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 (see below) which has a peak output power around 500 mW (compared to a standard device of around 70 mW) 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:
|ARGTek Indoor 1W 802.11b/g Fixed-Gain Booster/Amplifier Signal up to 1500M
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 available at Amazon 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 –
|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:
|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:
- 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
- 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:
Part 4 of “How to Boost Wireless Signal” will cover a variety of other options and tricks that have been reported to improve both range and signal strength.