How to Minimize Packet Loss on a Wireless Network
Minimizing or eliminating packet loss is necessary for getting the best performance out of your wireless networks. Packet loss refers to the discarding or loss of data packets, the basic units of digital communication, in a network because of a failed transmission or data overload. According to Internet speed testing website Pingtest.net, any packet loss whatsoever is cause for concern. Minimizing packet loss involves giving wireless devices the best possible signal strength.
Causes of Wi-Fi Packet Loss
Network interference is the main packet loss cause in a wireless network. Interference degrades transmission signal quality and can cause the receiving end of a network transfer to receive incomplete packets. The receiving device runs a data check for each packet to see if it came through correctly. If a received packet has an error, the receiving device sends a message to the sending device to re-send the bad data, which can cause network delays until the data is sent correctly. Interference is not the only potential issue. According to TechWorld, Wi-Fi networks unavoidably lose packets because of a flaw in the standard that causes the receiving side to mistake the size and speed of the incoming data.
Boosting the Signal
You can improve signal quality, which will minimize packet loss, by overpowering the interference with a wireless booster. For example, you can boost signal by replacing your wireless device antennas with larger, more powerful antennas or using directional antennas to narrow the focus. Larger, more powerful omni-directional antennas will send out a stronger signal that is less susceptible to interference. Directional antennas focus the signal strength in a narrow path, which can improve communications between two devices with antennas directed at each other.
Changing the Channel
Wireless devices compete for resources over a finite amount of transmission space; overlapping wireless networks interfere with each other and can lead to packet loss. If you're experiencing packet loss because of interference from other networks, you can alleviate the problem and minimize packet loss by changing your network's operational channel to one that other nearby networks aren't using. Finding the best channel is a process of trial and error. There are 13 available Wi-Fi channels; of those, only 1, 5, 9 and 13 don't overlap each other.
You can minimize packet loss by removing interference causing devices and objects between the two communicating devices. There's a lower chance of interference the closer the devices are to the wireless access point. According to Apple, microwave ovens, satellite services, power lines, wireless phones, video transmitters, cameras, baby monitors and wireless speakers can cause interference. Any radio device that operates in the 2.4-GHz or 5-GHz frequencies can interfere with the network and lead to packet loss.
References & Resources
- Pingtest.net: Questions and Answers
- PC Magazine Encyclopedia: Definition of: Packet Loss
- TechWorld: Wi-Fi's Secret Packet Loss Revealed
- NetworkWorld: Coping With Wi-Fi's Biggest Problem: Interference
- NetworkWorld: Communication Breakdown: Rethinking Wireless LAN Packet Loss
- PC World Answer Line: Extend Your Wi-Fi Network Throughout the House
- Mashable: How to Improve Your Wi-Fi Signal
- PC Magazine: 10 Ways to Boost Your Wireless Signal
- PC Advisor: How to Boost Wi-Fi Signal; Get Better Wi-Fi Speed and Range
- Apple Support: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth: Potential Sources of Wireless Interference