Straightforward out-of-the-box solution for extending WiFi range

Discussion in 'Wireless Internet' started by Danny D'Amico, Dec 13, 2013.

  1. Danny D'Amico

    miso Guest

    Actually the network issues can be confusing. But that isn't radio. For
    instance when you do your multiple WAP scheme, you need to insure the
    DHCP ranges don't overlap.
    miso, Dec 19, 2013
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  2. Naah. I *wish* I worked for Ubiquiti though, as I really like that they
    make equipment that is *powerful* and easy to use!

    I'm really salivating now over the UniFy access point wifi extender:

    A friend and I installed one at a neighbor's house today, and
    the WiFi range was FANTASTIC! It went to every single room in the house!

    We even turned off the SSID from the Netgear home broadband router, because
    it was no longer needed, except to be used simply as a wired switch for the
    access point and desktop computer.
    Danny D'Amico, Dec 21, 2013
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  3. Heh heh ... I *wish* I worked for Ubiquiti! But, if I did, I'd probably
    know what I was doing! :)
    Yes. And no. Depends on what you mean by "mobility".

    I've tried the classic USB WiFi range extenders, for example, and their advantage
    is small size (some are dongles, which don't even need AC power while others are
    small boxes about the size of a pack of playing cards which also need 120VAC).

    The problem I had with these classic range extenders is that they were miserable
    to set up on Linux. Absolutely horrid support for the Linux drivers. The reason
    is that they're consumer equipment; and the consumer is on Windows or Mac, for
    the most part.

    So, *for you*, these $100 solutions (give or take $25) *should* work fine to
    extend the range of your laptop for a few hundred feet.

    On the other hand, the solution I tested out, costs the same (roughly), as
    that consumer gear, but, the Nanobridge feed horn solution has far more gain
    (both in the transmitter and in the antenna) than the puny consumer gear.

    The beauty of the Ubiquiti equipment is that it costs the same as the
    consumer gear (give or take a few). But, it's far more powerful.

    Personally, I think we're all idiots for buying the consumer gear, mostly
    because it's too expensive for too little gain, so everyone has to extend
    the range with even more crappy consumer gear.
    Danny D'Amico, Dec 21, 2013
  4. Yes. You are correct. My results depend on reasonable aiming.

    Here is a picture of my ubiquiti feed horn and wires:

    That is a 23dBM radio with a 3dBi antenna, which, if you find that
    kind of gain in consumer equipment at any price, I'll be amazed.

    That's 26dBm of gain, which is 400 milliwatts of power (EIRP).

    Now look at these four screenshots, taken during my testing:
    Notice the signal strength with the tail pointed toward the
    router was a whopping -38dBm! (that's huge!)

    When I tested it, at my house, connected to my laptop ethernet port,
    I pointed the tail end of this Nanobridge M2 at the home broadband
    router from one floor away, and got fantastic signal strength,
    which you can also read on the unit itself by user-settable LEDs:

    When I pointed the tail *away* from my router, it still had
    a connection strength of -61dBm, and, as I twisted the nanobridge
    feedhorn around, I obtained values in between.

    Now, let's compare that to the Lenovo laptop, which has a high
    end Intel Centrino N-spec WiFi card:
    $ lspci
    SHOWS: Intel Corporation Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 (rev 35)

    $ iwconfig
    SHOWS the NIC has 15dBm transmit power. At 2.4GHz, that gets me
    a respectable -54dBm as shown by the results below:

    Let's summarize:

    1. The business-class laptop has a 15dBm NIC with probably about
    1/2 dBi to (at most) 1dBi integral antenna, for a gain of
    about 16dBm; it garnered a signal strength of -54dBm.

    2. Turning off that WiFi NIC, and attaching the 23dBM + 3dBi
    Nanobridge M2 feedhorn to the laptop Ethernet port, I get
    a signal strength of -38dBm when the antenna is aimed
    correctly - which is a stupendous 16dBm more signal than
    with the internal laptop card. Since every 3dB is a doubling
    of power, that's 2x2x2x2x2=32 times more signal strength!

