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Are wireless range extenders really a viable solution?

Posted on 2007-03-30
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Last Modified: 2010-04-29
I don't have a real specific question, but I have tried both a DLink and a Linksys range extender, and neither one work satisfactory.  Is this technology simply problematic?  There does not seem to be many vendors out there who make range extenders, but the way they appear to work (or don't work) is very odd.

In one scenario using the Linksys, after letting the computer try to connect to the wireless network for about 10 minutes, it finally connected and worked for about half an hour or so.  Then, the internet just stopped working all together.  I reset the device, waited another 10 minutes for the computer(s) to finally connect and they worked again fine for another short period of time before they stoped working all together.  It just doesn't seem to hold the signal, or broadcast it out very consistently.  The location of the range extender was good, as I tested the source signal strength with two different laptops and they both worked fine in te location I placed the RE.  In addition, when the range extender was working for the short periods of time, the internet was very fast and performed nicely...just didnt' last very long and had to constantly reset the RE.

In another case, I had the range extender only about 20 feet from the source wireless router, and was simply trying to get slightly better coverage in a particular bedroom of the house.  I setup the range extender properly, even called the useless (and I mean useless) tech support which verified everything was setup fine.  Since range extenders don't seem to broadcast a separate network name, (and I wish they would so I could tell what device I am truely connecting too), the range extender only seemed to block out all internet access...even though my laptop claimed I was connected.  I could be standing right next to the source router, and whenever the range extender was plugged in, all internet access ceased.

I guess the bottom line is, is this technology just not yet up to par?  I mean, I work with computers and technology every day, but these range extenders just seemed complicated, problematic, and never a viable solution.  I shoudln't say complicated really, as the setup is pretty simplistic.  As I said, I tried two different makes and models, and tried them in three different home applications (3 separate homes).  Only once could I get it to work...and that was only occasionally.

I think my only option in all the scenarios is to run a cat5 cable out to another part of the house and use an access point.  I have had good success with access points, but they are much easier to configure and setup...and they can have their own SSID so you know what you are connected too.  Running wire in most homes is not an easy thing unfortunately.
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Question by:jbobst
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by:kode99
kode99 earned 25 total points
ID: 18827059
These powerline->wireless bridge units seem like a good alternate solution,

http://www.netgear.com/Products/PowerlineNetworking/PowerlineWirelessAccessPoints.aspx

Another possibility is to use a router that you can swap antenna on and get a a high gain antenna.  This only goes so far but can provide a pretty significant range boost.

From what I have read it sounds like the range extenders have poor documentation and are not always so simple to get configured.  I've not had to use one to date so I cannot relate any direct experience.


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by:rickhobbs
rickhobbs earned 25 total points
ID: 18827308
I have used the Linksys with good results but have always needed to call their tech support when setting them up.
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by:giltjr
giltjr earned 25 total points
ID: 18827497
You may want to try lowing the transmit power on your WAP.  As you stated that you were just trying to get better coverage, it is possible that your computer is spending time flipping between the range extender and the WAP.

By lowering the transmit power on the WAP your comptuer may stay connected to the range extender only.
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scrathcyboy earned 50 total points
ID: 18834511
"Is this technology simply problematic?"

YES!!  The technology is OVERHYPED, the distance ratings are astronomically inflated to real world use, and they general testing of these devices we have done rates them high on the "SCAM" list.

e.g. -- we had a 1000 foot link to run, sight to sight, it was near a series of power poles (but not in the way) there were 2 brushy trees partly in the way, but the Cantennas were visible.  We used cantennas (focussed range extenders that were GUARANTEED 2 miles distance.   They could not get 1000 feet, in fact, we later on found out, they could not even get 500 feet -- and these were highly focussed extenders.

I have NEVER found any product in this category that delivers 30% of their claimed distance range, and most do not work at all -- ESPECIALLY DLINK -- it will only work with other Dlink products at very short range.  If you are talking 100 feet, most of them work, but then so does regular wireless and ethernet!!!
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