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I just performed a wireless network scan and my primary wireless route broadcasts a consist 70 DBm signal. I added a range extender that increases or decreases the signal 65 DB (Not sure how the DB m scale works)

Is this considered a poor signal? What is considered an excellent signal strength?

I experiences a lot of dropped connection and slow network speed.


Thanks for all the feedback. I went ahead and reconfigured my wireless network set up to connect all my gaming devices via CAT5e cable and all other deivices connect wirelessly. I ran my diagnostic check again and I receive a consistent signal broadcast at 70 DBm throughout my whole house.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

If you are worried about delay, noise, and quality of the link, I would use a CAT5e (or CAT6) cable. Otherwise, next time you microwave a HotPocket, you could incur some delay/noise.

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I am thinking about moving my router to connect devices via CAT5e cable. What are some of factors that might cause delay/poor quality in a wireless signal? I live in a house with plaster walls – Michael Kniskern Jun 13 '09 at 19:43
Walls, wireless devices (like phones), and of course microwaves. The ISL band, 2.4 GHz, is the garbage dump of the radio spectrum. If you keep a clear line of sight, or at least a clear path, to your router you should be fine. I have a 60DBm signal and COD4 works great! – Joseph Kern Jun 13 '09 at 19:49
Thanks, I have a plaster wall between my PS3 and router. I added a range extender to try to improve the signal but I still get poor connectivity – Michael Kniskern Jun 13 '09 at 19:55
Without knowing his noise level its impossible to say, but in an average house how is that good? When I deploy a network I usually aim for -50dbm, because I know later there will be more noise. – Steven Jun 13 '09 at 23:19
-50Dbm is much better ... – Joseph Kern Jun 13 '09 at 23:33

It might be anyone of a number of things - ambient interference, other WLAN's, AP firmware, Client Nic\driver\OS ... Some specific details of what your environment is running on would help.

In general though the most likely issue is interference from nearby WLAN's broadcasting in the same channels or nearby channels. There is a lot of overlap in 2.4Ghz Wifi channels. The specific 802.11 protocol you are using will also influence this - plain old 802.11b is slow but it is easier to isolate the channels it uses from those of other nearby WiFi sources or environmental RF interference from things like microwave ovens. 802.11g suffers quite badly from interference and 802.11n operating in the 2.4Ghz band can also behave erratically in the presence of competing WiFi sources, especially if you have set it up for dual channel bonding. If you have the option of using either 802.11a or 802.11n in the 5Ghz band then you will have far fewer issues with either ambient interference or interference from other nearby WiFi sources because it is much rarer and there are simply far more channels available (24 non overlapping channels vs 3 2.4Ghz).

For 2.4Ghz try fixing your channel to channel 1 and then testing. Move that to Channel 6 if you still have problems, and then try Channel 11. If you still have issues then limit both your AP and client to 802.11b and try again, if you find a satisfactory setup then try selectively enabling the faster protocols. For 802.11n set the channel width to 20Mhz first and then go higher if that is stable. Disable WMM if it's present - it doesn't help with any media streaming I've ever come across and if its enabled many WiFi Nic's get confused by the additional beaconing that it causes.

Your Client OS and adapter settings are also worth looking into. For Intel Wireless adapters disable power saving and turn Roaming Aggressiveness down to "Lowest". In general for any options that look like performance\throughput enhancements first disable all of them and then selectively enable them to see if any one works.

The dBm measurements are useful but not as important as knowing the level of ambient RF noise and the channels used by other WiFi sources. The MetaGeek WiSpy is a good way to get an idea of what is going on without spending a fortune but it is still not what you'd call cheap ($199). Professional level RF scanning costs quite a bit more.

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Another good tip: start next to your AP and that signal level is your baseline. Move further away and see how it changes. Noise is just as important a measurement, but most wifi cards won't tell you a reliable number. – Steven Jun 13 '09 at 23:22

Wireless is inherently less reliable than wired. You're looking at a system that can be disturbed by someone else in a block of flats microwaving their dinner, or you opening or closing the door between the wireless router and the device using it.

I'm not saying it should be behaving like this, just that I'm not very surprised.

Those figures do sound reasonable. Have you tried the usual suspects - made sure the firmware on the accesspoint and the wireless card are both up to date, that you've optimised the settings on both to get a good connection (e.g. if both are 'n' then lock them down to just that...)?

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Great utility from one of the lists posted here, inSSIDer is great for making sure you're not sharing a channel with neighboring networks.

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I used that application to perform my network scan. Very easy to use. – Michael Kniskern Jun 14 '09 at 1:18

I think wired connections, as opposed to wireless connections, are recommended for gaming. You get a consistent signal without any interference.

If you are going wireless, be sure to place your router on an optimal place for best signal.

When diagonosing wireless signal strength issues, I use Netstumbler for measuring the signal as I walk around my office building. It will output the signal in real time on a graph (plus a ton of other info).

We do use repeaters/range extenders at a couple of locations, but I am not convinced they help out alot. I think they may even cause confusion at times. This is just from my personal observations.

PS - as always I will recommend any router running DDWRT. There are some gaming-specific settings that you can change on it.

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