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How to: Increase your wireless network range using antennas

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Have you wanted to gain better signal strength upstairs? Do you get frequent connection drop outs? Would you like to set up a wireless network with a neighbor?

The answer is easy and doesn’t cost too much. All you need is a high gain antenna! I’ve made this guide non technical so it’s suitable for everyone. If you can buy a wireless antenna, you can follow this guide without problems.

Types of antennas

There are typically 2 types of wireless antennas, namely directional antennas and omni directional antennas.

Directional antennas consists of

Parabolic Antennas Image
Bi Quad Antennas Image
Corner Reflectors Image
Panel Antennas Image
Patch Antennas Image
Sector Antennas Image
Yagi antennas Image

Omni directional antennas are usually of a cylindrical form. However, some waveguide antennas can be modified to be omni antennas. The antennas which are supplied with nearly all wireless routers are omni antennas. Image

Steps to getting the right antenna

STEP 1

Finding out your wireless router’s antenna connector type (or whether it even has an external antenna connector)

Types of connectors

Common ones are N, RP-SMA, RP-TNC, MC, MMCX

For pictures, go to http://www.wlanantennas.com/antenna_connectors.htm

STEP 2

Determine the purpose of increasing the wireless network range. (Choosing the right antenna type)

Do you want to share it with your next door neighbor?

You would be better off using a directional antenna. A sector or panel antenna will serve your purpose well if your neighbor doesn’t have an external antenna on his/her wireless devices. This is because panel/sector antennas spread the signal usually within a 30-50 degree area. A corner reflector antenna can also be used but it spreads the signal usually at a 90 degree thus sacrificing range.

Do you want to increase the general signal strength around your home/office?

Get an omni antenna. The signal radiates around the antenna evenly. Think of it as creating a large bubble around the antenna which is able to cover your whole house. This bubble obviously represents the signal coverage of the antenna.

Step 3

Buying an antenna with the right gain.

Antenna gain is usually advertised as decibels dB, dBi, or even dBm.

The higher the better. However, if you just want to increase your coverage area within your home and would not like your signal to ‘leak’ to your next door neighbor, you need to consider getting an antenna of an average gain, say 8dbm.

Most antennas supplied with wireless routers are rated around 2dBm. The transmission powers of most wireless routers are around the 15dBm mark. Thus, the total transmission power of the system is 15dbm+2dBm=17dBm.

It’s now clear that adding an antenna really makes a difference not to mention that every 3dBm increase in transmission power actually DOUBLES the range of the wireless network.

A 6dBm to 8dBm is good enough to increase the range of your wireless network within the confines of your home. 8Bm to 15dBm would be excellent if you’d like to extend your wireless network to a neighbor up to 2 doors down.


Note: Make sure the antenna is suitable for 2.4 GHz.

Step 4

Antenna placement

Omni antennas should be placed central to the area of coverage. If you want to cover every corner of your home, you should probably place the antenna in the middle of your home. If you can’t do that, then consider getting a corner reflector antenna which points to the rest of the home from one extreme corner of the home.

If you’d like to extend your wireless network’s range to your neighbor, it’ll be wise to place the antenna at a window pointing towards another window of this home. This would yield better results. If you can’t point out of a window, compensate by getting a higher gain antenna.

Step 5

Installation

1. Unscrew the supplied antenna from your wireless router.
2. Screw on the new antenna.

Note: If the antenna which you have purchased doesn’t have connectors that match your wireless router, you can get a pigtail connector which couples different connectors. Optionally, there are also converters that convert SMA connectors to RP-TNC and so on. They can be pricey so it’s best to get an antenna with a similar connector with your wireless router (see Step 1)

Important Note

The total transmission power of your wireless system is defined as Effective Isotropic Radiated Power (EIRP). Every country has different EIRP limits for unlicensed domestic wireless networks. Some EIRP limits are shown http://www.odessaoffice.com/wireless/power_levels.html
In the USA I believe the FCC sets a limit of 36dbm (not too sure). If so, you can add an antenna of up to 21dbm of gain if you have a 15dbm wireless router.

Disclaimer

Information provided in this FAQ is intended for information purposes only. The author does not accept any responsibility for the outcome of following this FAQ.
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post #2 of 6
Thread Starter 
Edit : Added image links.
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post #3 of 6
Very well writen, and great info. You obviously put some time and effort into this one. Rep+.
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post #4 of 6
Good FAQ's, also when using indoors you have to consider how many walls and obstructions the signal will have to pass through. plus interfering material like Aluminum, which will block a signal.
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post #5 of 6
Nice! Thanks for the RELEVANT info. I'm always fighting for more WiFi bandwidth.
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post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the comments and info people Just another note to add, if you've got lots of obstructions in your home, you can always compensate by adding a higher gain antenna rather than the 8dbm recommendation in this FAQ. Do remember that 2.4Ghz cordless phones and microwave ovens also cause lots of interference. Good luck with pushing that range!
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