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Wi-Fi may be a much better way to spread a network connection around the home than Ethernet cables, but it’s not always as reliable. Like any kind of radio-based communication, Wi-Fi signals are prone to interruption by certain kinds of building materials and interference from certain kinds of household equipment. So, when a Wi-Fi network doesn’t reach somewhere that it’s supposed to for some reason, the result is a ‘dead zone’ — but the good news is that it’s usually easy to fix.

802.11b and 802.11g Wi-Fi uses radio waves with a frequency of 2.4GHz, which also happens to be the same frequency used by cordless phones, wireless keyboards, some baby monitors and even microwave ovens.

As a result, any of these devices can potentially interfere with an 802.11b/g Wi-Fi network, usually by drastically diminishing its signal strength. So, if Wi-Fi coverage in the kitchen suddenly plummets around dinnertime, it could just be that the microwave oven is to blame.

Similarly, certain types of building material can also affect Wi-Fi signals. Thick stone walls are a common culprit, as are modern materials that incorporate metal for insulation purposes. Simply putting a Wi-Fi router on a metal shelf can mess with its ability to broadcast properly, too.

The most common cause of 802.11b/g Wi-Fi network interference, however, is other 802.11b/g networks. 2.4GHz Wi-Fi is split into 11 channels to help minimise cross-network interference, but most of these channels use frequencies that overlap to some degree. Finding a free channel in a residential area that has a Wi-Fi network in every home is also extremely difficult, which means many 802.11b/g Wi-Fi users are stuck with slow data transfer speeds in addition to dead zones.

The first step in fixing a Wi-Fi dead zone is to identify any potential interference from other wireless devices in the home and then moving the router — or the Wi-Fi device that can’t connect to it — well away from them. Moving the router to a different room or even floor can also help, as can using a wireless extender like the ASUS EA-N66 to create a stronger network signal for greater coverage (more on this in a moment).

The ASUS EA-N66 dual band wireless Ethernet adapter

Ideally, an 802.11b/g network should also be set to a channel that’s well away from any nearby Wi-Fi networks. A free Windows utility like NetStumbler can be used to perform a ‘site survey’ that identifies the channels used by nearby networks and the troubled router’s channel can then be set accordingly.

Unfortunately, the preponderance of networks and problems with channel overlap mean that 802.11b/g Wi-Fi is reaching the end of its useful life. The maximum 54Mbit/s data transfer speed of 802.11g also means that it’s little use for devices that stream HD video — not that this theoretical speed can ever be achieved in reality, of course. (Incidentally, 802.11g routers that claim to offer 108Mbit/s only do so by bonding two 54Mbit/s channels, which means there’s twice the potential for interference from other networks.)

So, a better option is to upgrade to a router that offers 802.11n — but care is needed here. Many older routers only support the latest 802.11n standard at the old 2.4GHz frequency, which means any potential speed benefits can be negated by the same interference problems that plague 802.11b/g. Newer 802.11n routers, however, work at 5GHz, which is a far less congested part of the radio spectrum.

This is where the ASUS RT-N66U Wi-Fi router comes in. The RT-N66U is what’s known as a ‘dual-band’ router, which means it can run both 2.4GHz and 5GHz network at the same time. This means that older Wi-Fi equipment will still be able to connect to the network with a 2.4GHz connection, while newer devices can connect to its faster 5GHz network — and faster it most certainly is.

The ASUS RT-N66U router

5GHz 802.11n has a maximum theoretical data rate of 450Mbit/s, which makes it ideal for streaming HD video — and built in QoS (Quality of Service) technology ensures stutter-free playback, even when there’s other network traffic.

Set-up is quick and easy, since basic Wi-Fi settings are pre-configured out of the box and the web browser is automatically redirected to the RT-N66U’s web-based configuration page, so there’s no need to type in a cryptic IP address to get started.

Ai Radar technology also delivers the best possible connection to wireless devices, which means a stronger signal across different rooms. If thick walls or lots of floors still cause Wi-Fi coverage issues though, the RT-N66U is the perfect partner for the aforementioned EA-N66 wireless extender. This supports 5GHz 802.11n support too, which means Wi-Fi dead zones will be a thing of the past.

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