David from Salina, KS writes “My problem is that I have a COX Communications router/wifi modem combination. The signal is great at the PC (duh), but 50 feet to my room I cannot get a very good signal on my smartphone. Any suggestions?”

Hi, David.  Thanks for the great question!  I got stuck in your city a few years back on my way to Fall River to visit some friends when a tornado traveled through the area.  Missed the hotel that I holed up in, luckily, but it was a lovely town.

Here’s the thing, though… your question doesn’t have a cut-and-dried answer, unfortunately.  There are a lot of factors that can affect the performance of a router adversely.

The first thing that I would try to determine is if other devices are working fine with your router at that range.  If they are, then there’s probably something wrong with the wi-fi receiver in your smartphone. If that’s the case, it may just be time to upgrade that phone!

If the other devices have the same problem, then your problem is definitely with your modem and not the phone.  If this is a problem that started recently, then your modem is probably failing.  If that’s the case, then call Cox and have them come out and troubleshoot it, with an eye toward replacing it.

If this is a problem that you’ve had all along, then it could be one of a number of things. 

One is the building materials of your house.  The denser the material, the harder it is for the wi-fi signal to penetrate.  Typically, if you are using it in another room on the same level, you’ll have a harder time of it then if you are using it one floor directly up or down, because the walls have more (to use a technical term) stuff in them than the floors or ceilings do. 

The next possible problem is electrical interference.  Any device in your home that operates on a similar frequency (such as cordless phone handsets and microwaves) operating near where you’re using your router could also be causing the trouble.

I know that this answer hasn’t been a ton of help in resolving your problem, but hopefully it has gone some way to helping you understand what the problem may be.  If you have any follow-up questions, please post them in the comments.

~ Randal Schaffer