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Troubleshooting Wireless Cable Gateway Signal problems. Almost no signal 4 feet away from device.

Posted on 2008-10-19
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Last Modified: 2013-12-14
Hi everyone,

Let see if someone here can help me out since the "beautiful minds" @ Comcast are relly of no help at all.

Last thursday I hired Comcast's Internet Service. I leased a wireless gateway for my convenience. It took very little time for the "technician" to get the service up and running but I instantly notice that the wireless signal coming out of the router was week.

I have the service three days now and it has been a nightmare. If I conect my computer (MacBook) using the network cable to gateway I have a perfect connection. If I try to connect wirelessly, I am able to do so but I can not get away more than 4-6 feet from the gateway. If I do so, my connection dies...

Even being just two feet from the gateway I only get one "bar" of singal, and my MacBook is able to find 9 other stronger signals coming from other apartments in my building.

I read elsewhere that Comcast had the Gateway configuration pretty tied up -as user's we can not change the firmware for example. So I called them for help but on my 4 calls i spent 10-15 minutes identifying myself, and when I finally get to a "technician" he tells me: "your gateway seems to be working fine, you will have to schedule a visit from the technical department if you need more assistance..."

So I am pretty stuck... and I work from 8 to 7, so I can not afford to loose a day of work to wait for support.

My computer works perfectly with other wireless connections: at work, at starbucks, at the library, when travelling at hotels, everywhere.

This is evidently a problem with the gateway.

What I was able to try out was:

- changing the transmission channel. I have tried all of them.
- enabling/disabling security.
- enabling/disabling access filter.
- enabling/disabling SSID broadcast.

I have run out of ideas... the only think I can think off is that this router is broken... but is strange that I get a signal and I able to connect and surf the Web if I am close (less than 4 feet) to the gateway. Or that I am able to use with no trouble with my network cable plugged in...

Any help would be very much appreciated.

Thanks,

Juan
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Question by:ChangOcc23
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by:hfraser
ID: 22756466
You've done the basics that could cause variable performance (like channel) rather than go/no-go performance (like security). If you can connect from <4 feet, and your laptop works fine elsewhere, there's probably a signal level issue.

1. Make sure there are no blocking objects in the way (metal filing cabinets)
2. Make sure the router antenna(s) are vertical and connected solidly.

Try a tool like MacStumbler to see what kind of signals exist in your environment. If you're in a building that might have many APs (like an apartment, condo) there may be considerable competition. If that's the case, most of them will likely be operating on 802.11b or g. My understanding is that the MacBook's wireless adapter supports 802.11a, which will be a more interference-free option for you if the Comcast router supports it.

Or, get Comcast in to check out the router, which they should have done in the first place when you called with problems. You've done everything the average consumer can.
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by:ChangOcc23
ID: 22767084
hfraser,

Thanks for your response. I checked the antena, and make sure that there were no blocking objects in the way (actually the router is on a desk -same desk as my computer when testing).

I wasn't able to run MacStumbler -the program keeps shutting down when I try to launch it; do you know any other for Mac?

There are plenty of wireless signals around in my building. In fact I am getting my connection from a nice gentleman down the hall who has no security in his access point. Even though there might be some interference; I guess that me being able to get reception from more than 10 other wireless signals but mine says that the problem "is not me is you" -meaning the router obviously.

My MacBook has an AirPort Extreme  (0x14E4, 0x88) Card. I understand that this supports 802.11a/b/g/n

I think I will be forced to call Comcast as I see no choice here. But this is a big drag for me since I have to wait seating all day at my apartment -and lose a work pay day- for them...

Any other ideas?
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hfraser earned 125 total points
ID: 22771945
I'm not using a MAC, but there's a version of Kismet called KisMAC. Kismet's a very good wireless sniffer. Give it a try.

Seeing the beacons from 10 other APs doesn't necessarily mean you can connect to them. In fact, having many close-by APs can be result in interference that makes wireless difficult. But the low signal level you're getting does tend to point to the AP being faulty. I think I'd get Comcast over.

Sorry about your luck. Make sure they give you a rebate from the time you've had a faulty router.
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Author Comment

by:ChangOcc23
ID: 22789620
OK... no way; I was able to get one of this programs running but at the end of the day I had no luck at all. I was able to see all the wireless signals and even put my router on a channel that no other signals was using (3) and it was not possible to make it work...

So I guessed I am stucked with comcast.

Would you recommend to ask just for the modem and hook up my own wireless router?

Thanks,

Juan
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by:hfraser
ID: 22792123
Now there's a good suggestion . You wil probably find a lot more people that can help with, for instance, a Linksys wireless router. Even the older ones (like the WRT54G) work well.

One caveat about wireless in the b/g range. While there are 11 channels available, channel overlap means that where there are multiple APs in clise proximity, there are really only channels 1,6, and 11 that do not interfere with each other. In other words, selecting channel 3 because your neighbour has an AP operating on channel 1 will not avoid interference.
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Author Comment

by:ChangOcc23
ID: 22804610
Good to think to know about channels...

Thanks again,

Juan
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Author Comment

by:ChangOcc23
ID: 22912387
Well, just a follow up note:

I returned the Comcast/Linksys wireless router and requested just a regular cable modem.

I bought a Linksys WRT54G2, hook it up and in minutes I had everythig working as a charm,

My signal is now the strongest in my appartment and I get a perfect reception everywhere... so the problem was evidently the router provided by Comcast.
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by:hfraser
ID: 22912762
Glad to hear it's working. I'll take the opportunity to tell you to make sure you're running WPA2 (WEP's been useless for quite some time, and even WPA has been compromised in the past few days). Also make sure to enable the firewall function in the router to block inbound connections.
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