    3. However, with the feedhorn tail purposefully pointed AWAY from
    the router, I still get a respectable signal strength of -61dBM,
    but, that signal strength is four times less than what I had at
    the laptop without the feedhorn.

    So, yes. You are correct. The signal strength *does* depend on
    aiming; but, when it's aimed right, you can easily get thirty times
    the signal strength than your (high end) laptop has alone.

    And, best of all, there is absolutely no need for *any* drivers!
    This is more important for folks like me who are on Linux, than it
    is for Windows or Mac users - but - it's still nice to know that there
    are absolutely no drivers needed - since the interface is via the
    standard Ethernet port of your laptop and the web interface to the

    Danny D'Amico, Dec 21, 2013
  5. Ah. Alignment, while problematic with consumer equipment,
    is absolutely beautiful with this professional equipment!

    Let me count the ways ...

    Notice I'm *not* using the dish that comes with the Nanobridge M2
    radio. I'm just using this feedhorn and the POE power supply and
    an Ethernet cord connected to the laptop, so, my antenna is 3dBi
    (which isn't all that directional) as opposed to 18dBi with the
    dish (which is still not all that directional):

    Even so, notice that the feedhorn has a set of LEDs (which the user
    can configure) which tell you instantly what the signal strength
    is at any one moment:

    Also bear in mind, that antenna installers are often in precarious
    situations on top of poles and trees and the like, so, there is,
    in addition, a visual signal strength meter, as shown here:

    And, notice the unchecked box in that last screenshot:
    "Alignment Beep"
    which beeps like Sputnik telling you the signal strength even if
    you had your eyes closed.

    Lastly, notice that the main page of the web interface to the
    radio also shows you the signal strength and quality metrics:

    Point is, when you're connecting to an access point that you can
    barely see with $3,000 Steiner binoculars, alignment is everything.

    So, rest assured, you'll *know* exactly where the access point is
    in any situation that you're in. So, it won't be hard to point the
    feedhorn at the AP, although it might require holding it there to
    keep it pointed.

    I would think, at a distance of, oh, say, 300 to 500 feet from
    a typical Starbucks-style access point, that you would just need
    to be pointed generally in the same direction; but I would need
    to test this on the road (with an inverter in my car) to be sure.
    Danny D'Amico, Dec 21, 2013
  6. We're getting ten times the gain here ... and, bear in mind,
    we're *not* using the 18dBi dish that came with the Nanobridge M2.

    I'm just using the 3dBi feedhorn alone, without that dish.
    Because the dish would be too big to carry in my laptop bag!
    Plus it would be too big to set up on a Starbucks coffee table!

    Given that we're just using the feedhorn, let's compare the specs
    of my Lenovo laptop against that of the Nanobridge M2 feedhorn.

    Looking up the specs for the antenna gain on my Lenovo W510
    laptop, I cant' find a spec on the antenna gain, but I see that
    they list all their laptops at no more than 3dBi (I suspect it's
    about 1/2 dBi to 1dBi, like most laptops - but I don't know):

    The antenna gain on the Nanobridge M2 feedhorn isn't published either,
    but the Nanobridge web server itself reports it as 3dBi:

    The iwconfig command tells me that the laptop NIC is transmitting
    at 15dBm of power:

    While, we know from the specs, that the Nanobridge feedhorn transmits
    at 23dBm maximum power.

    Given that, and assuming the antenna gain figures above, we are comparing:

    LAPTOP = 15dBm + 1dBi = 16dBm (40 milliwatts)
    FEEDHORN = 23dBm + 3dBi = 26dBm (400 milliwatts)

    Notice the feedhorn is ten times more powerful than the laptop alone.
    Now, let's compare that with my real-world test results:

    LAPTOP gets -55dBm (0.003 microwatts)

    FEEDHORN gets -39dBm (0.1 microwatts)

    This is two orders of magnitude more power, in my real-world test!
    For the same cost as consumer equipment, which isn't as powerful.
    Danny D'Amico, Dec 21, 2013
  7. I'm not sure I understand.
    I'm not using the 15dBi dish.
    I'm just using the 23dBm feedhorn and it's integrated 3dBi antenna.

