What Causes Weak Wireless Signals?

By Tommy Doc

Wireless signal strength varies based on a wide number of variables. A signal some may consider "weak" may have plenty of bandwidth to perform certain tasks on certain machines. The perception of signal strength really depends on the device used, the activities it is used for and the preferences of the user. However, there are a few common causes of underperforming networks.


Optimal wireless signal depends on two factors: high signal strength and reduction of signal noise. Proximity to access points and the strength of your home network and/or carrier may be factors out of your control. However, signal noise is caused by other electronic networking devices in the area, such as cell phones or microwaves which disrupt wireless signal waves.

Dead Spots

Sometimes, signals are weaker in some areas than others. These issues are caused by proximity and a clear signal path to the access point. Solid building materials like concrete and stone can block out wireless signals. Foliage, weather patterns and other physical blockages to an access point or a receiving device can weaken a signal.

Access Point

All wireless signals, even cellular data signals, originate from an access point that has limited range. Signal strength has a direct inverse correlation to distance from the access point.


A wireless network used by many people, such as one at a public place or at a university, could experience weakened signals at times of peak traffic. Even large powerful networks only have a finite amount of bandwidth, so if a large number of data-intensive processes occur simultaneously, it will limit bandwidth to all users.