Once again, my wireless network has become almost unusable.

A few years back, I hooked up a Linksys 802.11b router, and could use my HP laptop from the garage (in front), anywhere in the house, and out in the backyard. Speed was not as good as the wired network (not suitable for downloading CD/DVD images), but quite usable. Over time the range and data rate dropped off, until the wireless network became unusable. By this time most of my neighbors had bought 802.11g routers. In theory, 802.11g should not interfere with 802.11b, but I do not believe the theory.

So I bought an 802.11g router, and put an 802.11a/b/g network card in my laptop. Once again I had a great wireless connection, and the data rates were higher - a even a full rate 54Mbits out in the backyard. Over time the range and data rate dropped off, until the wireless network became unusable. Replaced the old NetGear router with a new DLink 802.11g router, and once again had great connections … for a while. Again the range and data rate dropped off, until the wireless network became unusable at the beginning of the year. Again replaced the router, with a new NetGear model (with “RangeMax”). Again the connection was … good for a while, then got worse. Added a NetGear WN511T 802.11n card to my laptop … no joy. Got a new NetGear WNR854T 802.11n router and … no joy.

Do not know what my neighbors are running, but there are a lot more (visible) networks nearby. Something nearby - wireless phones, networks, or both - is causing me a lot of grief. Some of the time I can get still get a connection from the backyard. Much of the time I cannot get a reliable connection, even when a few feet from the router. I live in southern California suburbia with perhaps 20-30 feet between houses on the side, and houses roughly a 100 feet in front and back. (BTW, my wireless phone is a rather nice 5.8Ghz Motorola model.)

After much experimenting, I had a bit more luck with the router set from channel 6 (the default) to either channel 1 or 11. This works really well … but only part of the time.

At this point I am extremely frustrated. Are my NetGear routers no good? Certainly the NetGear drivers are not helpful (often they fail without any useful feedback). The NetGear support site is crap. I wasted much of a day just trying to login (seems some - not all - of their login pages are broken). No response to an email support request, and not much useful information for diagnosing problems.

At this point I am half-inclined to acquire a field strength meter, just so I can tell what the source is for the interference. Otherwise - short of turning my house into a giant Faraday cage - randomly buying other 802.11n gear might(?!?) be my only hope.