Wireless networking gives users the freedom to have computers located anywhere within the network's range without an external network cable connection. This allows greater mobility and flexibility in network design. Wireless networks operate by transmitting radio waves that network cards decode as information to pass along to the computer. Several environmental and usage factors can affect the strength and stability of the network.
Wireless networks cards commonly use the 2.4 gigahertz, or GHz, radio wave frequency to transmit and receive data, according to the University of Illinois Information Technology Department. When other nearby electronic devices such as cell phones, radio transmitters and microwaves emit this frequency, they interfere with the network's signal transmission. When the interference stops, normal performance resumes.
Physical obstacles also cause wireless signal loss. When radio waves pass through a medium, signal degradation occurs because the object absorbs some of the signal or scatters it. Thicker objects absorb a larger portion of the wireless signal. This is known as the skin effect in which high-frequency radio waves or electromagnetic waves travel across the surface of an object without penetrating its depth. Electrically conductive or dense objects such as metal, thick concrete walls or dense foliage increase wireless signal degradation. Fog banks and heavy rain have the same effect.
Network traffic can also affect network performance. The University of Pittsburgh information technology department explains that wireless routers have a set bandwidth shared by all users connected to that access point. Bandwidth determines the maximum data rate that can be transferred over a network, usually in bits per second. Heavy traffic or bandwidth-intensive activity slows down data transmission. To minimise slowdown, implement a bandwidth quota system or discourage Internet activity that uses high amounts of bandwidth.