Testing the wifi in our village house

We live in a very typical village house here in France. It’s on three floors, and is taller than it is wide. The first floor includes a long entrance way, the dining room, kitchen, garage and downstairs bathroom. The second floor features our office, sitting room, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The top floor has a kind of loft-style master bedroom and en-suite bathroom.

We get our Internet access via ADSL, and the only phone outlet in the house is on the first floor (meaning the bottom floor–in Europe, the ‘first floor’ often refers to what North Americans call ‘the second floor’). So our modem/wifi router from our Internet provider, called a Livebox, is plugged in there. The wifi signal easily reaches our second floor office, but it’s a little hit and miss in our bedroom up on the third floor. This isn’t all that surprising, given that the house has stone walls, and concrete floors.

Because I’m a nerd, I brought along our Apple Airport Extreme (it’s extreme, bro!). Hoping for a better signal in the bedroom, I decided to compare the quality of the signal from our Apple router to our Livebox.

I downloaded and installed a free app called NetSpot, which enables you to evaluate the quality of your wifi signal in different parts of your house. First you draw a map of your house and then you walk around testing the signal strength in various locations. It produces a series of heatmaps which you can use to, for example, better position your router.

I drew a really simple map of our bedroom, and then tested a bunch of spots on the default Livebox setup. Here’s the resulting heatmap:

Then I turned off the wifi on the Livebox, plugged in the Airport Extreme and repeated the exercise.

I can only show one test site at a time, but all of the locations were 10 to 15 dBm better (whatever that means) with the Airport Extreme. The wifi access is still a little dodgy up in the bedroom, so I may get an Airport Express to boost the signal from the office. In any case, I was happy to discover that hauling the Airport Extreme all 5263 kilometres was worth the effort.

I was a little concerned that the Internet speed would be pretty shoddy here, but I have no complaints:

I see that we’re only in the 44th percentile for France, but apparently we’re doing better than Ireland, Israel and Saskatchewan.

How does that compare with where you live? Run a test and leave a comment with the results.


  1. Glad it’s working out. Surprising how close Livebox and Apple are all things considered…did any of the info I procured help or does it turn out to be something different entirely? (I believe we discussed Livebox and ADSL)–just wondering if my attempts to navigate the service provider website en francais had any use or if I was way off!? 🙂

  2. Hi Darren!

    Here on Bowen it’s 5.11 down, 0.56 up with a ping of 51. Looks like you have a faster connection. It was one of the consequences of choosing to live on Bowen. That said 5.11 seems to be fast enough for most things, including Netflix.


  3. Heh, guess my Shaw Unlimited 100 comes in handy for geeky number battles =D.

    71.55 Mb/s down, 4.75 Mb/s Up, Ping 21.

    Glad that your wifi works better with the Airport Extreme. Too bad that they don’t support directional antennas. If you got a nice antenna and pointed it up, you’d probably get pretty good coverage in your place.

    On the flip side, getting an antenna that’s /too/ powerful would just make things worse ( too much signal can be a bad thing ). I have plenty of horror stories from working in tech support for a company that sold 802.11a/b/g equipment for wireless ISPs ( Tranzeo Wireless, based in Pitt Meadows, BC! ), and having people complain that they bought the most powerful radio and antenna they could get their hands on — them complained that the client radio 10 meters away wasn’t getting a signal.


    Wireless be complicated, yo.

  4. Cambridge, UK.
    Virgin Media – cable
    Grade c+
    Faster than 58% of GB
    Download: 9.30
    Upload: 1.03
    Ping: 21

  5. I was just in Israel for a visit and WiFi is fast but infrastructure is really bad in most places so there are connection problems constantly.

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