How to Perform a Wireless Site Survey

With so many of our devices now dependant on WiFi to function optimally, a strong WiFi signal is a must in the modern world.

However, it can often be tricky to conclude why your WiFi is slow, or where the best place to set up your WiFi router is, and that is where a WiFi survey can help.

A wireless site survey application is considered a critical tool in determining the health and efficiency of your WiFi, and can significantly boost your WiFi performance.

WiFi lies on the electromagnetic spectrum, somewhere between radio waves and microwaves, and uses signals to send data to and from our devices and the router.

These signals make it possible to have wireless and portable devices and allows for a more flexible home set up, where you aren’t constantly tripping over wires.

However, by its very nature, WiFi is vulnerable to obstacles and interference in a way that wired electricity or ethernet is not.

This means we have to be aware of these interferences and how they are affecting our WiFi signal strength.

Causes of WiFi Interference

WiFi interference comes in many forms. For example, you can have physical interference in the form of materials such as concrete, bricks, water, and wood.

You can also have frequency interference in the form of other signals crossing paths with your broadband signal and causing it to be disturbed.

Determining where the interference is coming from yourself can be frustrating and involves a lot of trial and error as you move different household objects around the house in the hopes of fixing the issue.

Another issue is the capacity and coverage of wireless broadcast devices, although this is more of a problem for business environments where a large number of people may be trying to connect to one WiFi network.

WiFi broadcast devices do have a maximum capacity as well as an optimum capacity, and exceeding this can cause WiFi to become sluggish and sometimes unusable.

A simple solution to this issue is to increase the number of wireless broadcasting devices.

But the first step in this process should be performing a WiFi site survey to make sure these devices are located in the right place. Let’s take a closer look at the causes of WiFi interference.

Physical Interference

Different physical materials cause different levels of interference, and this is why there are sometimes areas of your home or workplace where the signal is always poor.

It’s likely that at that spot, your WiFi signal is being blocked by certain physical materials that have a higher interference level.

Certain materials such as plaster, synthetic materials, glass, and wood, are considered to have a low interference level, so if your WiFi has to pass-through these materials to get to your device, you should experience little to no drop in quality.

Water, bricks, and marble are considered to have a medium interference level. This is why you may find that your WiFi signal drops if someone places themselves directly in front of the WiFi router, essentially blocking it. 

After all, up to 60% of the human body is water. The same would be true of placing your WiFi router behind an aquarium or trying to connect to a router that is separated from your device by several brick walls.

Concrete, metal, and mirrors are considered to have high or very high interference physical interference levels.

Mirrors have a very high interference level because the metal in the mirror actually reflects the WiFi signal, disrupting the transmitted signal. Larger mirrors create more interference, as do mirrors close to the router.

Frequency Interference

Frequency interference happens when one of your other household or workplace objects produces its own signal that confuses or overpowers the one being broadcast from your router.

Other wireless devices are a huge cause of frequency interference because they often operate on the same frequencies as WiFi and are transmitting signals in the same space.

Common wireless devices that cause frequency interference are baby monitors, speakers, wireless WiFi phones, and wireless speakers.

Powerful WiFi networks in close vicinity to your own can also cause WiFi interference.

This can often be a problem when your home is located next to a large business site which has multiple strong WiFi broadcasting devices that can often overpower your own WiFi.

A few other household devices that you wouldn’t even consider can also cause interference, such as microwaves, refrigerators, or old and deteriorating satellite dishes. Even hearing aids can cause signal interference.

Of course, you can’t remove these items from your home, but you should be conscious of how close they are located to the WiFi router.

How a wireless site survey with NetSpot works

If you’ve established that you have weak WiFi signals in your home and your devices are struggling to stay connected and getting in the way of your precious Netflix streaming, or web browsing, then it’s time to consider a WiFi survey from NetSpot.

A Wireless site survey will scan your home or business to tell you where your WiFi signal is the strongest and the weakest, allowing you to take control of improving your WiFi.

NetSpot’s wireless site survey application automates the process of finding your WiFi strong and weak spots, requiring very little user input once the application has been set up.

First, you download the application, which is available for both macOS and Windows operating systems, and then activate it. Once the application has been launched, you can start a new WiFi site survey.

When starting a new survey, you’ll need to import a map of the area you want to survey, such as your home. However, don’t worry if you don’t have one handy, you can create one in the NetSpot wireless site survey application.

Once the map has been created, the app can get busy surveying the area, collecting signal metrics and analyzing them for you.

The finished WiFi survey will show you in a clear and easily understandable way where your WiFi weak spots are, so you can take action to solve the issue.

If you see a weak spot, you may notice that you have an object in the way causing interference and you simply need to move the object to a different place or move your WiFi router to a more suitable location.