What is RSSI?

RSSI is one of those terms that’s supposed to tell you how bad your signal is so you’ll spend money on fixing it. Let me explain.

RSSI stands for “received signal strength indicator” or “received signal strength indication.” It’s a number that is supposed to tell you how good your signal strength is, except it kind of doesn’t. It’s actually a relative number that tells you how good your signal strength is compared to how good it could be in a perfect situation. It’s usually a number between 0 and 100 (sometimes between 0 and 255) where the higher it is, the better it is. Except, no one ever gets the max number except in a lab.

RSSI is usually hidden from users but some cellular systems and some wi-fi systems do actually show it to people. It’s good to know that your number is pretty high but it’s usually just a way for you to feel like it could be even higher “if only” you invest more money. It’s also a way for you to feel either better about yourself or worse, if your RSSI is higher than your friend’s when he’s standing right next to you.

RSSI is supposed to be a measure of not only power, but quality. It is supposed to show you the kind of overall performance by combining a bunch of factors and limiting it to the actual performance that the device is capable of. Instead, it’s just a bunch of fudged numbers that only leave you wanting more. It’s like a chocolate-covered fortune cookie. It should be satisfying AND tell you what to expect but an hour later you’re just wishing you’d never opened the box.

There are better ways to test digital signal. You can measure signal strength in dBm, and test error rate which will tell you how hard the device has to work to get you the data you want. There are all sorts of tools out there to help you get better data speeds and clearer calls. The bottom line though, is that if you are getting good reception on your cell or wi-fi, if you’re streaming what you want and hearing who you want, it doesn’t matter what the numbers are. If you’re not getting that good service, you will want to improve that.

What’s the best way? Of course, shop at solidsignal.com for the best products to improve your cellular and wireless signal!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.