2 Replies Latest reply: Aug 7, 2010 11:25 AM by ReidMac
ReidMac Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
Recently I switched out my 4-5 year old Belkin Pre-N router with an Airport Extreme 802.11n model because I was having problems with dropping my Charter internet signal. The Charter techs told me that my router might be faulty and suggested replacing it. I had a strong signal with the Belkin Router and was even able to take my laptop (late 2008 Aluminum MacBook with Draft N capability) outside with losing any signal strength. I've found that the Airport Extreme does not give me the same strong signal outside and web browsing slows down. My iMac works fine with full bars but it is positioned close to the router--the same for the laptop when using it inside. I am surprised that the older Belkin would seemingly send a stronger signal but it does have the external antennas which the Airport router doesn't have. Could that be the difference? Is there anyway to add an antenna or boost the signal strength? The Airport Router is in the same location as the Belkin was. Thanks

iMac DuoCore 2.4ghz, Mac OS X (10.4.11), Charter High Speed Internet Connection
  • Tesserax Level 8 Level 8 (49,245 points)
    I am surprised that the older Belkin would seemingly send a stronger signal but it does have the external antennas which the Airport router doesn't have. Could that be the difference?


    Yes, that is possible. I know that you have placed the 802.11n AirPort Extreme Base Station (AEBSn) at the same location of the previous router, but even moving it a couple of inches may improve results.

    Is there anyway to add an antenna or boost the signal strength?


    If you only have "n" wireless clients, I would start by changing the AEBSn's Radio Mode to "802.11n only (5 GHz) - 802.11n only (2.4 GHz)." This would prevent any non-"n" clients from connecting and reducing the overall bandwidth available on either band.

    Next, I would use your laptop to determine the Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) at various location away from the AEBSn, specifically where you want to get Internet connectivity. The SNR will clue you in on areas that are better than others for successful connections.

    I suggest downloading a copy of iStumbler. Use iStumbler's Inspector feature (select Edit > Inspector from iStumbler's menu) to determine the SNR values. Within the Inspector, note the values for "signal" & "noise" at each location. Start with your MacBook near the AEBSn; note the readings, and then, choose the locations where you will typically use your MacBook to access the Internet.

    SNR is the signal level (in dBm) minus the noise level (in dBm). For example, a signal level of -53dBm measured near an access point and typical noise level of -90dBm yields a SNR of 37dB, a healthy value for wireless LANs.

    The SNR, as measured from the MacBook, decreases as the range to the base station increases because of applicable free space loss. Also an increase in RF interference from microwave ovens and cordless phones, which increases the noise level, also decreases SNR.

    SNR Guideline
    o 40dB+ SNR = Excellent signal
    o 25dB to 40dB SNR = Very good signal
    o 15dB to 25dB SNR = Low signal
    o 10dB to 15dB SNR = Very low signal
    o 5dB to 10dB SNR = No signal

    If the SNR is 20dB+ at each of these locations, then you should be getting reasonable performance from your AEBSn. If less, either try to locate the source of the Wi-Fi interference or try relocating either the base station or the wireless clients until they are within a 20dB SNR range.
  • ReidMac Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Sorry for taking so long to reply. It turned out that my internet signal problems were caused by something on Charter's end--once they tracked it down and fixed the issue the service has become stable--no interruptions in the last 6 weeks! Per Tesseraxs' suggestion, I downloaded iStumbler and found that the Belkin "Pre-N" router signal is stronger than the Apple Extreme N, so I went back to the Belkin and returned the Apple. The Apple design (without antenna) is superior, but I don't want to give up the signal reach and would rather not get into using the express boosters. Wish Apple would add an external antenna port to allow for an external rig.
    Thanks