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International wireless interoperability

Troubleshooting international wireless interoperability.

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I recently began commuting between London and the US. Both the wireless and Ethernet communications devices work perfectly in the US.

In London, both devices consistently drop the signal about every 15 seconds. I have been unable to find any troubleshooting information on the Microsoft site or any other site. It seems to be tied to a possible international protocol or setting I am unaware of? Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

It's possible that your wireless device is having a problem dealing with the "extra" channels used in the UK.

In the US, the FCC defines 11 channels for use by 802.11b/g, breaking the 2.412 to 2.462 GHz frequency range into channels 1 to 11.

In Europe, ETSI defines 13 channels for use by 802.11b/g, breaking the 2.412 to 2.472 GHz range into channels 1 to 13.

Whenever you use a wireless device, it must be compatible with the local country (technically, the regulatory domain). This can involve buying a device (AP or card) intended for use in that country. For example, when purchasing the Cisco Aironet 802.11a/b/g Wireless CardBus Adapter, you would use part number AIR-CB21AG-A-K9 for use in North America and AIR-CB21AG-E-K9 for use in Europe. Some APs beacon a "Country Information Element" that was designed to let clients automatically determine the right regulatory domain and configure channels accordingly. Regulatory domain may also be reflected in network driver parameters or Windows registry keys (e.g., OID_DOT11_COUNTRY_STRING). Consult your wireless card vendor to determine if you're using the right product/driver/configuration for operation in the UK.

However, if both your wireless and Ethernet devices drop signal every 15 seconds, those extra wireless channels would not seem to be the culprit. In that case, I would look for something more fundamental, like a faulty laptop power supply (or converter) that isn't dealing as well as it should with the higher voltage used in the UK.

This was first published in July 2006

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