    I connect just the feed horn to the laptop Ethernet port and turn
    off the laptop's internal WiFi card.

    The feedhorn has no problem pointing at the access point, as I
    described in another post, because the feedhorn is designed,
    from the start, to be easily aligned to an antenna that is
    20 miles way.

    So, aligning the feedhorn to an access point inside a coffee
    shop that is only, say, a half mile away, is trivial.
    Danny D'Amico, Dec 21, 2013
  8. Hi Amanda,

    It's not so much that I'm disappointed with the antenna on my
    laptop (which probably has a gain of about 1/2 to 1dBi), that
    I'm wanting to get my laptop to connect to an access point that
    is as far as a mile or two away.

    In that case, there's no hope that the laptop can connect.
    It's just not designed to connect more than a few hundred feet.

    However, the Nanobridge M2 is designed to connect to an access
    point that is as far as ten to twenty miles away.

    So, with just the feedhorn, it seems I should be able to extend
    the laptop's range at least to a half mile, to maybe a mile.

    I have to test this though - but it seems clear that the feedhorn
    would easily allow the laptop range to be extended to a few hundred
    feet (at the very least).

    PS: I don't know how much you can change the power of the Linksys
    WRE54G with DD-WRT. I suspect the router default is around 18dBm
    (like most consumer routers) with a default antenna of something
    like 5dBi - so the range would depend on how much DD-WRT allows
    you to change the transmit power - and whether or not you replace
    the default antenna with a more directional antenna.

    QUESTION: Do you know the dBm & dBi specs for that router and what
    DD-WRT can change with respect to the dBm and whether the
    antenna is easily removed and replaced?
    Danny D'Amico, Dec 21, 2013
  9. Hmmmm.... we're talking hundreds of feet greater range.

    Just putting a router in a more advantageous spot within an office
    isn't going to get you a few hundred feet greater range, in most cases.

    It's not a bad idea, of course; but we're talking a goal of orders of
    magnitude greater range here ...
    If you're talking about the test I ran, which extended the range of
    the laptop (as opposed to extending the range of the router), I had
    turned off the laptop's internal radio with the hardware switch on
    the side of the laptop.

    So, in *my* tests, the only radio was the Nanobridge M2 feedhorn
    which was tied to the laptop's Ethernet port.

    So, from the laptop's perspective, there was no radio.
    There was just a 'wired' ethernet connection.
    Danny D'Amico, Dec 21, 2013
  10. I bought these for a customer to connect two buildings because the labor
    to run an outdoor aerial cable was more than installing the wireless
    link. ^_^

    The Daring Dufas, Dec 21, 2013
  11. Danny D'Amico

    Tony Hwang Guest

    You mean you turned the radio off? SSID can be hidden or broadcast.
    I never heard turning off SSID>
    Unify is pretty new models. Another DIY source is Mikrotek which may
    cost less.
    Tony Hwang, Dec 21, 2013
  12. We used the Unify $100 6 Watt (yes, 6 Watt!) access point (they call it
    Long Range). It gave 5 bars to all the Apple equipment for the first time
    ever, in that house, anywhere they wanted it.

    Turned out, we moved it, so, now they changed the router setup to have
    both the SSID from the router being the same as the SSID from the access

    That the access point overpowers the signal of the router (which is on
    a different non-overlapping channel) doesn't seem to adversely affect
    Danny D'Amico, Dec 22, 2013
  13. Danny D'Amico

    Tony Hwang Guest

    Do you use inSSIDer pro version or even free version? I think having
    same SSID is not good. Won't it create confusion when connecting?
    Tony Hwang, Dec 22, 2013
  14. Danny D'Amico

    dave Guest

    Maybe we should broadcast something so people don't land on a used
    channel. 6 Watts spread spectrum? Maybe. Unifi?
    dave, Dec 22, 2013
  15. Hi Tony,

    So far they haven't reported any problems.

