Improving Range with Line of Sight (LoS)
Wireless transmission is most effective when there is clear, unobstructed line of sight between the receiver and transmitter. In the case of WiFi, all sorts of factors need to be considered in order to improve wireless range, such as avoiding obstacles, minimizing wireless interference, and having the best wireless equipment for maximum range. In this article, we will focus on perhaps the most critical component to maximizing wireless range with what you have— Line of Sight (LoS).
Mount Up High
Generally being low to the ground with your computer or other wireless receiving device means that there are more obstructions between you and the wireless access point. This makes it difficult to have a good signal when so low to the ground. The best solution is to have an outdoor-rated wireless receiver that can be mounted up high on the roof of a vehicle or watercraft. When above the roofline of other vehicles, such as other RVs when parked side-by-side, your chances of having a good WiFi experience increases dramatically.
Some options for mounting a wireless receiver up high for an RV would include direct surface mounting on the roof itself, clamping onto a crank-up Batwing antenna, attaching to a ladder, or using a telescoping flagpole. For watercraft, attaching to a mast or mounting a wireless receiver up on the antenna array would be great options. There isn't a magical height to shoot for, but generally it is best to ensure that the outdoor-rated wireless receiver is mounted high enough to be above other buildings, vehicles, watercraft, and obstructions that commonly surround you. Anywhere from ten to twenty feet above ground level is commonly the sweet spot.
Use Best Frequency
If you are one of those fortunate people with both 2.4 and 5.8GHz WiFi reception, then you have more options at your disposal. As a general rule, the lower the frequency, the better it will penetrate through obstructions, but the less speed and performance it is capable of. The higher frequency 5.8GHz is an excellent choice when either a short-range high performance connection is needed, or a longer range connection with very clear line of sight. For overall better performance through walls, trees, or other obstructions, use the lower frequency 2.4GHz receiver.
When choosing a location to park your vehicle or watercraft, be mindful of nearby obstructions that may dampen your wireless signal strength. Furthermore, if you know the location of the wireless access point that you'll be connecting to, try your best to position yourself with a clear shot to the access point. This will ensure optimal signal strength and performance when using the WiFi network. Sometimes you don't have a choice in where to position yourself, which is why having the ability mentioned earlier to mount an outdoor-rated WiFi receiver up high is critical. Even when surrounded by obstructions, if your wireless receiver is high enough, it will still have an unobstructed view to the WiFi network.
Keep in mind that the most detrimental material to wireless reception is metal. Avoid like the plague any metal rooftops or vehicles between you and the access point. Materials such as wood, fiberglass, and glass are much less detrimental to wireless signal strength, but they still do decrease wireless range so be mindful of these materials as well. Trees are also quite effective at making your Netflix or web browsing bog down, especially when heavy-laden with leaves.
Mind the Weather
Although there is not much effect that you can have on weather, it is helpful to understand how it can change your wireless signal strength. Rain, snow, and humidity can negatively affect your wireless signal strength. When frustrated by your signal dropping off, take a look outside and see if anything major has changed in the weather. Perhaps a brief rainstorm is passing through which is decreasing your signal strength for the time being. Our advice when something like this happens— take it easy and find something else to do while the weather does what it does. You can't change the weather, but you can change your attitude and activity!