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What exactly does "line of sight" mean?

Posted on 2004-09-28
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This might be a really stupid question, but what exactly does "line of sight" mean with respect to wireless networks? I hear about how great wireless networks are because you can use pc's all over your house without any wires. If I put an access point in my kitchen, and then want to use my notebook pc (with wireless card) in the living room ... which I cannot see from the kitchen because there are walls in between ... then I would say I don't have "line of sight". But that would be ridiculously limiting for wireless networks. I've already been told it will probably work ok, but what I'm really looking for here is a better understanding of what "line of sight" means in this context. Thanks.
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Question by:alicia1234
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jpferal earned 600 total points
ID: 12175006
When techs say that you need or want "line of sight," they mean that it is preferable for somebody sitting at the computer to be able to see the wireless access point. This is because all obstacles reduce the strength of a wireless connection. Some materials, such as glass or thin wood, pose almost no obstacle at all to wireless network signals. Other materials, such as metal or masonry, pose more of a problem. (Masonry walls often have a net of metal chicken wire inside of them, which actually acts as something physicists call a "faraday cage," which severely retards radio signals.) In the outdoors, trees can collect water droplets which can bend radio signals, causing a small but noticeable loss in signal strength.

All of these obstacles reduce the range at which your wireless network can connect. So if you bought an access point that promises a range of 300 feet, do not expect to get 300 feet unless you have good line-of-sight with no obstacles in between. I have found that most of the common brands of access point (such as Linksys, D-Link, Belkin, Microsoft, Netgear, etc.) provide enough signal strength to penetrate two or three internal walls for an indoor range of around 100 feet. So if you don't have line-of-sight, you may still be able to get a good connection in different rooms of your house.
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by:alicia1234
ID: 12179658
Thanks!
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