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Extending wireless range

Dec 12, 20053 mins
Network SecurityRoutersWi-Fi

I have a Linksys wireless router (wrt54gs) and want to extend its range. The router will be located in a wood-frame house and I want extend its range to a building 400 to 500 feet away (with a clear line of sight). Only one computer will be in the out-building. What is the best way to accomplish this – directional antennas, repeater, etc.?

– Jimmie Price

Since you have a clear line of sight between buildings, that’s good. To get the highest level of signal between buildings, having nothing between them is the most important thing to have.  To connect the two buildings, you will need to check the wrt54g’s firmware to see if it includes a “bridge” mode. This mode allows access points to talk to other access points to essentially construct a wireless link. Not all Linksys routers/access points have this functionality. I don’t have one of these in the lab to check for you. If yours doesn’t, you might check to see if installing the latest version of the firmware might provide that. Going to an older version may be necessary. A possible site to check is Sveasoft. Depending on your hardware version, you may find that a third-party OS installed on your router might give you the desired functionality.

The next think to look at is antennas. You will definitely need to use an outside antenna. Using a directional antenna will do two things – give you the most signal in the direction you need it and minimize others trying to get onto your network connection. Two sources for antennas are Freeman, Anderson & Bird and HyperLink Technologies.

You will also need high-grade coax, such as LMR400, that will minimize signal loss between the router and antenna. Put the router as close as possible to antenna to maximize the signal going to and from the antenna. The more directional the antenna you can get means the more concentrated the signal will be at the receiving end. It can also mean that you may have to periodically realign the antennas so they are directly pointing to each other.

Something else to consider is the transmitter strength in your router. Linksys’ are known for not having the strongest transmitter. The normal power level they use is somewhere in the 24 milliwatt range. Most “business” grade routers/access points are in the 100 milliwatt range. If you don’t have the budget to go to a “business” grade router/access point, this is another area in which Sveasoft and other vendors might be able to help. It is possible – depending on the hardware you have – that you might be able to turn up the transmitter power. Keep in mind that Linksys didn’t intend for this to happen, so running the router at a higher power could mean a shorter lifetime and require a replacement sooner than if you left it at the power level set by the factory.