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  1. #1
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    Default Wireless Networks: practical advice

    In my day job, I'm a computer network analyst/consultant. My firm provides tech support to small businesses.

    One of the problems that I'm seeing is wireless network saturation. Lately, several customers have called because their network is soooooo slow. In almost all these cases, they are on a wireless network -- and it should be fast enough to support what they are doing. The signal strength is good, and the wifi utility reports a decent connection speed.

    What I typically find is that the wireless airspace is saturated. Using a utility on my laptop, I scan for nearby access points. There is often a multitude of wireless networks, and they are concentrated on channels 1, 6, and 11, which are the default channels that most wireless access points use. Forcing the customer's access point to a less-crowded channel (like 3 or 8) often improves their network speed. In some cases, we will switch them to a 5-GHz network, which for now lies in uncrowded airspace.

    One thing that would really help the situation is if everyone using wifi would reduce the power level of their routers to the minimum level needed.

    This highlights the major problem with wifi: saturation. The FCC has only allocated so much bandwidth (frequency range) for unlicensed usage -- typically the "2.4 GHz" and "5 GHz" bands -- and these are used by all sorts of wireless devices like cordless phones, walkie-talkies, and wireless mice. This all adds to noise that degrades wifi signals.

    To compound matters, a wireless network operates much like the old "hubs" in previous generations of wired networks. When one computer is talking on the network, everyone else has to listen. If your wireless network is capable of 54Mbps, that has to be shared among ALL the computers on the wireless network. This isn't a problem on a wired network connected with a switch.

    One bit of advice floating around is that it doesn't make sense to install a wired network because "pretty soon everything will be wireless." If this indeed is the case, it will require an expansion by the FCC of the radio spectrum allocated for unlicensed use. Otherwise, we'll just end up with the saturation problem I mentioned earlier. Right now, it's bad advice.

    I strongly recommend that wired networks be installed wherever a network is needed, unless cost or mobility demand a wireless network. Wired networks are considerably more reliable, and if you use CAT5e or CAT6 cabling, will support much faster speeds than wireless, ESPECIALLY if there are multiple devices actively sharing the network.

    I have seen many new homes constructed in recent years that have cable TV and phone jacks in every room, but not a single CAT6 network line. This is inexcusable. Since just about everything in the future will be networkable, and it looks like the wireless saturation issue isn't going to be solved anytime soon, it just makes good sense to install a wired network.

    When I built my house in 2003, I even put a network jack behind the fridge. Don't laugh -- there already ARE networkable refrigerators available.


    (As I write this, I'm using my laptop in the recliner connected to my wireless network... but all my stationary network devices are hardwired. )
    The "Senior Member" designation under my name doesn't mean I know a lot, it just means I talk a lot.I've been a DIYer since I was 12 (thanks, Dad!). I have read several books on various home improvement topics. I do not have any current code books I can refer to. I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Wireless Networks: practical advice

    Very solid advice. I've worked in technology for over 10 years now with networking experience in a multitude of settings. I'm still a fan of cat5e due to the fact that it will handle anything that any fairly affordable network device will throw at it and it's cheaper by far. However, things are getting fast enough in corporate networks that cat6 is coming into play.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Wireless Networks: practical advice

    I look at it from the opposite perspective. I tell every new tenant that if they want to have internet access throughout their apartment, they should buy a wireless router rather than drill holes through my walls for a cable.

    Every time I rent an apartment, the new tenant is wanting to drill holes through my walls so that he can string a cable into his bedroom or bathroom or wherever.

    To my way of thinking, it's far more reasonable for that tenant to invest in a wireless network for his apartment than it is for him to expect me to repair the holes he's put through my walls for cables so he can surf from his/her bed.

    First off, the hardware he buys will work with any future computer he buys, and it will work in any future apartment he rents. In contrast, the holes he makes in my walls won't move to his next address with him. It's me that gets stuck fixing the holes because a $30 cable is so vastly cheaper than a $45 wireless router.

    As with so many other things in life, this too is a problem that arises from ignorance. If your average person knew how to change the frequency of their wireless network, and it's power level, then the problem of airwave saturation would be reduced. But, most people buy a wireless router the same way they buy a colour TV set. They hook it up, and if it works, the owner's manual gets filed in the cardboard box the router came in, never to be looked at again.

