Peter Cochrane's Blog: Poor wi-fi? Cook up a better signal with a baking tray

Amazing how a kitchen utensil can get you out of the soup…

Wi-fi experiment

After some experimentation, it should be possible to find the best position for the baking tray in relation to the laptop's internal wi-fi antennaPhoto: Peter Cochrane/

Written on a boat cruising on the Norfolk Broads and dispatched to the same day via an open wi-fi connection with the aid of a novel signal reflector.

No matter how well prepared you are, there are times when you don't quite have to hand all the technology you really need.

Today, I find myself on a boat in just that situation and unable to get online with wi-fi or 2.5G for want of a better antenna.

My mobile phone is showing one bar of 2.5G and one bar of wi-fi. My laptop isn't doing any better, and a data connection is proving impossible.

There are some buildings behind the trees on the other side of the river, and my scanner is showing a number of open access wi-fi opportunities. But all I have is what I carry, and that does not include a high-gain antenna.

Establishing the best position for the baking tray relative to the 2.5G dongle is a little more obvious

Establishing the best position for the baking tray relative to the 2.5G dongle is a little more obviousPhoto: Peter Cochrane/

Time to improvise. A visit to the galley turns up a much-used baking tray. A few simple experiments later and I'm able to locate the direction of the 2.5G base station and the strongest wi-fi signal.

So I now have three bars of wi-fi and 2.5G by way of the unlikely combination of a baking tray and some judicious positioning.

You won't find this in any textbook, but it works sufficiently well for me to complete my email and other business online. All the other options would have been far more expensive and far less convenient.

By Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.