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Can exterior walls create problems with wireless network?

Someone told a client of mine that exterior walls of their office could cause problems with their wireless network. Now I have to say that I have not heard of this one. So I've come to the guru knowledgebase to get the verification. This office has thicker exterior walls than most office, but there isn't anything unusual in them & they are sheetrock. So I don't understand how they could effect an internal network.

Is there any credibility to this????

Thanks!!
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Blinkr
Asked:
Blinkr
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2 Solutions
 
foocharCommented:
So long as you only want the wireless cloud inside the walls I don't think there is any credibility to this.  Where it could create an issue is you want the wireless cloud to extend outside of the building, say into a courtyard etc.  Any wall is going to affect the propagation of the radio waves traveling through it to some degree.  The amount that it is affected will depend on the thickness, composition (steel studs, wood studs, block, etc) and the frequency that you are using.  Radio waves and tv signals are both electromagnetic radiation at different frequencies.  Obviously the walls completely stop the first kind, and allow the second kind through to some degree.
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BlinkrAuthor Commented:
This all has to do with the network INSIDE the walls. That is the reason why I am puzzled how someone could claim this. To me, it really doesn't make any sense. I was posting this to see if anyone else had heard about this.

Thanks!!
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b0lsc0ttCommented:
I'm not an expert on this and am real curious to see what others say, but I have one thing to put in.  If there was some way for the material of the exterior wall to reflect the wireless waves then in theory I could see that there may be some way it could interfere and maybe even create dead areas.  (This theory works with sound waves and others) That is just a theory that may not work with the type of waves or technology used in wireless networks.  After foo's comment I at least had to put this idea out although I may regret it.  Actually I doubt I will regret it at all because I will learn.

bol
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foocharCommented:
This does happen to some extent but normally is not a major problem.  Unless you are working in a room that has been specially constructed to minimize RFI interferance from the outside (often refered to as a Faraday cage) there probably is not enough reflection to create more than some small dead spots.  The most likely cause of reflections are metal framing members such as steel support beams or steel stud construction.  
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giltjrCommented:
Could be that the walls are made in such a way that they allow a lot of outside interfernce though.  The thickness would not matter as much as the material used.

The other possibility is that the thicker walls in interior walls and the signals are having problems going though the walls and so the problem is from one room to another room within the office building.
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giltjrCommented:
Opps, ignore the part about interior walls, but the part about allowing outside interference through (noticed I spelled it right this time) is still valid.
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Rob WilliamsCommented:
Having spent some time in the building industry; to allow for the most flexibility within the office space some engineers will place as much mechanical as possible in the outside walls, to allow more flexibility in later renovations. This could include electrical cabling. Although this is always shielded and grounded, the higher current lines might cause problems for wireless. Perhaps that is what the fellow is referring to. On the other hand most engineers I know, put the mechanical on the interior walls as it is usually shorter and cheaper.
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pseudocyberCommented:
One problem with wireless is called multi-path interference.  Radio waves are susceptible to reflection just as any other form of electro-magenetic energy.  If the exterior wall is constructed out of a material which has higher reflectivity, then more of the radio wave will reflect back inside the building and create multi-path interference.

Here's what Cisco has to say about it,

"Multipath propagation occurs when radio frequency (RF) signals take different paths from a source to a destination. A part of the signal goes to the destination while another part bounces off an obstruction, then goes on to the destination. As a result, part of the signal encounters delay and travels a longer path to the destination.

Multipath distortion is a form of RF interference that occurs when a radio signal has more than one path between the receiver and the transmitter. This occurs in cells with metallic or other RF-reflective surfaces, such as furniture, walls, or coated glass."

http://www.cisco.com/en/US/tech/tk722/tk809/technologies_tech_note09186a008019f646.shtml

Hope this helps.
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BlinkrAuthor Commented:
Thanks pseudocyber!! If this is true, why would this be a problem with ALL walls, not just the exterior walls? AND why would all wireless equipment have problems with this??

What I am trying to do is debunk this BS that this person (supposedly a tech) has told this individual in order to sell them some more expensive equipment. I wanted to see if the gurus here at EE supported this statement, or theory, or what ever it is.

Thanks for the input of all!!! Lots of good info!!
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pseudocyberCommented:
Whether or not it's a problem can really only be answered by an onsite survey with test equipment and knowledgeable people interpreting the test results.

Interior walls are typically more "flimsy" than exterior - in residential construction, interior walls are two layers of gypsum and 2x4 studs on 16" centers - whereas exterior walls might be the same with Brick, or aluminum siding - you get the idea.  Different material has different properties for radio reflectivity.
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BlinkrAuthor Commented:
So you're saying the probability that this would be a problem is very low for a typical office in a typical building!! I'm not nailing you to the wall on this, I'm just trying to get some idea that this is most likely BS that this person was dishing.

Thanks!
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prueconsultingCommented:
Unless the person was backing it up with a sitesurvey showing RF intereference then its jus  a "theoritical" opinion.

Sure place a wireless network access point beside the microwave oven in the lunch room and you'll get some interference as well .

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pseudocyberCommented:
Like prueconsulting says, its mostly theoretical.  Its within the realm of possibilities.  Its also entirely possible there's a salesman trying to sell a big ticket item that's overkill as well ... ;)

I'm not a wireless guru, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night ...

I don't have a lot of wireless experience, so I can't testify as to whether or not I've really seen this in the field.
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giltjrCommented:
Technically it is 100% possible.  However, as pseudocyber has stated, without going on site and testing there is no way to tell.  I may not necessary be the exterior wall itself, but as RobWill stated, what running through those walls.
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BlinkrAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all of the input. I still think this was more of a sales stunt than anything with credibility. I really didn't see anything that would indicate that there was alot of metal or reflective material in the walls. What they were basing their statement on was the thickness of the walls, of which the outside was brick. So more than likely there may have been some cinder block in there too to increase the thickness.

Thanks to all for taking the time to post!!!
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