WiFi Channel-checking using iOS
Apple have long since withdrawn any app which provides WiFi analysis – presumably making the Store less tolerant of tools which promote hacking of access points in any form. There is no longer any software to check channel usage and power levels for open SSIDs. Yet, the mobility of iPads and iPhones make them great tools for checking coverage and finding black-spots. Tools do exist for scanning available access points – obviously already in basic iOS Settings – and inventorying devices connected to a network subnet; but nothing to check which 2.4GHz channels are in use (or at least, not without ‘jail-breaking’ the iOS device).
The case in point – Sky Hub
Sky provide broadband services in the UK, supplying their own combined DSL and Fibre modem with a limited (802.11n) wifi access point, the Sky Hub. The forums are awash with complaints about the lack of range of these devices and Sky themselves use this as an opportunity to market a WiFi extender – acknowledging the poor power of the Hub whilst exploiting it commercially. That said, my customer had reception in one room only – such a tiny range suggested a different issue. It seemed likely that there was a channel clash with numerous neighbouring BT and generic home access points. But how to check ? Between us, we only had i-devices which need apps. A quick search yielded no apps which would provide the WiFi details needed. Turns out that the Apple Airport Utility will help – even if you are not using an Airport-based WiFi system.
Airport Utility Belt
The Utility is a neat little app for managing Airport base stations, including Time Capsules and other Apple goodies. However you can also conduct a local, and fairly detailed, WiFi scan – but you need to make a quick trip to the Settings app after installing the AirPort Utility.
Make sure you enable WiFi scanning in Settings (look for AirPort Utility in the list), then switch back to the actual app
The option to scan wifi appears in the top right of the screen. Tap and go – the software scans and provides a list of all visible base stations, their channels and power levels, with the those closer / of greater power nearer the top.
Using this info you can consider which channel should be set in your own base station to avoid interference. In our case, the Sky Hub was set to Auto but broadcasting on Channel 1, clashing with at least 2 other devices – two BT HomeHub access points nearby. Setting the Sky box to channel 6 through its web admin interface was a breeze – no reset required. A quick re-scan from the Airport Utility on the iPad and …… no more local conflicts. The results also showed that the range of the otherwise poor Sky Hub had doubled. Neat.