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I'm looking into some wi-fi connectivity problems at a small college campus. One of the things I'm considering is the high concentration of microwave ovens (nearly every dorm room has one), because those can play havoc with wi-fi signals. Another challenge is an odd combination of cement block construction and the wood flooring mentioned in this recent slashdot post (which gave me the idea to ask about the problem here) that was installed after a recent remodel.

Any ideas about how to overcome these challenges? I'm considering bringing in a company to do a professional site survey, but I'd like to avoid that expense if I can as it's just not in their budget.

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My experience with microwaves (via a laptop in the kitchen) is that they only knock you off when within a few (~10) feet of the running oven. This should only affect the machine(s) in the dorm room and perhaps the adjacent rooms. I have no info on how throughput is affected when not completely knocked off (or for multiple ovens.) – Chris Nava Sep 30 '09 at 18:07
FYI: The FCC doesn't apply the same 4 watt output limit to directional transmitters... You could try dropping a 25 foot directional dish beside the building, point it at the windows, and turn the dial up to "dead pigeons". – David Sep 30 '09 at 18:10
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I would not worry about microwaves either. The students are not cooking every minute of the day. Even if it is disruptive, the effects are limited to short periods of time. Your main issue would be signal strength through walls and all. In our student hostel of about 50+ rooms (2.5 floors, stretched over a single long corridor), we were able to completely cover it with 3 wireless routers (one on each end, and one in the middle). Of course, there were the odd complaints of networking issues but those were handled as and when they happened.

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The only way you're really going to be able to tell is by buying a few WAPs and deploying them. Then you can wander around with a signal meter, and try to determine how many you're going to need to deploy per site, and what the best locations are going to be. This is one of those situations where you can theorize all you want, but until you deploy the first piece of hardware, you aren't going to really KNOW anything.

Remember, you don't have to have wires to every point; you can buy repeaters to amplify the signal from a few wired WAPs...but you'll have to be careful with that, depending on network utilization. Too many students connecting to a single WAP (via repeaters) can cause havok.

Wouldn't worry too much about microwaves. They'll be less of a problem than the walls and floors. The flooring won't be a problem unless you're not planning on having at least one WAP on each floor...Might actually help a bit, because you won't have signal penetrating the floor and causing interference on the floor below.

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