you have no way of knowing what wireless standard your router uses, you can calculate its range by adding your router’s transmit power (dBm), antenna gain (dBm) and a fixed value of 4,000 (square feet). The fixed value of 4,000 square feet is an estimated value from the Wi-Fi coverage range of ordinary routers.
After adding the variables, you will get a value in square feet. You then divide that value by 42.7 to get the estimated wireless range your router can provide in feet.
Choose the right router for yourself
Now that you know how to make calculated estimates of a router’s wireless range capabilities, hopefully you can use it to decide which router to choose for your home network. This will ensure that everyone in your home has adequate Wi-Fi coverage and can surf the Internet uninterrupted.
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