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Need tips to boost wireless signal and range

Discussion in 'Networking Issues' started by ryanv, Jan 10, 2007.

  1. ryanv

    ryanv LI Guru Member

    I’d like some suggestions on ways to boost the signal for my wireless network
    without spending a fortune.
    Basic scenario is I need to provide Internet access from a wireless G router
    in a basement to two wireless machines, a non-wireless machine, and a
    non-wireless IP phone in a basement next door (devices approx 75 feet apart)
    There is a paved laneway between the two buildings so wired connections are
    not an option.
    I have this currently working with a Dlink di-524 router at the Internet
    source that is hooked up at a window facing the second basement. The Second
    basement has a Linksys WRE54G range expander in window facing the Dlink
    di-524. The signal between them is fair even with a reflector around the
    antenna on the Dlink router. In the second basement is a wireless laptop,
    and wireless server. The wireless server is bridging the network to provide
    net access to the IP phone and the non-wireless laptop.
    The problem is the signal is fairly weak throughout and I’ve located the
    devices to get optimal signal performance. A few days ago I had 942kBps
    download and 3660kBps upload (asynchronous fiber Internet connection) between
    the Net, router, and my wireless PCs. Now it’s a lot colder out and
    there’s more snow on the ground so I think that may be a reason why my
    bandwidth tops at 199kBps download 1534kBps upload. Both windows aren’t that
    high above ground level. My range expander is just outside and slightly
    higher than the window (it’s covered by a deck and won’t come in contact with
    I also managed to snap the antenna off the Linksys card in my server so I
    will be returning that and purchasing a new card. I may return the range
    expander at the same time because it’s not that helpful either.
    In case you’re wondering, no I’m not stealing somebody’s Internet. These are
    both work locations. One has a fiber uplink, and the second I’d rather just
    set up to tap into the fiber as well.
    My question is what would you recommend in this situation for devices to buy
    to provide a strong signal between two basements?
    Or should I stick with the same setup but use better/stronger equipment? Should I just get a WRT54G router, put third-party firmware on and use it as an expander?
    Any suggestions?
  2. -Kai-

    -Kai- LI Guru Member

    get two WRT54Gs and load third party firmware on them. set up both to use access point and bridge mode, place both by the opposite windows of the basements. from there you can either connect your devices via wireless (laptop etc.) or wire (IP phone etc.) one advantage of this setup is that the xmit power setting in the firmwares can finally be used for a practical purpose. if you're getting low signal between the two routers, up the xmit power slowly until you get a good signal. IMO range expanders aren't that great and given a choice i would rather bridge than expand. hope this helps and good luck on setting up your network.

  3. ryanv

    ryanv LI Guru Member

    Thanks for the response.

    I'm leaning towards two WRT54G router and loading them with dd-wrt firmware to take advantage of WDS. From there I'll figure out signal levels. I don't like the range expander at all. It's barely better than useless and not worth the $130 + tax I paid for it. So here's a couple more questions...

    Do I need to have dd-wrt on both routers to use WDS or do I just need WDS enabled on the router in the second basement?

    Will dd-wrt micro on WRT54G v5 routers work and will it still let my cisco 7912 voip phone work?

    I don't want to go out and buy WRT54GL routers if I can just use some WRT54G routers instead. Locally, I can only get v5 so I'm hoping the micro version of dd-wrt will do the job.
  4. Zaka

    Zaka LI Guru Member

    I would recomend 2 WRT54GL routers with Tomato v1.02

    1) The 54GL is a full memory Linux device, no need for shrunken firmware.

    2) Tomato is very easy to setup, is very stable and has has a webif and adjustable power.

    3) You have wireless devices in you basement so set that router as WDS+AP and the remote router as WDS and that should work well for you. This configuration will give you WEP security, but WPA+AES can be enabled by adding a startup script.

    4) If you do not want to play with the startup script, configure the router in you basment as an AP, the remote router as a WET and then you can enable WPA+AES/TKIP with no problem.

    4) If you need better signal strength add the 7dbi antenna kits to both routers.

    I am using this configuration to bridge to my internet ~150ft with no problems. The difference is that the routers are not AP's for me, they are only operating as a bridge using WDS.

    Hope this helps. :smile:
  5. GeeTek

    GeeTek Guest

    I concur with Zaka's advice. The firmware and mode configurations he gave are very effective. I might add a bit of insight on radio models. The Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 high power radio will also take Tomato firmware. I have 5 of these in operation. The Linksys GL radio is a great radio, but does not have as much range or power as the Buffalo HP. The Buffalo has an additional receive amplifier and transmit amplifier built into it that put it in a class above any other home grade router (and many commercial models). I have seen engineering screen shots of a spectrum analyser showing 320 Mw transmit power with the stock firmware. The buffalo is the same price or less than the GL, and is more radio for the dollar than anything else available. A pair of them set up the way Zaka describes will hold a 54 Mb wireless link at 75 feet. Tomato is the only after market firmware that by default detects and properly activates the amplifiers in the HP radio with out any special scripts or extra commands.

