Ask the Wi-Fi Guru: May Edition

By Aaron Weiss | Posted May 12, 2009

April showers bring May flowers—and also, if you live in the northern climes, leaves. In the northeastern US, everything turns green in May, which for us humans is inspiring and invigorating. But if you are a wireless router associating with clients throughout the great outdoors, leaves can be your worst enemy. Unfortunately, mother nature has arranged things such that the frequencies we commonly use for wireless networking, such as 2.4 GHz, tend to be blocked by greenery.

If you have any wireless links running shooting through trees or bushes, especially those you setup in the fall or winter, check for changes in signal strength. You may find that signal varies as an offending branch blows in the wind, moving in and out of your router's line of sight.

Sometimes the only remedy from leaf blockage is strategic pruning (or, in severe cases, a chainsaw), but before resorting to arboreal butchery consider outfitting grid or parabolic antennas at each end of your wireless link. Highly directional antennas will require precise aiming to maximize signal, but can produce stronger signals through a difficult environment than omnidirectional antennas (such as those included with most routers).

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