Wednesday, November 30, 2022

How to increase the coverage of a Wi-Fi router

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A fairly common situation: there is a router, Wi-Fi is distributed, but there are a couple of “white spots” where reception is uncertain or completely absent. In private houses, this manifests itself even more clearly and very often in half of the plot (and sometimes in half of the house) the network is “not caught”. Can anything be done about it?

Positioning the router correctly
Often a place for a router is chosen for convenience and aesthetics: “We put it behind a cabinet, there is a socket nearby and it doesn’t catch your eye.” It is not taken into account that this way the router will end up in the far corner of the apartment, or even be completely separated from it by a main wall. Therefore, sometimes to correct the reception situation, it is enough to simply move the router.

Where should the router be ? The obvious answer “in the center of the room” is not always correct. If the apartment is divided by a main wall, it is better to put the router close to it, in the larger part of the apartment. You should not place the router close to sources of electrical interference – refrigerators, microwaves, stabilizers, etc. If the apartment has an area with a large number of wireless network clients (for example, an office or a living room with a home theater), it makes sense to place the router closer to it.

Changing and configuring router antennas
If your router has internal antennas, then you can skip this item – you won’t be able to change the shape of the reception area on it. But a router with external antennas can often be “adjusted” to the shape of the home. The gain of the antennas will help us with this (usually it is given in the characteristics of the router). The larger the coefficient, the greater the radius of the network, however, it should be borne in mind that the range is increased by the antenna due to the redistribution of the signal in space. If the gain is close to 1, then the shape of the reception area around the antenna will be spherical, and the signal propagation range will be small – this option is better suited for small two-story buildings with a floor area of ​​50-100 m 2 .

But most antennas have a gain greater than 1, and the shape of the receiving area around them is more like a disk. That is, the signal is stronger on the sides of the antenna than on the top or bottom. This antenna is best suited for one-story rooms.

Many modern routers have several transmission channels – usually by the number of antennas (or pairs of antennas on more “advanced” models). By deploying the antennas in different directions, you can spread the reception areas of different channels along the planes – this can also be useful in private houses with several floors.

External antennas are often detachable, and you can replace them with more suitable ones.

Antennas can be directional – their signal does not propagate in all directions, but only in a certain sector. The reception range in this sector will increase significantly due to the redistribution of radio emission power. By replacing the router antenna with a directional one, you can ensure reliable reception in a highly elongated zone, for example, not only in the main house, but also in a gazebo located 30 meters from the house.

If the task is to “stretch” the reception area literally by a couple of meters, you can use the antenna attachment . The effect of the attachment cannot be compared with the use of a full-fledged directional antenna, but sometimes it is quite enough. Yes, and the nozzle costs much less than a full-fledged antenna.

Changing router settings
Changing your router settings can help if other wireless networks interfere with signal propagation. For example, if there is another router nearby that distributes Wi-Fi on the same channel, the coverage radius of your network may be greatly reduced. Switching to a different channel may solve this problem. Most routers are able to determine the least loaded channel themselves and use it – for this you just need to set “Auto” in the list of Wi-Fi channels.

If there is no such option in your router settings, you can determine the channel load yourself using a cell phone and a specialized application, for example, Wifi Analyzer .

Note that the 5 GHz band is much less crowded in the screenshots. This is true in most cases, and switching to 5 GHz can solve the problem of poor communication in conditions of strong “noisy” air.

Alas, not all devices support this frequency. Before switching to it, make sure that all your clients (phones, computers, TVs, etc.) are able to connect to 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks.

Another setting that can help with signal propagation is signal strength. Many routers that have this option only allow you to change the power in the range from 0 to 100% – it is easy to understand that this will not help to increase the reception area at all. But there are models that allow you to raise the signal strength above the standard, and in this case it makes sense to try to increase it.

However, keep in mind that the signal strength of routers is limited by the decision of the State Commission on Radio Frequencies, and the maximum value of the parameter may increase the power above the allowed one. No one, however, particularly controls the observance of this restriction, but nevertheless …

Adding routers
If the situation is so complicated that none of the above helps to “cover” the required area with the network, it remains only to increase the number of routers. This can be done in several ways. The effect in each case will be slightly different.

Install another regular router . It can be connected to an already installed one via Wi-Fi or using an RJ-45 cable. In the first option, do not forget to space the channels of the networks, otherwise they will interfere with each other. An RJ-45 connection is more reliable and usually provides faster speeds. The disadvantage of this design is that two different networks will actually be distributed, which can lead to some inconvenience. Some clients, for example, having connected to the first network, will continue to “cling” to it, even when you move to an area where there will be a strong reception of the second network, and the signal of the first is weakly received.

Install a wi-fi repeater or a second router in repeater mode. This is similar to the previous option – various models of repeaters can also be connected to the main router via Wi-Fi or twisted pair. But the second one in this mode can be connected only if its firmware allows this use case. There is a repeater mode, for example, on many Asus and ZyXEL models.
Setting up the repeater is very simple: often, to expand the network, it is enough to plug the repeater into a power outlet and press the WPS button on both devices. Another plus of this solution is that the network will be one, with one name and one password – switching between routers is almost imperceptible. “Almost”, because some network activities will be interrupted when moving from a router to a repeater and vice versa – file downloads, calls via instant messengers, etc.
The repeater is capable of relaying only one network. If the router distributes two networks (main and guest, for example), the repeater will distribute only one.
Install mesh routers . A mesh system is the most “advanced” option for building a large Wi-Fi network. In this embodiment, the network is distributed alone. Thanks to a special extension of the 802.11 protocol for multipoint networks, the transition of the client from transmitter to transmitter is completely imperceptible. Mesh systems have the widest scalability (they can have up to hundreds of routers and cover square kilometers of area), but such solutions are still more expensive than any other.

As you can see, poor network reception is a simple problem. You just need to decide how and how much you need to expand the network and how much you are willing to spend on it.

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