    I just feel that if someone wants a network, they should install that network in their own property. To install it by drilling holes through the walls of my property is damage, and I charge for repairing damage caused by the tenant.
    Last edited by Nestor; 07-03-2011 at 11:56 PM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Wireless Networks: practical advice

    This is all great advice. I'm a Ham Radio operator and we have millions of people world-wide wanting to use very tiny slices of radio spectrum all at the same time. That is why the FCC requiresus to use the minimum power necessary to maintain reliable contact, even though we can legally use 1000 times that amount. The world is going wireless and it gripes me that they want the little spectrum we use so well, with me knowing they're going to misuse and waste it if they get it- but I digress The use of the lowest power also adds a security factor- as I write this I am on an unknown neighbors open WIFI Network. It's as reliable as any other connection, fast enough for me, and the price is certainly right If they reduced the power I'd have to cough up $40 a month to equal it so I hope they don't. But otherwise use the lowest power you can. Here's another reason why this is good:

    Radio waves do affect your brain, especially those at UHF and above which is where wireless operates. It's as much a factor of power and time as it is a specific frequency. Don't believe the hoopla you hear being spouted by those with a vested interest in wireless- if what I'm saying were not true, then the FCC would not require Hams to do a RF Safety calculation for their stations like they have for about the last ten years. You have to prove you know that formula on a test to get your license- it's that important. Don't believe me, you can easily find that info for yourself ******. When they say it's safe, they have done this very same calculation and found that within their predicted use, their one transmitter is safe- but almost everyone uses more power and spends more time than this predicted use and it doesn't take into account everyone else around you is doing the same thing at the same time We are essentially frying our brains all for the convenience of wireless


    You shouldn't damage the property of others, but Nestor, you should consider adding CAT5 wiring in your units. It's a standard that's going to stay and it's an asset that might increase your marketability and make happier tenants plus you won't have any more holes to fix in the future. Sell them on the security aspect of it and they'll love ya. Just saying It kills two birds with one stone, doesn't it?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Wireless Networks: practical advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Fencepost View Post
    What I typically find is that the wireless airspace is saturated. Using a utility on my laptop, I scan for nearby access points. There is often a multitude of wireless networks, and they are concentrated on channels 1, 6, and 11, which are the default channels that most wireless access points use. Forcing the customer's access point to a less-crowded channel (like 3 or 8) often improves their network speed. In some cases, we will switch them to a 5-GHz network, which for now lies in uncrowded airspace.
    There are two free utilities that I use to monitor the wireless spectrum:
    • NetStumbler -- this is the more well-known utilty. It provides a TON of information, but it can be a bit overwhelming to decipher it all.
    • InSSIDer -- give most of the same information as NetStumbler, but also provides a visual graph of what's going on.
    The "Senior Member" designation under my name doesn't mean I know a lot, it just means I talk a lot.I've been a DIYer since I was 12 (thanks, Dad!). I have read several books on various home improvement topics. I do not have any current code books I can refer to. I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Wireless Networks: practical advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Nestor View Post
    I look at it from the opposite perspective. I tell every new tenant that if they want to have internet access throughout their apartment, they should buy a wireless router rather than drill holes through my walls for a cable.
    Consider, Nestor, that the reason your tenants want to install network wires is because all of their neighbors are using wireless networks, leaving no spectrum for THEM to use. In a highly dense population such as an apartment complex, the spectrum can become saturated very quickly. One person adding a wifi network causes everyone to suffer.

    I'll echo Mastercarpentry's recommendation to install network wiring in your apartments. The materials are relatively inexpensive; you could probably do it for less than $100 per apartment for materials, and you can easily learn to do it yourself. It may increase your marketability, and you won't have to spend any more time doing repairs. Network wiring is almost as necessary as cable TV and telephone wiring nowadays. The catch is that you will have a hard time concealing the wire, which may be an issue in newer or higher-end properties.
    The "Senior Member" designation under my name doesn't mean I know a lot, it just means I talk a lot.I've been a DIYer since I was 12 (thanks, Dad!). I have read several books on various home improvement topics. I do not have any current code books I can refer to. I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Wireless Networks: practical advice

    In today's time, wireless gadgets are very convenient to use if mobility is your main concern. But if you want a reliable connection at all times, maybe you still need to opt using the LAN cables.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Wireless Networks: practical advice

    WAN stands for wide area network,this is a wireless technology.This is a very fast growing technology to make connectivity from one place to another place.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Wireless Networks: practical advice

    Quote Originally Posted by califoniaprobate View Post
    WAN stands for wide area network,this is a wireless technology.This is a very fast growing technology to make connectivity from one place to another place.
    You must be a spammer trying to poison the forum system, because this is flat out wrong, makes no sense, and adds nothing to the discussion.

