Networking & Wireless forum


Good signal strength but intermittent connectivity.

by ProFishy / December 9, 2012 5:15 PM PST

I have recently bought a new wireless card and it is giving me grief. Until now I had been using a laptop to pick up the wireless signal from my router, and pass it along to my PC, and have been receiving excellent speeds (30 Megabit) despite being 2 floors above the router.

I bought myself a Sitecom N300 card to go in the PCI slot of my computer, and my connection is generally extremely slow, and often drops completely for minutes at a time. The strange thing, however, is that it still shows medium to strong signal strength, even when the connection drops completely!

This is completely baffling me! I can't work out what could be causing interference, or why the signal strength doesn't go down when the signal does, or why the internal laptop wi-fi receiver seems so much better than this new card with 2 massive aerials. Unfortunately my ability to move either my PC or router is somewhat limited, but please can someone help shed some light on what is going on?

I'm running Windows 7, fully up-to-date, and the router is a BT Home Hub 3 (I think), with BT Infinity.

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All Answers

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by pgc3 / December 9, 2012 11:00 PM PST

From what you describe it could be related to several things, not least, proximity and impediments, distance and objects, walls, floors etc. And bandwidth draw comes into play as well, then there is firmware, another possibility and could also be partly server related. Wireless hook ups are fine, to a point but not generally as reliable or stable as a hardwire hook up, especially for long downloads or streaming. One thing to do, assuming firmwares)/hardware(s) are compatible, would be to use a wireless access point at the location with the issue. Others will have suggestions that may vary, hopefully Mr. Bob Proffit will chime in since he is likely more familiar with the hardware that you are using, I am not familiar with Sitecom products. It does sound as if you should be able to remedy, at least partly, the problem that you have.

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by ProFishy / December 9, 2012 11:16 PM PST
In reply to: Signal

It was my (limited) understanding that things like proximity and impediments would lead to a low signal strength, or dropped signal. Also, I'm not sure how something like bandwidth draw would affect this card so much compared to the laptop. The laptop, in the same location, gets a strong and constant 30-Megabits with no visible antenna. This card routinely gets less than 5 (though I have seen it sustain 20-30 for long periods), and regularly drops to 0, though still showing strong signal, for anywhere from 10-100 seconds.

Could you elucidate what you mean when you talk about 'firmware' though? Surely, software wise, this thing should just work reliably out of the box (or not work at all if not compatible). How would I look into this?

Also, I don't know what you mean when you say to 'use a wireless access point at the location with the issue'. Could you explain?

It seems so strange to me that such a small, presumably cheaper and older wi-fi receiver in my laptop is showing such a massive difference in ability to this new, expensive and impressive looking card with massive antennae that I bought to replace it. Also, why the signal strength doesn't show any drop when the signal itself seems to suffer such constant slowdown and stops.


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Firmware, etc.
by pgc3 / December 10, 2012 2:31 AM PST
In reply to: Signal

It is possible that there may be a firmware update for the router, or the card, which would be something that you would download from the mfgr's website, that would be something to look into as one possibility. A wireless access point is a device physically similar to a router that you would likely use at a low signal location to enhance wifi signal, many manufacturers make them, Netgear, belkin, Linksys etc. Bandwith draw/drain is generally attributed to the amount of usage in a specific server area and can vary, sometimes considerably, predominantly with wifi. As you know a hardwire connection is typically superior to wifi but there are situations, such as yours that may preclude having long cable runs.You might also want to contact your server and tell them of the issue(s) that you are having and cite the specific hardware you are using, it may sound far out but there are instances where server functionality can be affected by user hardware.

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by ProFishy / December 10, 2012 3:54 AM PST
In reply to: Firmware, etc.

Thanks for your help.

I've just checked for new drivers, and there aren't any, though I did take the time to report the problem whilst on Sitecom's site.

Other PCs in my house are able to maintain sensible speeds when my internet here drops off, so that would seem to rule out anything server-wise. It certainly does seem far-out that the method I use to connect to my home router would affect anything at the local server! In fact I'm struggling to conceive of how that could even work (let along why). I'm pretty sure BT wouldn't decide that one (and only one) PC in my house needs to be throttled down to 0.1megabits every couple of hours. Unless there are some really cruel engineers anyway.

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Don't rule such out. Keep reading.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 10, 2012 5:14 AM PST
In reply to: Firmware
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by ProFishy / December 10, 2012 5:34 AM PST

Well in the settings it's telling me it's using channels 1-13, but won't let me change it anyway.

If it's getting interference on a particular channel, but won't let me change the channel, then do I just have to take it back to the shop and get the laptop back out?

And would interference not register as a drop in signal strength?

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All routers I've seen so far let me change this.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 10, 2012 5:55 AM PST
In reply to: Channels

But about the WiFi you added. I don't see you write you tried the machine in the same room as the router to test if the setup is good and I didn't see you write you installed the antenna on the card.

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by ProFishy / December 10, 2012 6:17 AM PST

I'm not sure I can run the kind of extended tests needed in the room with the router. The card often works fine at very high speeds for extended periods, so even if I used it in that room for a couple of hours and it worked, it wouldn't prove much.

And if the location was the problem, it still doesn't really help me fix it, or explain why this wireless card with 2 large antenna is so much worse than the tiny cheap one in the laptop. Or explain why it registers full signal when there is no signal.

There obviously isn't a critical fault, as the card can perform very well at times.

I'm not trying to be difficult here, and I appreciate your help, it's just that a lot of this makes no sense.

If the signal is getting disrupted, why does it not affect the display of signal strength, and why does it just do it for this card, and how can I prevent it? If I was in a block of concrete, or by a microwave, I would expect Windows to detect that as a dropped connection (or at least very weak), not be telling me everything is fine for minutes at a time when I'm not actually receiving data.

I've had signal problems before with wireless, and it's always shown as a weak/dropped connection by windows. This card even comes with it's own utility that measures the signal strength on both antennae, and overall, and it always shows good signal.

Regarding the antenna, I 'installed' them by screwing them into the back of the card. Not sure I can have done this wrong, as the card often runs at close to 30megabits, when it feels like it.


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Thanks for clearing that up.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 10, 2012 6:23 AM PST
In reply to: Set-up

And laptop wifi cards are not cheap. They are well integrated and usually cause lots of problems as folk complain about other devices such as TVs or phones that won't connect but "my laptop is fine."

There are other issues we can dive into. I'd like to find the manual on the router but let's cover the basics.

1. Router defaults EXCEPT for ISP mandated items.
2. The SSID is broadcasting.
3. The SSID and password is simple, short and ALPHANUMERIC.
4. Security is WPA2 Personal AES.

If any of these are untrue tell more.

Also, there are situations that I encounter and I have to install a second router as a WAP. Rare but it does happen.

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Changing Channel....
by ProFishy / December 10, 2012 3:54 PM PST

As I started going through this list, it became clear to me that when you were talking about changing channel, you were talking about changing that setting on the router, not the receiving card, so I apologise for my hastiness in claiming it wasn't possible to change!

The 4 points you write are all true, but I've hopped channels and seem to be getting a good speed, so I'll run this for 24 hours and report back tomorrow. With luck, this was a (relatively) simple fix!

Thanks for your help.

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(NT) Also, it really doesn't let me change it.
by ProFishy / December 10, 2012 6:18 AM PST
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Affect hook up
by pgc3 / December 10, 2012 6:29 AM PST
In reply to: Firmware

Are the other computers in your house also wireless and using the same hardware and configuration? Bandwidth variation most certainly affects wifi activity. the best way to go would be to hardwire the desktop and/or avail yourself of a different wifi slot card for comparison.

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