    The Unifi AP-LR was set up at a neighbor's home, so, I don't have
    a scan for it (that scan above is from my home, because I was looking
    for a distant WiFi channel 9 interference source that was showing up
    in a spectrum analysis run from my rooftop radio):

    What I like about the Ubiquiti equipment is sheer POWER! Those
    access points are 6 Watts! Compare that to the puny 1/10th of a
    Watt of your typical home broadband router.

    And, these access points mount like a C02 detector, either on
    the wall or on the ceiling, and, they don't need anything but
    an Ethernet cable connected to them (as the power supply is
    at the other end of the Ethernet cable).

    So, for extending WiFi range at home, I am learning all I can about
    these things, since they seem to be the right price and power and
    they seem to kick consumer equipment's butt! :)

    As for the Android tools to track WiFi access points and SSIDs,
    I have InSSIDer freeware on my Android phone and on the laptop.

    On Android, I also use WiFi Analyzer, which, I like better than
    InSSIDer. There's also "WiFi Signal Strength", which gives tabular

    Unfortunately, I don't seem to have the technical expertise to get
    WiFi Stumbler (aks Kismet, I think) & pcap capture working to tell
    me useful information yet inside those packets grabbed over the air,
    so, that's my next WiFi project when I get around to it.
    Danny D'Amico, Dec 22, 2013
  16. 6 Watts only goes so far ...

    The houses out here are on 40-acre zoning, so, if you have 79 acres,
    you can only build one house. Even though it's Silicon Valley, it's
    way up in the mountains above, so, the 6 Watts "shouldn't" be a problem
    for this neighbor (who is on over 25 acres and her neighbors are similarly
    far apart).

    As for those 6 Watts ...

    I know that *my* rooftop radio has a 28dBm transmit power plus a 24dBi
    antenna gain, which gives me an EIRP of 52dBm, which is a whopping
    158 Watts!

    So, we're all radiating out here ... :)

    In fact, most of my neighbors have the same equipment as I have, and,
    even with all that power bouncing around, my spectrum analysis scans
    show signals which all seem to be in the low 10% usage range...

    I'm not sure what that really means to someone who knows what they
    are doing, but, I *think* it means that our bands are not crowded,
    although it would be nice to see what other people get for % Usage.
    Danny D'Amico, Dec 22, 2013
  17. Danny D'Amico

    Char Jackson Guest

    There are pros and cons to both arguments: using the same SSID on multiple
    AP's (on different channels, of course), versus using different SSID's.

    When I set up systems for other people, I use the same SSID much more often
    than not because it reduces confusion. Most of the people I deal with are
    50-90 years old, so having a single SSID to remember is easier for them.
    Mobility, as in roaming, is usually not a consideration because they tell me
    they always use their laptop in THIS room and they always use their tablet
    in THAT room, etc.
    Char Jackson, Dec 22, 2013
  18. Makes sense. These people are like that also. Apple users. :)
    Danny D'Amico, Dec 23, 2013
  19. Danny D'Amico

    miso Guest

    What? You log into a starbuck from 300ft with your phone?

    Further, don't use any inverters that are not pure sine wave.
    miso, Dec 23, 2013
  20. Danny D'Amico

    miso Guest

    That isn't a router.

    I can use my Buffalo N450 with my phone at least 30ft away. I never
    tried to use it beyond that. I don't see why you want to pollute the
    airwaves blasting out omnidirectional wifi beyond your property. It just
    fucks things up for other people.

    I know you aren't a ham, but one of the things you learn in ham radio is
    you try to use just as much power as necessary. The airwaves are a
    shared resource. If you blast a lot of RF, that means the area where the
    channel can be reused is now further away.

    Basically you are QRM.
    miso, Dec 23, 2013
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