How to improve coverage of wireless with notebook systems in large home
Posted on 2006-07-02
I have a client who has a fairly large, two story home. It is about 3,000 square feet and is a pretty wide but not very deep floor plan layout. I have installed a wireless network that includes a wireless router, 4 wireless access points (via Cat 5 cable connections to the router). The coverage doesn't seem to be very good at a number of points in this house. The router and access points are standard Dlink consumer products. They are all 802.11G products. In one case where the wireless access point is in a bedroom and using a brand new Sony Vaio laptop with built in wireless I am able to get a good connection when I am literally within a few feet of the access point but if I move as little at maybe 10 feet away to the other side of the room the connection degrades to the point where it is lost. There are also using a couple of Apple laptops being used in this household that have similar coverage issues too.
I would appreciate any recommendations about what possible changes to make in the hardware configuration to significantly improve the coverage of this network. I have considered adding hi-gain antenna boosters to the access points and will probably try that. The problem with doing this is that I probably can NOT get away with directional antennas since the people using this network want to be able to use their notebook computers in a variety of places throughout the house. This means only omnidirectional antenna boosters will probably work.
It appears that 6-10 dB antennas are available via normal consumer outlets. Are there higher gain antennas available at reasonable prices? Would it make sense to look at adding PCMCIA wireless network cards to the laptops to improve coverage? I have tested the coverage of the access points using a wireless strength meter and the strength seems to drop off pretty dramatically with moving short distances away from the access points. Unfortunately, I don't know how much strength is actually necessary for a reasonable connection to be kept. I wonder if the strength of the access points signal is actually OK and it is the notebooks that are not able to broadcast a strong enough signal back to the access point that is the problem. That is why I ask about adding PCMCIA wireless network cards.
The hi-gain antennas I have seen in stores don't appear to use any external power source. Are there antenna products that use AC power to cause a stronger signal to be broadcast that I should consider using? Or would this even be important if the coverage problems are being caused because the laptops are not putting out a strong enough signal back to the access points?
Finally, are there any possible software changes that I should look at? Are there settings in Windows or the software associated with the built-in wireless hardware on the Sony Vaio that could be tweaked? Same question on the Apple laptops.
Thanks for any help you can suggest.