For those on the road an open / free WIFI - WLAN signal is a great find. With the excellent portability of the iPad (Mini) it's quite easy to quickly catch up with e-mail or browse a bit. That is - if you manage to get within range of the WIFI signal. Unfortunately the iPad is not known for it's excellent WIFI signal range. Here's an overview of weak WIFI signal fixes and solutions for those with an iPad.
Ipad WIFI / WLAN signal basics
First a few basics about WIFI signals;
- Optimal WIFI reception is established with a so called Line-Of-Sight between sender and receiver. Any obstruction in the signal path causes reflections and can affect signal strength. The best position for a WIFI router or access point is an elevated one, rising above furniture, trees, walls etc.
- Unequal WIFI transmission power between WIFI access point and iPad can cause the iPad to register the incoming signal (3 bar in the left upper corner) but it's own WIFI signal can be too weak to reach the WIFI access point. A powerful WIFI access point can reach far, but the iPad can't cover the same distance back with it's limited WIFI transmission power.
- Other transmission signals like Bluetooth, 3G / 4G cellular modems can affect the reach of the WIFI signal of the iPad.
- WIFI signal jammers like a Microwave (from the neighbors) can annihilate your iPad WIFI reception dramatically.
The iPad isn't known for it's long range WIFI capabilities. It's a device designed to be used in an urban office / home setting. For those who travel with an iPad it means - move close as possible to the WIFI access point or use extra WIFI hardware in case you travel with a motorhome, car or yacht.
iPad WIFI - WLAN weak signal fixes
The start point is that your iPad is Internet connected over weak WIFI -WLAN causing frequently disconnects or a slow intermittent internet.
To measure improvements - use the free iOS SpeedTest App to see if the actions below have a positive effect on download and upload speeds.
What you can do on your iPad;
- Move as close as possible to the WIFI access point. Measure your internet speed at this position several times - it's the benchmark for your best possible speed at that location..
Try different locations and measure the iPad internet speed (3 times). See how each position affects the iPads internet speed. If the speed drops, see what objects are in the Line of Sight / WIFI signal path. Stay at the location with the best speed.
- If possible turn-off Bluetooth, GPS and the Cellular modem. Measure the iPad internet speed again.
- Move up screen brightness and turn of auto-brightness. In some iPad models the screen intensity interferes with the WIFI signal strength.
- In Settings - WIFI - "NetworkName" tap the “Forget this Network" bar.
Then discover the same WIFI WLAN network and join it again.
- Clear the network settings through Settings - Reset - Reset Network Settings.
Then reset the iPad (hold power button for several seconds)
In case your iPad never shows 3 bars of WIFI strength even when very close to the WIFI access point consider visiting an Apple service center.
To survey the WIFI landscape in your area, use the free WIFI NetSurveyor at the location where the iPad is used the most;
See point 4 below what you can do with the NetSurveyor
What you can do if you can control or own the WIFI router / Access point
Important: Before changing anything on your WIFI router / access point - backup the current configuration to an external file.
- Place the WIFI access point / router on an elevated spot to create an obstruction free line of sight with your iPad.
- If supported use an external antenna for your WIFI access point / router and place the antenna on an elevated spot. The Antenna Wire must be of good quality, the antenna of the right length.
- Experiment with antenna orientations if your WIFI access points has a double antenna.
- Survey the WIFI landscape with Netsurveyor - if your WIFI access point shares the same channel with another WIFI access point, try to change the channel.Or use the AUTO channel feature to let your WIFI access point choose the best channel.
- Use the WIFI mode N instead of the modes B /G if your WIFI access point supports that. The N mode has the highest speed and reaches further than B or G mode.
- Disable QoS - (Quality of Service). Some WIFI routers use an implementation with negative effect on the iPad WIFI speed.
- Disable MMS - (Multi Media Services). Some WIFI routers have an implementation that interferes with the network speed your iPad is capable of.
- Upgrade the firmware of your WIFI access point or router. Be careful - be sure you read the manufacturers instruction carefully and known what you are doing. The penalty could be a dead WIFI access point if the firmware upgrade goes bonkers.
- Invest in a WIFI-N mode router or Access Point is the current one is from the B / G WIFI mode era.
A few popular WIFI access points and routers with N-mode capability for consumers & professionals
Tools used in this article are in the iPad software tools section;
iPad - Speedtest App by OOKLA
Windows - WIFI Netsurveyor tool