November 21, 2014

How to Boost Wireless Signal – Part 3: Non-Router Network Components

 

Part 1 (free/inexpensive) and Part 2 (other solutions) of “How to Boost Wireless Signal focused on issues associated with the Router.

The third part in this series covers other network components that can improve the strength and range of the wireless signal. This includes the following:

 

Signal Booster (Wi-Fi Amplifier/External Antenna)

  • A Signal Booster attaches to the antenna connector of wireless devices e.g Router, Access Point, Wi-Fi Client/Wireless Adapter and as the name implies, they increase signal strength.
  • These plug and play units are easy to install, increase wireless distance and boost the performance of wireless networks. For example, the Hawking HiGain Signal Booster which has a peak output power around 500 mW (compared to a standard device of around 70 mW) and increases the output power of a wireless signal up to 600%.
  • Although units range in complexity, in general, they function by making the signal flatter i.e. decrease vertical (Elevation) signal but increase the signal horizontally (Azimuth). This results in a stronger signal for users on the same level as the booster, but other users on different floors of the building may experience a weaker signal.

Examples of quality Signal Boosters currently on sale on Amazon are shown below:

Hawking HSB2 HiGain Signal Booster

ARGTek Indoor 1W 802.11b/g Fixed-Gain Booster/Amplifier Signal up to 1500MArgtek Indoor 1W Wireless 802.11 b-g-n Signal Booster
GSI Quality High-Powered Secure 1000mW, 2.4GHz, 802.11 b/g/n
Indoor Long-RangeWireless  Signal Booster With 9dBi Omni Antenna- Attach To Router Or Access Point

 

As the signal travels farther from the Router it weakens and will eventually lose integrity (Attenuation). Therefore, once the signal strength approaches 25-50%, adding a Wireless Access Point or a Wireless Repeater will be necessary to extend the connection range whilst maintaining signal quality.

Wireless Access Point (AP/WAP/’Hotspot’)

  • A Wireless Access Point will require a power supply and an Ethernet Cat 5 connection to the Router.
  • A major advantage of using an Access Point rather than a Wireless Repeater is that an Access Point does not cut the available bandwidth in half. A Wireless Repeater does this since it has to flip back and forth between transmit/receive with a single signal.

Examples of  boost wireless signal Access Points are shown below:

D-Link DAP-2553 Air Premier N Dual Band PoE Access Point,
Selectable Dual Band Draft 802.11n

Cisco WAP4410N Wireless-N Access Point –
PoE/Advanced Security

TP-Link TL-WA801ND 300 Mbps Wireless N Access Point
with 2x 4dBi Antennas

 

Wireless Repeater (Range Expander/Range Extender/Wireless Relay)

  • A Wireless Repeater will pick up the existing signal, rebuild it and retransmit/rebroadcast it at full strength.
  • Its major advantage compared to an Access Point, is that once configured, a Wireless Repeater will only require a power supply and will function as a standalone device that does not require an Ethernet Cat 5 connection to the Router.

Wireless Repeaters available at Amazon worthy of closer inspection include:

Hawking HWREN1 Hi-Gain Wireless-300N Range Extender

ERB9250 11N 300MB 11N Range Extender Removable
Antenna 1 10/100

Hawking Technology Hi-Gain Wireless-300N
Smart Repeater Pro (HAW2R1)

 

Secondary Router as an Access Point or Repeater

Many people choose to use a secondary wireless Router configured to act as an Access Point or a Repeater. The secondary Router connects to the primary Router, and the primary Router connects to the internet Modem.

  • Most newer Routers can operate in Access or Repeater Mode with a simple 1 click operation. For example:
ASUS RT-N12 Wireless-N Router, Access Point, and Repeater

 

  • If the Router is older, then the following procedure can usually be applied:
    • 1- Assign the same SSID and security information from the primary Router to the secondary Router.
    • 2- Turn the secondary Routers DHCP OFF.
    • 3- Connect secondary Routers LAN port to primary Routers Lan port.
    • 4- Assign the same addressing information from the primary Router to the secondary Router. For example:
      primary Router      IP=192.168.2.1  Netmask  255.255.255.0
      secondary Router IP=192.168.2.2  Netmask  255.255.255.0

Wireless Adapter

  • A Wireless Adapter contains an transmitter/receiver that supports certain IEEE 802.11 standards (depending on make/model of Adapter) and allows the device to join a wireless network.
  • Wireless communication is a two-way process e.g. between laptop and the wireless Router, and it is possible for a defective or poor quality Wireless Adapter to cause connectivity issues.
  • Wireless Adapters come in various forms:
    • Most modern Netbooks, Notebooks and Laptops have inbuilt/onboard networking capabilities with a Wireless Adapter ‘equivalent’  built right in to the motherboard. Therefore, they do not require a separate Wireless Adapter and their wireless capabilities are usually of a high standard.
    • USB Wireless Adapter. These provide an easy means to upgrade the networking capabilities of a computer to Wireless-N technology or circumvent a defective onboard network chip in a laptop etc. They are easy to setup (connect to a computers USB port) and can come with an external antenna.
    • PCMCIA/PC Card that slides into a dedicated port on the computer.
    • Desktop computers with PCI bus can have an internal PCI Wireless Adapter.

Click below to check out quality Wireless Adapters on sale at Amazon:

Hawking Technology Hi -Gain Wireless-150N USB Network Adapter with Range Amplifier (HAWNU1)

Belkin N600 DB Wireless Dual-Band USB Adapter (Latest Generation)

ASUS PCE-N13 – Wireless PCI-Express Adapter – 802.11b/g/n – 2 External Antenna

 

Part 4 ofHow to Boost Wireless Signal will cover a variety of other options and tricks that have been reported to improve both range and signal strength.

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