How To: When Wireless LANs Collide!


Wireless networks are wonderful things - when they work! But an increasing number of consumers are finding that even if they manage to get their WLAN (wireless LAN) working, keeping it up and running reliably with good performance is often a frustrating and unsuccessful struggle. Though flaky equipment and improper setup can sometimes be the cause, all too often the growing popularity of WLAN equipment is itself the cause of wireless woes.

In this ProblemSolver, I'll explain the causes of problems in closely-spaced wireless LANs (and dispel some myths). I'll then give you fixes for common problems, and even tell you what not to waste your time trying.

So, how do you know that you have a problem from neighboring WLANs and not just something wrong with your own equipment? Take this little test:

  • Your WinXP "View Available Wireless Networks" window shows wireless networks other than your own - and lots of 'em
  • You keep losing connection to your AP, even when you're in the same room
  • Your wireless connection seems to crap out around the same time each day...usually in the late afternoon or early evening
  • You overhear your neighbor talking about the problems he's having with his wireless LAN
  • You live in a dorm, apartment building or neighborhood with large homes on small lots and broadband Internet service

If any of these sound familiar, then you probably should read on. If, on the other hand, you live out in the boonies where your cell phone doesn't even work and you have to drive over to see your neighbor, then this article probably isn't going to be much help!

NOTE: Please read references to access points (AP) or wireless routers as applicable to both kinds of products unless otherwise noted.