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So-so SOHO WiFi

Free Range Solutions

Most wireless routers sold for consumer use do a good job as a SOHO WiFi (small office/home office) system. If you have something bigger than the typical small office, apartment or small house, a little tweaking may extend WiFi range enough to prevent you having to spend a lot of money to upgrade.

The first thing to do is reduce signal attenuation through walls and furniture. Either move the obstructions or move the router out from behind any obstructions. Bookshelves, doors and desks block WiFi signals. Install a shelf high off the floor and put the router on it to give the signal a clear shot around the room.

Often the router for SOHO WiFi use gets located at the edge of the desired coverage area. This will waste half your range because the other half will be broadcast outside. If you can, relocate the router to the center of the room or coverage area. If that’s not possible, many routers have detachable antennas that allows you to replace them with directional antennas to avoid wasted coverage. This also has the advantage of rejecting any interference from the uncovered direction.

Don’t bother trying to mount antennas remotely unless they will be very close to the router. Coaxial cable is not very efficient at WiFi frequencies. Most of your signal energy will be lost before it gets to the antenna. You don’t want to be any more than 2 or 3 feet away unless you’re using a very high gain antenna to make up for the loss. It’s much better to have the wireless router itself mounted remotely or use a wireless repeater mounted at the antenna.

If you still need more coverage then consider using WiFi Range Extenders. The most common WiFi range extender devices plug directly into a normal 110V AC wall outlet so you don’t have to worry about power cables. Some only work on the standard 2.4 GHz band but others support the newer 802.11ac 5 GHz band. They are easy to get up and running using WiFi Protected Setup (WPS). Most new routers support WPS. Press the router’s WPS button and you’ll have a set time period (usually about 2 minutes) to press the WPS button on your WiFi range extender. It will listen for and connect to your router automatically. Unfortunately most AC outlets are low to the floor and easily blocked by obstructions. If you just happen to have an outlet up high then luck is on your side. The SOHO WiFi building might have emergency lighting units mounted near the ceiling. They usually have an AC outlet next to them to keep the batteries charged. In a condo or small house without these emergency lighting outlets you can get a certified electrician to install one for you.

The biggest problem with WiFi range extenders is they have to retransmit everything they hear so your wireless network traffic is instantly doubled. They are more likely to work well in situations where there is not a lot of network traffic like a home with only one or two users. The SOHO WiFi users may be in this situation. To help get around the problem some WiFi range extenders have ethernet plugs that allows you to connect one or more devices by wire. This means you will have fewer wireless devices competing for time on the network and conserve your bandwidth.

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