Answer: The range of a WiFi computer network depends primarily on the number and type of wireless access points (including wireless routers) used to build it.
A traditional home network having one wireless router can cover a single-family dwelling but often not much more. Business networks with grids of access points can cover large office buildings.
And wireless hotspots spanning several square miles (kilometers) have been built in some cities. The cost to build and maintain these networks increases significantly as the range increases, of course.
The WiFi signal range of any given access point also varies significantly from device to devices. Factors that determine the range of one access point include:
- the specific 802.11 protocol it runs
- the strength of its device transmitter
- the nature of physical obstructions and/or radio interference in the surrounding area
A general rule of thumb in home networking says that WiFi routers operating on the traditional 2.4 GHz band reach up to 150 feet (46 m) indoors and 300 feet (92 m) outdoors. Older 802.11a routers that ran on 5 GHz bands reached approximately one-third of these distances. Newer 802.11n and 802.11ac routers that operate on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands vary in the reach similarly.
Physical obstructions in homes such as brick walls and metal frames or siding reduce the range of a WiFi network by 25% or more. Due to laws of physics, 5 GHz WiFi connections are more susceptible to obstructions than are 2.4 GHz.
Radio signal interference from microwave ovens and other equipment also negatively affects WiFi network range.
Because 2.4 GHz radios are commonly used in consumer gadgets, those WiFi connections protocols are more susceptible to interference inside residential buildings.
Finally, the distance at which someone can connect to an access point varies depending on antenna orientation. Smartphone users in particular may see their connection strength increase or decrease simply by turning the device at different angles. Furthermore, some access points utilize directional antennas that enable longer reach in areas the antenna is pointing but shorter reach in other areas.
There are a variety of routers available on the market. Below are my picks for some of the best sellers, and they all can be purchased on Amazon.com:
The TP-LINK Archer C7 AC1750 Dual Band Wireless AC Gigabit Router includes 450Mbps at 2.4GHz and 1300Mbps at 5GHz. It features guest network access for extra privacy when sharing your home, and comes with an easy setup assistant with multi-language support to make for a simple installation process.
The Netgear WNR2500-100NAS IEEE 802.11n 450 Mbps Wireless Router will make downloading movies, songs, playing games and streaming much faster.
The power boost antennas also ensure a stronger connection and broader range.
The Linksys WRT54GL Wi-Fi Wireless-G Broadband Router features four fast ethernet ports and the WPA2 encryption allows you to surf the Internet securely.