Simulation of the wifi propagation in a flat
Apr 2, 2017
6 minute read

Yesterday was the 1st April, so here’s a great joke I like very much from xkcd :


However never do this please. Today’s the subject is the propagation of the wifi in a flat ! Happy ? No ?

That seems boring, this is a blog about coding not physics !

Yep that’s a bit true, but I like physics too, and we will do this with code too.

Why ? (aka. WTF ?)

As you probably know, I’m in a engineer school named Centrale Paris, in France, and I was studying Partal Derivative Equations. Cool ? Not really. Even if the subject was interesting, lessons were boring. However I was given the possibility to run a project about PDEs, in which a numerical simulation was supposed to be made. “Say no more.” I said, and here we are simulating something I like (because honestly it is useful) : Wireless Fidelity.

The problem

I designed a awesome flat especially for the experiment, with 2 walls :


Even if the flat seems small enough to be covered by wifi everywhere, it is still interesting to study where the signal’s power is the lowest. We will study where to put the hotspot to get the best coverage, and as we’re a bit lazy we will only put it next to the left wall.


In a nutshell, the Wifi is a electromagnetic wave that contains a signal : Internet data. Electromagnetic waves are well know by physicists and are ruled by the 4 Maxwell equations which give you the solution for E, the electrical field, and B, the magnetic field, in space but also in time.

We don’t care about the time here, because the signal period is really short so our internet quality will not change with time. Without time, we’re looking for stationnaries solutions, and the Maxwell equations can be simplified to one equation, the Helmholtz one :


Where k is the angular wavenumber of the wifi signal, and n the refractive index of the material the wave is in.

Indeed, the main point of this study is the impact of walls on the signal’s power, where the n is different from air (where it is 1). In walls, the refractive index is a complex number in which the two parts have a physic interpretation :

  • The real part defines the reflexion of the wall (the amount of signal that doesn’t pass).
  • The imaginary part defines the absorption of the wall (the amount that disappears).

The wifi hotspot (simulated by a simple circle) will be the boundary condition, with a non null value for our electrical field.


The course was also about a french software made by researchers, and you don’t really want to know what it is in detail. Its name is Freefem++, and it is a C++ framework that helps to resolve elliptic equations with finite elements. Naturally, we needed to do a simulation with that software in our project, and nothing else.

The domain

In order to create the domain of experimentation, we need to create border objects, like this :

real a=40, b=40, c=0.5;
border a00(t=0,1) {x=a*t; y=0; label=1;}
border a10(t=0,1) {x=a; y=b*t; label=1;}
border a20(t=1,0) {x=a*t; y=b; label=1;}
border a30(t=1,0) {x=0; y=b*t; label=1;}
border a01(t=0,1) {x=c+(a-c*2)*t; y=c; label=1;}
border a11(t=0,1) {x=a-c; y=c+(b-c*2)*t; label=1;}
border a21(t=1,0) {x=c+(a-c*2)*t; y=b-c; label=1;}
border a31(t=1,0) {x=c; y=c+(b-c*2)*t; label=1;}

real p=5, q=20, d=34, e=1; 
border b00(t=0,1) {x=p+d*t; y=q; label=3;}
border b10(t=0,1) {x=p+d; y=q+e*t; label=3;}
border b20(t=1,0) {x=p+d*t; y=q+e; label=3;}
border b30(t=1,0) {x=p; y=q+e*t; label=3;}

real r=30, s=1, j=1, u=15; 
border c00(t=0,1) {x=r+j*t; y=s; label=3;}
border c10(t=0,1) {x=r+j; y=s+u*t; label=3;}
border c20(t=1,0) {x=r+j*t; y=s+u; label=3;}
border c30(t=1,0) {x=r; y=s+u*t; label=3;}

What the fuck ??

No need to freak out, it simpler than it looks like. If you know C++ you should not be as lost as I was the first time I did this, but for the others here are some explanations :

  • The real keyword defines a real number, and here they are my domain and wall dimensions.
  • The border keyword creates a border. With the parameter t changing, it creates a line !
  • The label is kind of the name we give to a group of borders, we will use it later.

Let’s create a mesh

Freefem++ is a finite element framework, that means that it finds the solution on a smaller domain in a discrete way, and here each small domain will be a triangle. We can choose the number of triangle of course, the higher the better the resolution but the longer the execution.

int n=13;
mesh Sh = buildmesh(a00(10*n)+a10(10*n)+a20(10*n)+a30(10*n)

So we are creating a mesh, and plotting it :


Mhhh much triangles. But no wifi hotspot, and as we want to resolve the equation for a multiple number of position next to the left wall, let’s do a for :

int bx;
for (bx = 1;bx <= 7;bx++) {
    border C(t=0,2*pi){x=2+cos(t);y=bx*5+sin(t);label=2;}

    mesh Th = buildmesh(a00(10*n)+a10(10*n)+a20(10*n)+a30(10*n)

The border C is our hotspot and as you can see a simple circle. Th is our final mesh, with all borders and the hotspot. Let’s resolve this equation !

    fespace Vh(Th,P1);
    func real wall() {
       if (Th(x,y).region == Th(0.5,0.5).region || Th(x,y).region == Th(7,20.5).region || Th(x,y).region == Th(30.5,2).region) { return 1; }
       else { return 0; }

    Vh<complex> v,w;

    Vh wallreflexion=randreal1();
    Vh<complex> wallabsorption=randreal1()*0.5i;
    Vh k=6;

    cout << "Reflexion of walls : " << wallreflexion << "\n";
    cout << "Absorption of walls : " << wallabsorption << "\n";

    problem muwave(v,w) = int2d(Th)((v*w*k^2)/(1+(wallreflexion+wallabsorption)*wall())^2
                          + on(2, v=1);

    Vh vm=log(real(v)^2 + imag(v)^2);

A bit of understanding here :

  • The fespace keyword defines a finite elements space, no need to know more here.
  • The function wall return 0 if in air and 1 if in a wall (x and y are global variables).
  • I decided to go with random numbers for the reflexion and the absorption but it is no big deal.
  • I define the problem with problem and solve it by calling it.

Finally, I plotted the log of the module of the solution v to see the signal’s power, and here we are :


Beautiful isn’t it ? This is the first position for the hotspot, but there are 6 others, and the electrical field is evolving depending of the position. You can see others positions here :



It was a great experience to simulate this phenomenon in fact, a bit hard at the beginning because Freefem++ is not really famous on Google, but interesting at the end. If you want to know more, you can download my report, in French (I will do a English version if you want), but I think that all I’ve done is in this article.

Hope you’ve learned something ! See ya !

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