    WAN has nothing to do with whether a network is wired or wireless. It is simply a concept to describe a network greater than yours... you can think of a LAN (Local Area Network) as the hallways in your house connecting various rooms, and WAN (Wide Area Network) as the sidewalks and driveways that connect you to your neighbors' houses. Your front door is the gateway/firewall between your LAN and the WAN (aka Internet). Hallways, stairs, and common rooms are various LAN technologies, while sidewalks, driveways, streets, and highways are various WAN technologies.

    Two other terms: WLAN and WWAN. Notice the extra letters -- they stand for Wireless LAN and Wireless WAN, respectively. WLAN is what you have in your house for your computers to connect to the internet via your cable or DSL modem. WWAN is what your smartphone uses to connect to the Internet via the cell network, commonly called 3g or 4g, which aren't so much concepts as technologies. The term WLAN implies wireless technology, but the term LAN has no such implication; LAN can apply to either wired or wireless networking. (Likewise with WWAN and WAN.)

    However you connect, the terms LAN, WAN, WLAN, and WWAN are just concepts, not technologies. 3g and 4g are connection technologies that operate in a WWAN concept; 802.11a/b/g/n (WiFi) are technologies that operate in a WLAN concept. CAT5/5e/6 is technology that operates in a LAN (and, occasionally, WAN) concept; cable and DSL operate in a WAN concept.

    While particular technologies are most common in particular networking concepts as previously noted, it's certainly possible to use 3g or 4g technology in a WLAN environment, or CAT6 technology in a WAN environment, or DSL in a LAN environment. It all depends on where your boundaries are.

    End rant.
    The "Senior Member" designation under my name doesn't mean I know a lot, it just means I talk a lot.I've been a DIYer since I was 12 (thanks, Dad!). I have read several books on various home improvement topics. I do not have any current code books I can refer to. I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Wireless Networks: practical advice

    Quote Originally Posted by califoniaprobate View Post
    WAN stands for wide area network,this is a wireless technology.This is a very fast growing technology to make connectivity from one place to another place.
    You must be a spammer trying to poison the forum system, because this is flat out wrong, makes no sense, and adds nothing to the discussion.

    WAN has nothing to do with whether a network is wired or wireless. It is simply a concept to describe a network greater than yours... you can think of a LAN (Local Area Network) as the hallways in your house connecting various rooms, and WAN (Wide Area Network) as the sidewalks and driveways that connect you to your neighbors' houses. Your front door is the gateway/firewall between your LAN and the WAN (aka Internet). Hallways, stairs, and common rooms are various LAN technologies, while sidewalks, driveways, streets, and highways are various WAN technologies.

    Two other terms: WLAN and WWAN. Notice the extra letters -- they stand for Wireless LAN and Wireless WAN, respectively. WLAN is what you have in your house for your computers to connect to the internet via your cable or DSL modem. WWAN is what your smartphone uses to connect to the Internet via the cell network, commonly called 3g or 4g, which aren't so much concepts as technologies.

    However you connect, the terms LAN, WAN, WLAN, and WWAN are just concepts, not technologies. 3g and 4g are connection technologies that operate in a WWAN concept; 802.11a/b/g/n (WiFi) are technologies that operate in a WLAN concept. CAT5/5e/6 is technology that operates in a LAN (and, occasionally, WAN) concept; cable and DSL operate in a WAN concept. The term WLAN implies wireless techonology, but LAN does not have a converse implication. A LAN certainly can included wireless and/or wired technologies. (Likewise with WWAN and WAN.)

    While particular technologies are most common in particular networking concepts as previously noted, it's certainly possible to use 3g or 4g technology in a WLAN environment, or CAT6 technology in a WAN environment, or DSL in a LAN environment. It all depends on where your boundaries are.

    End rant.
    The "Senior Member" designation under my name doesn't mean I know a lot, it just means I talk a lot.I've been a DIYer since I was 12 (thanks, Dad!). I have read several books on various home improvement topics. I do not have any current code books I can refer to. I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

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