Should I use multiple access points or range extenders?

Posted on 2004-10-26
Last Modified: 2013-11-09
I have a customer in a large house that spans a distance and has thick walls. The house has wired Cat5 cables to most rooms. The customer would like to add wireless capability to a few areas of the house and my question is whether I should use multiple Linksys WAP54G wireless access points or Linksys WRE54G range extenders instead?

I have never had an installation where a single access point would not cover the house, so my question is if we use multiple access points, will they allow the wireless users to roam freely without difficulty?

My first thoughts are to use access points at all locations since they have Cat5 cabling where they want the wireless access... and it is my understanding that the benefit of the range extenders is they can be put in locations without Cat5 cabling so that might be overkill in this situation.

Thanks for any assistance! Again, time is critical for this one, which is why it is worth 500 points!
Question by:eentc
    LVL 8

    Assisted Solution

    I would go with the multiple access points. All you do is configure the WEP key on the primary unit and then use the Linksys software to install the same WEP key on all of the access points. Once that is done, its just like a cell phone as you can move from access point to access point without dropping connection. I just did this in a large house and it went easier than I expected and worked better than I had hoped.
    LVL 14

    Accepted Solution

    WAP54G is your solution here, as the WRE54G is an extender totally useless here in your case. Roaming can be done with no problems on this model of APs ... however, roaming is a PCMCIA's or PCI's wireless card function. So, make sure to buy linksys card too, or at least check their compatibility with linksys's products, as not all are working together.

    One more thing .... my advice is to buy only one AP in the beginning and place it in the middle of the house. After that ... test to see if you have signal all over the house. If not ... buy a second AP and place them such way to cover the house better. Now test. If the signal is good, then only use those 2 APs , if not ... add some more and so on.
    LVL 1

    Assisted Solution

    The typical indoor range of a G based wireless router is going to be about 100 ft.  So you would need to get some measurements to figure out about how many you will need to cover the whole area inside the building.  This is a rough estimate if you need to get something set up quickly.
    LVL 2

    Expert Comment

    I was checking the WAP54G and it does not mention WDS (Wireless Distribuition System) so I am not sure if it can handle repeater mode or extender. So not sure if they will talk to each other ok.
    But I know for sure SMC2870W does have WDS and you can set up to 6 all around the house.
    You could also get just on nice AP with ext. antena like (SMC2582W-B with SMCANT-00M8) and it would most likely cover the whole house.
    Note if they dont have WDS you could still do the connectinon by using the CAT5 ports you have but roaming would not work, while with WDS user can roam around the house, just set same channel and have the MAC of the 1st AP into the 2nd and vice-versa.

    Expert Comment

    The WAP54G can be used as a repeater but you need to upgrade the firmware to the newest version. However, if the Cat5 cabling is already installed you should certainly use multiple access points instead of repeaters because any client connecting to a repeater will be relying upon two wireless hops, compounding any unreliability.

    My experience is that the range of wireless access points in old houses with thick walls can be very short, particularly if there are things like metal furniture or mirrors in the way or even in the vicinity. Metal structures cause even worse problems. Something called the Fresnel Effect even causes large objects close to the line of sight to interfere with signals.

    If there are unlikely to be more than 10 clients using the network, all the access points can be set to the same channel.  I am not sure about this but I suspect that this will reduce any connection dropping problems caused by the wireless card switching between access points as signals fluctuates. I have found this to a problem using offline files from a Windows 2003 Server.

    All the access points should use the same security settings.

    Expert Comment

    Go with multiple access points for a couple of reasons:

    1.  A range extender is really just an AP that runs in a separate mode of operation where it collects the data packets from the STA (wireless client device), then turns around and forwards those packets to the other Access Point.  This will double the distance, but half the throughput since the wireless packets have to make two hops to get back to the wired part of the network.

    2.  You will find that the range extenders do not work with strong encryption methods such as EAP/TLS or WPA.  Thus, the network will be open to attack.  While you will find that most systems are WiFi compatible at at least a minimum level, I would try to buy all the same vendor's equipment all around (APs and client cards), and run WPA / PSK to ensure strong (802.11i type) data packet privacy without having to setup any type of authentication server.  WPA is much stronger than WEP for packet privacy and since you're establishing a PSK (Pre-Shared Key) you don't need an authentication mechanism.

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