  6. ryanv

    ryanv LI Guru Member

    Excellent advice so far, just a couple more questions though.

    I'll probably go with two WRT54GL or buffalo WHR-HP-G54 routers then. I will put dd-wrt or tomato on them.

    To be able to use the LAN ports on the second router do I need the router to be in bridging mode?

    Should I use bridging or WDS? what are the advantages/distadvantages to both?
  7. Zaka

    Zaka LI Guru Member

    As far as the 54gl goes, as I have no experiance with the Buffalo routers....

    The lan ports and the radio are both on the same subnet normally. No need for fancy configuration here. The WAN port on the remote router should be disabled since the router is not routing, but bridging.

    I leave the question of which is better to others, as for me the difference is security. Since both my devices are WDS, no war drivers can connect to them.
  8. azeari

    azeari LI Guru Member

    one more point. should u go with either firmware, u might want to change the ip addresses of both routers to unique ones on the same subnet to have continued access to them should u need to tweak anything.
  9. GeeTek

    GeeTek Guest

    I stopped using DD-Wrt a few months ago due to developmental problems, and due to the discovery of the fabulous Tomato. If you decide to go with Tomato, I have posted some mode testing that you may find useful in determining the best mode combination for your needs. If you need more clarification or more in-depth investigation, I'll be happy to help out all I can. Here is the thread, you may wish to respond there ; http://www.linksysinfo.org/forums/showthread.php?t=50472
  10. ryanv

    ryanv LI Guru Member

    I just ordered two of the buffalo WHR HP G54 routers and a new PCI card for my server that has an external antenna connection via a cable (so I'll be able to position it to get better signal).

    I'll probably put tomato on both and set them to use bridging. I'll let you know how the setup goes when its ready.
  11. Esquire

    Esquire Mesquire Staff Member Member

    Sorry I didn't see this discussion until now but WHR-HP-G54 doesn't work as well as WRT54GL on 50% signal boost, assuming my older WRT54G versions are a fair comparison (based on HyperWRT/Thibor); the signal can be noisy and unsteady.
  12. GeeTek

    GeeTek Guest

    Got RF ?

    Great observation ! Indeed, that is one critical part of the HP model that I did not mention. Due to the internal amplifier and the fact that aftermarket firmware can mischieviously increase RF output, it is very important not to set the power too high. That is why I specifically recommended Tomato for the choice of firmware. 10 Mw in the firmware is a somewhat conservative setting, and still produces noticably more signal than any stock radio. I have tested the HP buffalo side by side and with the regular buffalo radio set at 125 Mw and the HP was 3 or 4 Db stronger when set to 15 Mw. Anything over 30 Mw seems to start causing data and signalling problems due to over drive of the power amplifier. I run my HP models at 21 Mw, and get one hellashious strong and very clean signal. The author of Tomato definitely has a tight grip on the technology that he is working with. Here is a quote from the Tomato readme file that is included with the download.

    Quote ;

    On a WHR-HP-G54, enabled amplifier (boardflags=0x2758) and pulled back power to 10mW by default. This is apparently a better setting for this model.
  13. Esquire

    Esquire Mesquire Staff Member Member

    .... by the way I was comparing to the factory standard WHR-HP-G54 units on the latest Buffalo firmware that I have in storage

    (and any custom firmware in use also appears in my signature)
  14. GeeTek

    GeeTek Guest

    Oh, I missed that detail. I have put 7 HP units into operation this year. I have never seen the factory firmware at all, so cannot comment on how it works. I flashed them all immediately right fresh out of the plastic bag. (So little time, so many computers....) I did have one fail on me after 3 months that I had run at 60 Mw drive, hence my additional investigation into the proper power settings. By then the forums already had a lot of info about the problem. With the proper drive level, there is no stopping the darn things !
  15. ryanv

    ryanv LI Guru Member

    Those Buffalo routers are pretty poweful and the tomato firmware is pretty sweet:)

    If I only have one set up at the source of the fiber connection I can connect from the second basement. It only connects at about 1mb but it's much faster and more stable than my setup with the range expander and antenna reflectors.

    Because the signal was weak, I set up both routers as Access point + WDS. Both have different IPs on the same subnet and each have their own DHCP scope on that subnet. They both share the same SSID and WEP information. This allowed me to boost the signal for my other wireless gear as well.

    My bandwidth looks pretty healthy now and I set up QoS for priority traffic to my Cisco phone so the setup is perfect as far as I'm concerned. It's doing everything I need it to do.

    Thanks for the assistance everyone. :thumbups:
  16. fastpakr

    fastpakr Network Guru Member

    Quick question - with the HP's on Tomato, 10mw is matching the factory config with the Buffalo firmware, correct? With DD-WRT I was setting the HP's around 80mw or so, but I want to be sure I set them correctly in Tomato since this is in a business environment at a distant site so reliability is key.

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