AirPort interference? Change channels

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Reader Chris Tatian has been beset by AirPort interference. He writes:

I have an Airport Extreme network in my townhouse. I have an Airport Extreme base station on the 2nd floor and I have an Airport Express on the 1st floor to boost my networks signal strength. I have already selected the “enable robust connectivity” option for both base stations. Aside from the occasional 2.4Ghz phone call by one of my neighbors, everything was fine. Now there are several 802.11 networks in my vicinity. One of them has a very strong signal, preventing me from connecting to my network on the 1st floor. What can I do to improve my signal strength on the 1st floor?

You can solve some of this problem by changing the the channel your AirPort network uses. To change the channel, follow these steps:

  • Open the AirPort Admin utility (found in the Utilities folder within the Applications folder).
  • Select your base station in the resulting window and click Configure. If asked to, enter the password.
  • Click the AirPort tab and choose a new channel from the Channel pop-up menu and click Update.

Ideally, the channel you choose will be at least four channels away from an adjacent wireless network or phone—for example, if a nearby network is broadcasting on channel 1, you’ll choose channel 6 for your network. Of course, because you have no control over those other networks in your complex you don’t know which channel they’re broadcasting on. For you, trial and error is the best way to go (unless you know your neighbors well enough to ask).

The phone will be trickier. At one time, 2.4GHz phones were assigned to a single channel—usually channel 11. Newer phones use something called frequency hopping technology , that allows them to leap from channel to channel at will, looking for the best channel. If the phone lands on the channel you’ve assigned, you could face this same interference even after switching channels on your network.

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